Finding Rare Celtic Girl Names
They’re bold baby namers, but finding rare Celtic girl names for their new daughter has them stumped. What works with Mairead and Fergus?
We’re struggling to find the perfect name for our baby girl. We have two kids already, Mairead Kallista Isolde and Fergus Galahad Locke.
Our previous pattern was a Gaelic/Celtic first name, mythological names, 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.
I like Auden, Maren, Liadan, Ferelith, and Eira.
We’ve talked about Ottilie but neither of us like the nickname Tillie.
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:
Mairead and Fergus seem so perfectly balanced – traditional, but surprising. Rare baby names like Ottilie and Andromeda could fit right in.
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.)
Let’s look for names that share the tailored vibe of Mairead, the completeness of Fergus, and yet (mostly) stick to the same general part of the world in terms of origins.
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.