Irish Baby Names: Top Choices Here and There

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

By Linda Rosenkrantz and Pamela Redmond Satran

Irish baby names appeal to a wide range of parents, whether your background is Irish or not. But the Irish baby names most popular here are very different from those that are hot in their homeland. St. Paddy‘s Day is the perfect moment to look at the top Irish baby names today.

Irish names have, of course, long been popular in America, brought here by immigrants from the middle of the nineteenth century through the present day.

There have been waves of popular Irish names in the US, starting with such stalwarts as Patrick and Bridget and moving through Kelly and Kevin, Shannon and Sean.

Today, the top Irish baby names are very different in both places from those in the past. Let’s take a look and see how they compare.

Here are the Irish baby name currently in the US. Top 100:

Liam #2 for boys—Thanks partly to Liam Neeson, this traditional Irish nickname for William is now the second most popular boy name in America.

Aiden #13 for boys—Though the Gaelic favorite is traditionally spelled Aidan, this is the version that took off like wildfire here at the beginning of the new millennium, spawning dozens of rhymed cousins.

Riley #35 for girls—Riley entered the girls’ column in 1990 and has been climbing since, while moving in the opposite direction for boys.

Ryan, #39 boys—Ryan has been in the boys’ Top 40 for 43 years

Nora , #41 girls—Nora has been a perpetual favorite in the US since records have been published, but has never ranked as high as it does now.

Connor, #54 boys—This is the preferred, double-n, version here; it entered the US list in 1981.

Kennedy #57 girls—a high-ranking Irish-American presidential choice that’s been used much more for girls, it took off in the 90s

Nolan #71 boys—Nolan is another Irish name that has never been more popular in the US than it is now.

Kevin #79 boys—an Irish evergreen, Kevin is now seen as much as a dad or even granddad name as a baby choice; on board since the 1920s, it was at its highest point in 1963, when it was given to more than 30,000 little Kevins.

Brianna–#82 girls—This female form of Brian debuted on the US list in 1976, and by 1988 was in the Top 100, reaching #14 in the last year of the 20th century.

Quinn #97 girls—Young actress Quinn Cummings first showed the feminine potential of this Irish surname, which has been rising since 1979, now used much more for girls than boys.

Reagan #99 girls—The same is true of this presidential surname, associated with a leader-in-chief who projected a buoyant, cheerful image.

St Patrick

Irish Names in Ireland’s Top 50

Conor #4—Just one ‘n’ is tops in the Old Country

Sean #5—The quintessential Irish classic version of John

Aoife #10—pronounced EE-fa (with some regional variations)—a legendary name used for his daughter by actor Cian Hinds

Oisin #13—(oh-SHEEN)—a son of ancient Irish leader Finn McCool; Ossian is another version

Liam #15—as seen above, mega-popular both here and there

Ryan #16, Rian #35—spelling it Rian gives it a more authentic-looking twist

Cian #18 (KEE-en) As Americans begin to be more familiar with its pronunciation, it could catch on here

Patrick #19—the sainted name of the hour

Cillian #20—(KILL–ee-an) Charming actor Cillian Murphy has done a lot for this name’s visibility

Darragh #21—(DA-rah)-A subtle nature name, it means “oak tree”

Saoirse #23—(SEER-sha)—This got Oscar-nomination cred via young Irish actress Saoirse Ronan

Caoimhe #25—(kwee-va or kee-va)-A perennial favorite, it has the lovely meaning of beautiful, precious, beloved, gentle, graceful

Fionn #26–(fin)—The authentic Irish Finn

Ciara #28—(KEER-a)—More popular here as Anglicized Kiera or Keira, Ciara (perhaps via the singer), did reach #150 in the US in 2005.

Finn #33—An international hit du jour, thanks to several celebs and movie and TV shows, and its own ineffable charm

Niamh #34—(neev)—Another ancient Irish name rich in legendary associations, and the heroine of Christina Baker Kline’s bestselling Orphan Train.

