Finding Rare Celtic Girl Names
Our previous pattern was a Gaelic/Celtic first name, a name from mythology, and a wild card with personal meaning. We’ve searched for something that fits that criteria and haven’t found exactly what we’re looking for, so we’re willing to branch out for a name that suits our sibset and sounds right on its own.
We both like Saoirse, but it sounds horrible with our last name (it starts with a “sh” sound so together it sounds like slurring). My husband likes Freya, but we decided against it because of the popularity. He has also suggested Andromedea and Artemis. I’m fine with Artemis in a middle name spot.
We would love some guidance because we are almost out of time to choose and don’t even have a “maybe” list!
The Name Sage replies:
Except there’s another quality I hear in your children’s names. They’re complete and require no shortening. When it comes to naming a daughter, I’d call Mairead feminine, but not frilly. There’s a lot of strength to your favorites.
Could it be that more elaborate names – Andromeda, after all, clocks in at four syllables – just plain feel too long?
Lots of Gaelic favorites, like Caoimhe and Orlagh, come to mind. But chances are you’ve already considered them. (Though if you’d like to try again, our list of Unique Irish Girl Names or Unique Scottish Girl Names might be a place to start.)
A Scottish surname name, Adair comes from Edgar – which makes it potentially unisex. But with so many girls answering to Addie names, Adair seems perfectly reasonable for a daughter. It’s adventurous and light, a name that feels very wearable while still being quite rare.
It’s not exactly a Scottish given name, but it fits with rare Celtic girl names. Afton is a Scottish river, immortalized in poetry by the legendary Robert Burns. (In “Sweet Afton,” the only name mentioned in Mary.) It’s filtered into occasional use, and sounds like the tailored names on your list. Another bonus: it’s often set to music, like this Nickel Creek recording from 2000, so it comes with a built-in lullaby.
It looks like a Luna name, but Eluned’s roots are Welsh, and the pronunciation is more like Ella Ned or Ellie Ned. She’s a character in Arthurian romance, known for her intelligence and beauty. Tennyson simplified the name to Lynette, but Eluned sounds more like a sister for Mairead.
Another Welsh name, Carys means love. It’s relatively common in the UK, almost unknown in the US. Depending on where you love, it could be a great stands-out/fits-in kind of choice.
If you love Freya, but worry about popularity, is Fiadh an option? It’s rocketed into the Top Ten in Ireland, but remains rare elsewhere. The meaning – untamed – is compelling. And it sounds just like Mia-with-an-F, which would be very wearable.
Some three-syllable names invite shortening. (As you mentioned, Ottilie would almost automatically become Tillie.) But the Greek Ismene seems unlikely to be nicknamed. One hesitation: maybe it’s too close to Isolde.
Saoirse Sh- doesn’t work, but maybe Sybil is just the right amount of alliteration? Popular in the Victorian era, and made familiar thanks to Downton Abbey, it’s ancient Greek, but feels right for Mairead’s sister.
I dismissed Andromeda as too elaborate, but I wonder if Talulla appeals? It claims Irish roots, though American actor Tallulah Bankhead’s similar name was probably Choctaw or Creek. It shares the strong L sound of Ottilie, and might be shortened to Lula or Lulu. One consideration: Tallulah is more common in England and Wales than the US.
Maren sounds like it could be just right, but it also seems a little close to Mairead. Maybe Tamsin would substitute? It’s a Cornish shortening of Thomasina. An earlier generation might have called her Tammy, but Tamsin seems like the perfect of familiar and rare.
From your original list, I think Liadan is pretty much perfect. It’s surprising and uncommon, but relatively easy to spell and pronounce.
But if Liadan isn’t quite right, I’d suggest Afton. It’s similar in origin to your older kids’ names, but still slightly different. The straightforward sound pairs nicely with Mairead. And it leaves lots of opportunity for a big, bold mythological middle. Afton Artemis sounds great together.
