New Irish Names Go Global
Irish baby names have been longtime favorites in the US, but historically the ones that have been the most popular—such as Bridget and Caitlin, Connor and Kevin—are those that are intuitive in spelling and pronunciation.
Cut to 2020, where actress Saoirse Ronan is one of the biggest movie stars, Billie Eilish tops the music charts, and celebrity babies are getting previously unheard-of Irish names.
Milla Jovovich recently named her daughter Osian, a Welsh boys’ name that derived from the Irish Oisin. She and husband Paul W.S. Anderson are big fans of names with Gaelic roots—their older girls are named Ever Gabo and Dashiel Edan—but Osian is the most distinctive and complicated name of the bunch. (For those of you wondering, it’s pronounced oh-SHAN).
These days parents are more willing to embrace a name that may pose a pronunciation challenge, and society, in turn, is more willing to learn how to pronounce them. We’ve got Saoirse and Eilish down pat, so what’s next?
Here, twenty Irish names that are newly wearable options in the US.
Ailbhe: A Top 100 name in Ireland, Ailbhe could easily make a name for itself in the US. It’s pronounced like Alva, a rising biblical pick for boys.
Aoibhe: The Irish variation of Eva, with a very similar pronunciation. Parents looking to distinguish their daughter from the Eva/Evelyn/Everly crowd might opt for this Irish spelling.
Aoife: One of the more familiar names from Irish legend, Aoife appears in many tales as a warrior woman. It hasn’t reached the US Top 1000 yet, but Aoife has nearly doubled in use in the past five years.
Eilis: Perhaps best known as the name of the heroine from the book and movie Brooklyn, in which she announces her name “rhymes with Irish.” Music sensation Billie Eilish may give the alternate spelling a boost as well.
Fiadh: Homophonous with Fia, an up-and-coming successor for Mia. Fiadh is the fastest rising name in Ireland.
Niamh: Niamh of the Golden Hair was an ancient Irish goddess, making Niamh an apt choice for a blonde baby girl. Neve is the phonetic spelling.
Oona: Oona is delightfully quirky—and comparably easy to pronounce—with its double O’s. It’s gentle meaning, “lamb,” is a draw for a Spring baby.
Orla: Uncommon in the US yet very straightforward—Orla is easily recognizable as an Irish name. Orlaith is another common spelling in Ireland.
Roisin: The Irish variation of Rose, pronounced ro-SHEEN. It’s an unexpected floral option, as well as musical—Róisín Dubh, meaning “dark little rose,” is a 16th century Irish poem-turned-song.
Saoirse: Actress Saoirse Ronan made herself a household name, and now almost every household knows how to pronounce her name—she’s known to tell people it rhymes with “inertia.”
Siobhan: Siobhan, the Irish variation of Joan, is frequently used as a character name for books and television—J.K. Rowling and Stephenie Meyers have named characters Siobhan, and it’s the name of Logan Roy’s daughter on Succession. It briefly ranked in the US Top 1000 in the 1980s.
Cashel: Cashel seems destined for success in the US thanks to its fashionable Cash element, shared by such trendy names as Cassius, Cassian, and Cash itself.
Cian: Kian ranks in the US Top 500, but Cian, the more authentic spelling, doesn’t make the list. As Kian continues to rise, we expect Cian will as well.
Cillian: The first syllable being “kill” gives Cillian a strong, very masculine edge. It fits in with other tough-guy international names, such as Gunnar and Bruno.
Eamon: Soft but masculine names have never been more stylish (think Liam, Owen, Asher) so might we suggest Eamon? It’s technically the Irish variation of Edmund, but we like to think of it as an Aidan alternative.
Fionn: This Finn spelling alternative has seen a slight uptick in use in America and ranks higher than the four-letter spelling in Ireland. It’s the name of Irish mythological hero Fionn MacCumhaill, anglicized as Finn McCool.
Keir: Short, punchy, and authentically Irish—what’s not to love about Keir? For those searching for a short middle name for a son, Keir is a unique and worthy option.
Niall: Americans of a certain age will undoubtedly associate Niall with Niall Horan, former member of the boyband One Direction, but is that really such a bad thing? Zayn, Harry, Louis, and Liam have all risen in popularity since the band’s debut—now we think it’s Niall’s time to shine.
Oisin: O names for boys are having a moment—Otto, Otis, Odin, and Oliver are all in vogue—so we’d like to add Oisin to the mix. It’s pronounced o-SHEEN and is a Top 15 name in Ireland. With the Milla Jovovich birth announcement drawing more attention to the name, might we see more baby Oisins in the future?
Tadhg: Tadhg has the least intuitive pronunciation on our boys’ list, but comes with the easiest mnemonic device—it’s said like “tiger” without the R. It’s often anglicized as Teague and could easily be co-opted as a girls’ name—a la Milla Jovovich—to use in place of the fast-rising Teagan.