Irish Baby Names: Hot Off The Press

Our latest book, Cool Irish Names for Babies, will be hitting the bookstores in a few weeks and we’ll be offering you a few hors d’oeuvres (that doesn’t sound very Irish) before then. The book contains lots of undiscovered Irish baby names drawn from myth, legend and history, cool celebrity and popularity stuff, and a history of Irish names in America. And for Celtic-pronunciation-phobic American parents, we give the pronunciation of every problematic name–every time it’s mentioned.

To bring it up-to-the-moment and not just rely on national popularity lists, we scoured the birth announcements in newspapers to find out what Irish baby names real parents in Dublin and elsewhere are actually using today. Here are some that are in the book, and others added just this week. With pronunciations, but, unfortunately, not the accents.

GIRLS

AILBHE (ALL-bay)
AISLING (ASH-ling)
AISLINN (ASH-len)
AOIBHINN (EE-veen)
AOIFE (EE-fa)
ARABELLA
BAY HERMIONE
BERNADETTE
BLATHNAID (blaw-nid)
CAOIMHE (KEE-va)
CARAGH (KAR-a)
CAROLENA
CLARA
CLODAGH (KLO-da)–very popular
EABHA (AY-wa)
EITHNE (EN-ya)
FAY
FIA
GRAINNE (GRAWN-ya)
HAZEL
IONA
LARAGH (la-ra)
LULU
MAEVE
MUIREANN (MWIRR-an)
NESSA
NIAMH (neev)–very popular
NORA
OLIVE
ORLA
ORLAITH (OR-lee)
ROISIN (ro-SHEEN)
SADHBH (sive–rhymes with five)
SIOBHAN (shi-VAUN)
SIUN (shoon)
SORCHA (SOR-ka or SOR-ra)
TAMSIN (TAM-zin)

BOYS

AILBHE (ALL-bay) unisex
ALFIE
ARAN
CALLUM
CIAN (KEE-an)
CILLIAN (KILL–ee-an)
CONN
CORMAC
CUAN (koo-AWN)
DAIRE (Da-ra)
DECLAN
DIARMAID (DEER-mid)
EAMON (ay-mon)
ENAN (EE-nane)
EOIN (OH-in)
FIONN (fin)
GARVAN
HARVEY
JARLATH
LOCHLAN (LOK-lun)
MURROUGH (mur-ah)
NIALL (NEE-all)
ODHRAN (OH-ran)
OISIN (OH-sheen)
OSCAR
PADDY
RIAN (REE-an)
RONAN
RUADHAN (ROO-an)
SENAN (SENN-an)
TADHG (TYEg)
TIARNAN (TEER-nan)

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28 Responses to “Irish Baby Names: Hot Off The Press”

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realpraise Says:

February 18th, 2009 at 9:40 am

I love Sorcha, Aoife, Eoin, and Fionn. Too bad I can’t use them! Did you plan for the book to come out on St. Patrick’s Day?

Lola Says:

February 18th, 2009 at 2:52 pm

Lulu & Harvey surprise me on these lists! 😀

And I love Eithne, Orla & Roisin, Cillian, Cormac, Declan & Fionn! Awesome list today, Can’t wait for St. pat’s and the new book! (I think I have all of them now) 🙂

Emz Says:

February 18th, 2009 at 4:58 pm

I will be interested in reading your book as I enjoy reading your blog, but… some of those are wrong :/ Ailbhe is pronounced more like al-va, and anglicised as the lovely Elva. Orlaith is pronounced exactly like Orla; in fact Orla is an anglicised spelling of Orlaith. Lochlan is Scottish as the Irish word for ‘loch’ is ‘lough’.

linda Says:

February 18th, 2009 at 5:42 pm

Emz–thanks for writing, though your post was a little disturbing. We really labored to get the pronunciations right, using 10-12 references for each name, and our British publisher even ran them by two academic experts. The problem for us was that there was so little agreement among the ‘experts’, what with local pronunciation variations etc. Just checking one name you cite, Orlaith, I see that one source says that Orlagh is pronounced OR-la but that Orlaith is pronounced OR-lee. Are you a native Irish speaker>