Readers, I know you’ll have some great rare Celtic girl names to suggest! What would you name a sister for Mairead and Fergus?
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on September 9th, 2020 at 6:44 am
I think Artemis is amazing in that first middle spot, I would definitely go with that personally! Here’s some first and middle name ideas, the second middle with special significance is more personal so I don’t really feel qualified to suggest anything but I’ll just throw in my own wildcard suggestions…
Ffion Artemis Ocean
Boudicca Juno Soleil
Eilidh Imrie Athena
Fionula Xanthe Delphine
Arwen Margaux Calliope
Clodagh Ildiko Selene
Iona Persephone Olive
Ngaire Valentine Pandora
Aderyn Hero Phaedra
Lowri Avalon Calypso
Wynne Alaska Halcyon
Olwen Hermione Saskia
on September 9th, 2020 at 10:47 am
I agree that Liadan feels perfect! I also love Ferelith, but I don’t think I’d use it together with Fergus.
So many excellent suggestions from Abby and @jessiemay, but here are a few more…
Iseabail or Ishbel
Gweneth or Gwennan
Ismay or Isemay
Aenor or Azenor
Angharad or Ingaret
Findabair or Fionnuir
on September 9th, 2020 at 12:06 pm
From the suggestion list I like Adair, Eluned, and Tamsin best for you! Of your list I like Ferelith a lot but the beginning might be too similar to Fergus. The first thought I had for you was Imogen- It’s a Shakespearean name he coined (potentially a misspelling) but it has it’s root in a celtic name and it has the same feminine but not frilly feeling of Mairead to me! I definitely think Imogen Artemis could work for you! Some other suggestions are:
Brigid/Brighid- Irish goddess of fire
Aeron- Welsh goddess
Clodagh- Irish River
on September 9th, 2020 at 1:29 pm
I love every name on their list, but agree that Ferelith is probably too close to Fergus and Maren is too close to Mairead. But I think either Auden or Liadan could work beautifully. Auden Artemis and Liadan Artemis both sound lovely!
From the Name Sage’s choices–oh man, I love Fiadh, but depending on where the little girl lives, I can only imagine she’d spend her whole life saying, “no, it’s not pronounced fi-ad.” Afton, Tallula, and Tamsin are all gorgeous too.
Some other possibilities:
Fionnuala/Finola–probably too long for this family, but it’s so pretty!
Larkin–personally I think Larkin fits in wonderfully with Mairead and Fergus
on September 9th, 2020 at 2:35 pm
I love Mairead and Eadaoin (ay-deen) together. And Eadaoin is definitely uncommon.
on September 9th, 2020 at 7:41 pm
This fits in very well with my own name preferences. I would love to see all the names mentioned used more. My suggestions:
on September 9th, 2020 at 9:46 pm
I second Larkin! Love it!
Mairead, Fergus, and Larkin
Rachamim F Said
on September 10th, 2020 at 5:25 am
Some lovely Welsh and Irish names I’ve seen in real life
I am in England so these names are familiar but I suspect much less used in the USA.
My favourite is Tula.
There’s 2 Tallulas in my class and only 1 Tula
on September 10th, 2020 at 7:53 am
Liadan, Afton and Fiadh are beautiful.
My suggestions are Ceinwen, Brighid, Bridie
Brighid and Bridie fit the mythology, also Cassia/Kassia.
Liadan Kassia Artemis
on September 11th, 2020 at 6:19 am
– Feena (an anglicisation of Fiadhnait, meaning “fawn”)
on September 12th, 2020 at 4:21 am
So many gems! Personally reckon Eluned Artemis would fit in beautifully with her big siblings, and I completely second Larkin also, but here’s some alternate options just in case:
Bridie / Bríd
Aisling Nimue or Naoise Endellion are my top combos!
on September 13th, 2020 at 6:26 pm
So many good suggestions. The name that actually came to my mind, however, was Linnea, which is not Celtic. Oona is my favorite otherwise.
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