But further down in the Top 100, the Irish popularity list includes several Irish names. We relied on the excellent audio by the late author Frank McCourt at Baby Names of Ireland for the pronunciations. The Irish girls’ names in the Top 100, in order of popularity, are:
Aoife — Pronounced ee-fa, Aoife was a legendary woman warrior in Irish mythology. Once near the top of the Irish charts, this name is starting to move down in popularity.
Caoimhe — From the same root as Kevin, this name is pronounced kee-va.
Saoirse — Popularized by the lovely young actress SaoirseRonan, Saoirse means liberty and is pronounced sare(rhyming with hair)-sha.
Ciara — Ciara is the authentic Irish spelling of the name better known in the U.S. as Keira, the most popular American spelling thanks to Ms. Knightley, or Kiera, which relates more directly to the male Kieran (or in Irish, Ciaran). The name means dark or black-haired. Kyra may be pronounced the same but is a variation on Cyrus.
Niamh — Niamh of the Golden Hair was the mythical daughter of a sea god. The name is pronounced neev and sometimes spelled phonetically as Neve.
Orla — Orla means “golden princess” and was the name of both a sister and daughter of High KingBrian Boru.
Tara — Another longtime Irish-American favorite fading in the U.S., this mythical name is now popular in Ireland.
Eimear — Eimear, pronounced ee-mer, was a mythical figure who possessed the “Six Gifts of Womanhood” — Six Gifts of Womanhood” – beauty, a gentle voice, sweet words, wisdom, needlework and chastity.
Muireann — The pronunciation of this name is a bit difficult for the English-speaking tongue: It’s mweer-in. Muireann was a mythical mermaid who was turned into a woman by a saint.
Meabh — The Irish spelling of Maeve, this ancient queen’s name is on the rise in the Ireland as well as the U.S.
Sinead — One Irish name whose pronunciation — shin-aid — is familiar to Americans via singer Sinead O’Connor, this is the Irishization of Janet.
And for boys:
Cian—Listed at Number 13, Cian–pronounced key-in–is one of the highest ranking Irish names on the Irish boys’ list, but it’s one that’s never emigrated to the US.
Oisin—Pronounced osh-een, and also known as Ossian, Oisin is an important name in Irish legend, as the son of FinnMac Cool.
Liam—No need for pronunciation clues here, as Liam is actually two points higher (at Number 15) in the US than it is in Ireland. This short form of William is a particular celeb favorite.
Darragh and Dara—Darragh, pronounced somewhere between di-re and da-ra, and slimmed-down version Dara, are both on the Irish boys’ list, but sound too feminine for plausible use in the US.
Cillian—This name of several saints is growing in US popularity in the phonetic spelling Killian, which is now Number 756.
Fionn and Finn—Both pronounced Finn and both mega-popular in Ireland, but Finn is clearly the one taking off in the States. Finn–or Fionn—Mac Cool is the brave and handsome central character of Irish myth.
Eoin and Eoghan—These two names, believe it or not, are both versions of John that are pronounced as Owen, a red hot name in America.
Callum and Calum—Interchangeable spellings of a name that actually has Scottish origins and means ‘dove.’ is a symbol of peace and purity. The Callum spelling is the one that’s taken off here, now at Number 847.
Tadhg—A name with quite a tricky pronunciation — ti-gue–Tadhg, which means poet or philosopher, was the grandfather of FinnMac Cool. Somehow we don’t see it heading for the US pop list any time soon.
Rian–An offbeat version of Ryan that had a brief moment of US popularity in the late 1970s. The original Ryan is still Number 25 here.
Cathal–With the surprising pronunciation of ka-hal (some books say koh-hal), this was a popular name in the Middle Ages and is now popular again in England.