Callum #36—Handsome Callum, which means dove, is making inroads here as well, now #42 on Nameberry.

Roisin #37—(ro-SHEEN)—This lovely Irish variety of Rose was used by Sinead O’Connor back in 1997

Erin #38—The poetic name for Ireland itself, it’s gone down in popularity n the US.

Clodagh #44-(CLO-dah)–also the name of a river in Tipperary

Sadhbh #45–(SAH-eev)–the name of several real and legendary Irish princesses

Eoin #46—(o-wen)-Another Irish version of John. Yanks prefer Owen.

Tadgh #48 –(TYEg) A popular name meaning poet, it has a long legendary history as a grandson of Finn McCool

FYI—The non-Irish Jack and Emily are the very top names in Ireland, as they have been for several years running.

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9 Responses to “Irish Baby Names: Top Choices Here and There”

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lesliemarion Says:

March 16th, 2017 at 11:32 pm

Patrick is my perennial favorite, though I like Darragh and Clodagh as well.

And Kelly and Kerry for males.


KatyI Says:

March 17th, 2017 at 12:47 am

Great list, I’ve been looking for more suggestions lately and this is perfect. Though the pronunciation here of Sadhbh bothers me – makes it sounds like two syllables when it’s meant to be one, more like ‘sighve’ – I’m not sure if this is a regional difference or not? Fionn can also be ‘fi-oon’/’fi-un’ (sort of – hard to write) – I would always assume the different pronunciation compared to more anglicised Finn. I’m so happy that more “foreign” names are becoming more globally recognised 🙂

Lizallergic Says:

March 17th, 2017 at 3:26 am

Yeah just wanted to note that Sadhbh rhymes with hive and jive. A lovely alternative to Maeve.

mill1020 Says:

March 17th, 2017 at 3:19 pm

I like Nora but it rhymes with my own name (Laura), so I probably wouldn’t use it.

I know a German family with a Cillian, but they pronounce it with a soft C.

LuMary Says:

March 17th, 2017 at 4:23 pm

Just saw a kids Irish dance troupe today, and as hoped, they introduced the many dancers afterward. I love this part, as I listen closely to the first and last names. Refreshingly, there were a few little Marys, Kathleens, and a Bridget. Other names I heard: Maeve, Megan, Kelly, McKenzie, Riley, Emma, Isabella, Angela, Olivia, Shannon, Erin, Sinead, Sean, Aidan, Sarah, Nora, Mary Clare. I notice that Kelly, Erin, and Shannon, 1970s names, retain life in the Irish-American subculture. Erin, for example, is so poetic, so why not? Megan, of course, still has staying power. It’s nice to see the older, traditional names coming back (Mary, Bridget, Kathleen, Nora). I also enjoy seeing authentic Irish names making there way here like Sinead, Aoife, Seamus, Mairead, Niamh, Siobhan, Aisling, but would like to see more. Sarah and Angela (maybe because of the angelus?) seem to always be present, and for some reason, lately, a number of Olivias. Maybe the latter because of its general popularity, which I don’t get because it seems so 1980s to me.

LuMary Says:

March 17th, 2017 at 4:44 pm

I love Patrick, and like Packy (found in County Cork) as a nickname, and have lately warmed to Paddy. Irish are still clannish, which I think has a resistive effect on their naming patterns, keeping Irish names alive like Kelly and Erin that are considered dated beyond this subculture, and eschewing the current yuppie trend of restricting oneself to the formalized versions of boy names like Thomas, James, William, for example, and unabashedly applying the familiar Tommy, Jimmy, and even, Billy. I love this All-American, down-to-earth latter tendency.

eoxima Says:

March 18th, 2017 at 4:50 pm

It’s Tadhg, not Tadgh. Just an annoyance of mine.

Saoirse and Caoimhe are beautiful though, and I love Oisin and Eoin.

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