Jillian Says:

February 18th, 2009 at 5:52 pm

when I was in Ireland, I found that some Gaelic words were extremely hard to pronounce. Sometimes pronunciation gets lost in translation since our mouths are not used to moving in those positions. Don’t feel bad 🙂

Jillian Says:

February 18th, 2009 at 5:52 pm

when I was in Ireland, I found that some Gaelic words were extremely hard to pronounce. Sometimes pronunciation gets lost in translation since our mouths are not used to moving in those positions. Don’t feel bad 🙂

Jill Says:

February 19th, 2009 at 4:16 am

There was a Tamsin in Thomas Hardy’s Return of the Native, which is where I first heard the name. I really adore Tamsin (I believe he used it as a nickname for Thomasin), but would be afraid to use it due to the whole “Tammy” issue! It’s a shame, because Tamsin is truly a lovely, lovely name!

Emz Says:

February 19th, 2009 at 5:23 pm

I’m sorry linda, I didn’t mean to worry you. I do love this site and I clearly come here a lot and value the information here.

I’m not a native Irish speaker myself so I’m probably not qualified to have commented. But I do live in an area with a very high proportion of Irish names and was surprised by some of the pronunciations you’d listed.

Having said that, of course you’re right in mentioning regional variations. I’ve come across Oisin, for example, pronounced as uh-sheen, aw-sheen and oh-sheen in different places. Ailbhe and Orlaith were the ones that really surprised me as I’ve never come across them pronounced in those ways before – though they may well be, in other places. There is no standardised Irish pronunication, after all.

I was probably being ower picky about Lochlan. Scots Gaelic and Irish are pretty similar so there’s bound to be some crossover (Aoife, for example).

I’m looking forward to the book and would be interested in buying it if it’s being published in the UK..?

linda Says:

February 19th, 2009 at 5:36 pm

Thanks–actually the UK edition came out before the US, so you should be able to find it–published by HarperCollins.
There’s a website that has Frank McCourt pronouncing the Irish names out loud, and listening to them you can see how they might be interpreted in several different ways on paper.

Emz Says:

February 20th, 2009 at 4:18 pm

Yes, I’ve been on that website before. I saw Ailbe on it pronounced as al-bay, but there’s no h in that (I understand that the h would make it al-va).

I’ll definitely have a look for the book next time I’m in the shops.

Sarah Says:

February 25th, 2009 at 10:45 am

Im Irish and over here Ailbhe is definitely pronounced al-va, Orlaith is just the Irish spelling of Orla, they are pronounced the same way, Eithne is pronounced eth-na, never heard the EN-ya prnounciation here, Fionn is normally pronounced fi-uh-nn, its hard to write the pronounciations but similar to that and Niall is normally pronounced NY-all but I have heard the neel version used sometimes, I hope this helps!

pam Says:

February 25th, 2009 at 12:10 pm

I wish we’d been able to consult you when we were working on the pronunciations, Sarah! We had several expert opinions but apparently many of them were wrong! Thanks for the clarification.

Sadhbh Warren Says:

March 5th, 2009 at 8:32 pm

Some of these have been corrected already, but here are pronouciations that are off. (Congrats on getting mine though!)

EITHNE = ETH-na
ORLAITH = OR-la
SORCHA = SOR-ka
AILBHE (ALL-bay) unisex
NIALL = Nile (like the river)
TADHG = TIE-g

Em Says:

March 11th, 2009 at 11:38 pm

I love learning about names popular in other countries. Can we have an Italian names hot off the press soon??

linda Says:

March 11th, 2009 at 11:49 pm

Hmm, that will take some digging, but we’ll give it a try.

Maggie Says:

July 12th, 2009 at 10:49 pm

Eoin is pronounced “own”.

aklein Says:

November 5th, 2009 at 9:17 am

Love the post. The only thing about being Irish is I’m not keen on Irish names all my cousins names are up there and friends too ha! One thing as well
AILBHE is pronounced ALL- VA
EITHNE – ETH- NA

And Orlaith is pronounced same as Orla just different spelling.
Also Fionn is pronounced FI-UNN.

