By Sophie Kihm
So many Americans have Irish ancestry, yet relatively few have embraced authentic Irish names. I’m not talking about Caoimhe or Eithne necessarily, but using names with Irish origins can be a meaningful way to showcase your heritage. If you’re looking for a name that hits the sweet spot between unusual and familiar (and without a difficult pronunciation), one of these could be the perfect name for your little lad or lassie.
Aine– You’ve definitely seen the Anglicized version of Aine before—Anya. Aine is much the same, but with a slight pronunciation difference: Aine is said more like AWN-ya. In Irish mythology, Aine is the queen of the fairies.
Carlin– Spunky, androgynous Carlin is the modern answer to Carly. It’s an uncommon unisex choice, but the –lin suffix has me thinking it would work better on a girl, even though Carlin has been traditionally a boys’ name. The perfect name for your young star–Carlin means “little champion.”
Fia– Fia is quite the pan-European name— with use in Ireland, Spain, Italy, Portugal, Sweden, and more. In Ireland, the name is traditionally spelled Fiadh, but that could prove tricky for anyone without (or even with) Irish heritage.
Flannery– Flannery is one of the most striking literary names, heavily associated with Southern Gothic writer Flannery O’Connor (born Mary Flannery O’Connor), who makes it a meaningful namesake. We’re seeing a rise in names like Waverly and Bellamy, so why not Flannery?
Mirren– Speaking of notable namesakes, how about everyone’s favorite Dame, Helen Mirren? Her last name is of Irish-Scottish origins, but with a puzzling history. It may be a variation of the Irish Saint Mirin‘s name, or possibly a Scottish nickname for Marion and other Mary names. Either way, Mirren is a lovely, fashionable appellation waiting to be discovered.
Oona– Oona is hardly unheard of, but the chances that you’ll run into one on an American street or in a classroom are slim to none. Spelled Oonagh, the name is quite popular in Ireland, and like Aine, has roots in Irish mythology, this time as a princess.
Orla– Oona may be a mythological princess, but Orla actually means “golden princess,” and is very trendy in Ireland and Scotland, ranking #69 and #29, respectively. If the “oral” anagram bothers you, consider the traditional Irish spelling, Orlaith (which is actually a slimmer version of Orfhlaith).
Roisin– Rose is a beautiful name. It’s particularly alluring as a middle name, as evidenced by the hundreds of thousands of girls called “first name-Rose-last name” every year. I suggest we look for alternatives to this admittedly lovely, but perhaps overused appellation. Roisin, which means ‘little rose’ is (part of) the answer. Pronounced ro-SHEEN, it is mega-popular in its native Ireland and was used for her daughter by Sinead O’Connor.
Tierney– Tierney is a unisex first name and familiar Irish surname. The surname actually came second in this case—in the beginning, Tierney was only a first name. Like most Irish names, this isn’t the original spelling. Tierney is a variation of Tighearnach–but don’t worry, that spelling doesn’t get much use anymore. Jazz singer Tierney Sutton is a notable female bearer of the name.
Caledon– Most people only recognize Caledon as the name of a supporting character in the Titanic movie, but it was originally a place name of sorts. Caledonia, from which it derived, is the Latin word for Scotland. Which makes Caledon the perfect name for an Irish-Scottish baby boy. Bonus points for the cowboy-cool nickname Cal.
Colm– Malcolm may be stuck in the nineties, but Colm is lovely for a 2015 baby. It isn’t pronounced quite the same—it’s more like “column,” but is related to up and comer Callum and has the peaceful meaning of ‘dove’. A notable bearer is the distinguished Irish novelist, Colm Toibin.
Corrigan- Corrigan is a striking Irish surname with a lot of potential and ideal if you’re looking for an updated version of 20th century favorite Cory, though one possible downside is that the dated Cory is its only obvious nickname.
Fallon– The hit TV show Dynasty made Fallon a possibility for girls in the eighties and nineties, but now that late night host Jimmy is on the scene, this unisex name could very well go to the boys. If you like the sound, but not the television connections, try another spelling: Faolan, Felan, or Phelan.
Fintan– Finn is one of the hottest, most likable names for boys right now. Many people use it on its own, but others see Finn more as a nickname. If you want a longer version, but something less unisex than Finley, Fintan might be an interesting option. It’s fun, easy to pronounce, and has two cool possible meanings, “white bull” or “white fire.”
Larkin– Simple, stylish Lark is a hit for the girls right now, especially as a middle name, but Larkin—which comes from Laurence—feels entirely right for a boy. Like many trendy names, Larkin was originally a surname, but unlike some others, is not currently popular. Larkin dropped out of the Top 1000 in 1909, making a re-entrance about six years overdue.
Malone– Malone is a classic Irish last name, but has never quite made it as a first. Malone has some serious swagger, and deserves more attention. It also has some literary cred via the title of a Samuel Beckett novel.
Oran– It can be a challenge to find a fashionable name that seamlessly blends two cultures. But if you need one for a Jewish-Irish boy, Oran accomplishes just that. It ranks at #100 in Ireland, but hasn’t been on the charts in the U.S since 1949. For a name that’s so easy to like, I hope this changes soon.