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Category: Irish surnames

Irish Baby Names: Last Names First

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Nameberry Picks for St. Paddy‘s Day: Irish Surname Names

The current popularity lists are full of Irish baby names that are also surname names—Ryan, Riley, Brody, Brady, Brennan, Connor, Keegan, and Quinn, to name just a few—and have been for quite some time.  For the most part, they have been two- and occasionally one-syllable names;  we’d like to suggest that the next wave will consist of the bouncier, even friendlier and more genial names with three syllables, and here are some of the best candidates.

Most of this brand of Irish baby names seem more suited to boys—but let’s not forget what happened to Cassidy and Delaney in the 1990s, when they tinted decidedly pink.

Branigana possible update for Brandon; the name means the descendant of the son of the raven, the latter being a nickname for the first chief of the clan. Spelled Brannigan, it was a 1975 John Wayne movie, and Zapp Brannigan is the antihero of the satirical animated sitcom Futurama

Callahan –means “bright-headed”; also spelled Callaghan, a name that harkens back to the ancient King of Munster

Connolly—could make a livelier substitute for Connor, means “fierce as a hound”; also spelled Connelly, as in detection fiction writer Michael

Cullinan—not as familiar as some of the others but has a long and distinguished Irish history—and, for a bit of trivia, the Cullinan diamond was the largest rough diamond ever found (3,000+ carats) when discovered in 1905.

Donegan—a possible namesake for an ancestral Donald–for those who find Donovan too Mellow-Yellow sixties folksie

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"Dare" - 2009 Sundance Portrait Session

The world’s been abuzz lately with the casting of relative unknown Rooney Mara as Lisbeth Salander in the Hollywood version of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo and its sequels. While others might be interested in the young actress’s previous films or her fashion sense, we name nerds can think of only one thing: Where’d she get that cool name? And how can I get one like it?

Rooney Mara comes by her Irish-surname-as-first semi-honestly: It’s her real middle name and her mother’s original last name. Born Patricia Rooney Mara, the actress dropped her pedestrian first name in favor of her more exotic middle, which means red-haired. Great-grandfather Art Rooney founded the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Rarely heard as a first name — there were 23 boys born with the name in 2009, and fewer than five girls — the new prominence of Miss Mara can only add power to the growing trend of using Irish last names as firsts.  And while Irish surname names have been used for girls as well as boys in recent years, Rooney Mara‘s fame seems certain to further feminize the image of these names.

Other choices with celebrity or pop culture connections include:

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finnmaccool

One of the great mysteries of baby-naming is how a name comes seemingly out of nowhere to become a fashionable, popular choice.

Finn is such a name.  When we wrote our first baby-naming book, Beyond Jennifer & Jason, 20 years ago, Finn appeared in exactly one place: As a So Far Out It’s In name, in the Irish surname category.

Finn has a lot going for it, starting with the very first inspiration for the name, the greatest hero of Irish mythology, Finn McCool.   How could a name not be cool with an ancestor like that?

But unlike other, far more complex Irish names, Finn has tremendous crossover potential.  It’s also kind of Scandinavian, sort of fishy, easy to spell and say, plus has several attractive relatives: Finnian, Finnegan, Finlay.

And it’s been chosen by such high profile couples as Ed Burns and Christy Turlington for their son, while Angie Harmon and Jason Sehorn named their daughter Finley, a version also chosen by Lisa Marie Presley for one of her newborn twin girls.

Once you dissect all that, it’s easy to see that Finn‘s popularity hardly came from nowhere.  And it’s a name that’s unlikely to fade away again anytime soon.

For more names from Irish mythology, check out our new book, Cool Irish Names for Babies.

AND HAVE A HAPPY ST. PATRICK‘S DAY!

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