Carrie Whalen Says:

December 4th, 2009 at 12:40 pm

We named our new baby Tuilelaith from your book thinking that it was pronounced (TOO-lee) as it says in your book. But after naming her that we found out that the name is pronounced (til-yeh-lah) which looks nothing like Too-lee!

Ailbhe Says:

December 20th, 2009 at 11:45 am

My name is Ailbhe and im Irish and i pronounce my name as Al-va, its the Irish way to say it, but some people are called Ailbhe too and pronounce it Ail-va you know? x
From Ailbhe 13

Gregory Despain Says:

February 10th, 2010 at 10:01 pm

Great Site! I was wondering if I could quote a few items for a term paper. Please drop me an email whether its ok or not. Thanks

murp Says:

March 9th, 2010 at 11:38 am

I agree with all the corrections with pronunciation so far and would add that Caoimhe is only pronounced KEE-va in the northern Irish dialect and is usually KWEE-va.
Eabha = AY-va
Roisin = ROW-sheen (ROH-sheen up north)

I am surprised to see
ARABELLA
BAY HERMIONE
BERNADETTE
CAROLENA
HAZEL
IONA
LULU
OLIVE
TAMSIN
ALFIE
CALLUM
HARVEY
JARLATH
on a list of Irish names as I would not consider any of them to be Irish.

Would I be right in thinking this book is aimed primarily at American parents who want to give their child an Irish name, rather than Irish parents?

murp Says:

March 9th, 2010 at 11:43 am

I also want to add, the fact that someone in Dublin gives their child a certain name does not make the name Irish! Irish parents are not restricted to using Irish names in the same way as parents from any other country look for inspiration abroad.
M, Dublin.

Tomas Says:

March 16th, 2010 at 12:05 pm

Yea,

there are sdefinitely a number of pronunciations wrong on this list. I am Irsh from DUblin, it probably is true that you will find a number of different sources with past variance on pronunciations, but I know myself that that Ive never heard anyone with those names above pronounced as such. Eithne for one, is my sisters name and is not pronounced En-ya, but rather, Eth-na.
Niall – Nile, or Ni-yel
Jarlaith is Irish as far as I’ve known, its my uncles name.
Ailbhe – never heard all-bay, my cousin and a friend pronounce it Al-va
Fionn – Fyun (Finn is another version of the name but is spelled Finn)
Sorcha – never heard Sorra, Sor-ka yes or So-reh-ka(could be due to accents)
Orlaith – or-lee??? never heard that. Or-la, maybe or-lath(doubt it though)
EABHA – Just having spoke Irish and looking at the spelling, I think that one is Ay-va
Ive never heard Tamsin, but it sounds nice anyways. Its a nice list, a few other of my favourites are:
Fiachra (Fia-kra)
Ferdia – (fir-dya)
Ruaidhri – Roo-ry or Rory(more popular)
Good luck!

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Janet Says:

February 1st, 2011 at 3:08 pm

Hi! My daughters name is Éabha – which is pronounced Ay-va. – bh has a v sound as in
Ailbhe – is pronounced Al – va. Caoimhe is pronounced Kwe-va in most parts of Ireland. The pronounciation you gave is used only in the north. Eithne is Eth – na not en-ya. Orlaith is pronounced as the name above it on the list – Or-la with a light a on the end. Sorcha is sor-kha. Fionn is pronnounced Fyun. Finn is a different name. Niall is pronounced nile – the pronounciation you gave would be for the name Neil. It is hard to write down the pronunciations as some sounds are unique to Irish as with any language and therefore hard to equate to an English sound. I think if you are to give a child an Irish language name then it’s important to pronounce it right otherwise its just a made-up name! Maybe you need to recruit some new experts!!!!!
I might also point out that many of those names on your list are certainly not Irish – Bay Hermione, Harvey and Lulu being obvious examples. To weed out the non-Irish names you could cross off any name with a j,k,q,v,w,x,y or z in them as these letters do not exist in the Irish Language although you may find some modern versions of Irish names beginning with K.

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