Irish Baby Names: Last Names First

Nameberry Picks for St. Paddy‘s Day: Irish Surname Names

The current popularity lists are full of Irish baby names that are also surname names—Ryan, Riley, Brody, Brady, Brennan, Connor, Keegan, and Quinn, to name just a few—and have been for quite some time.  For the most part, they have been two- and occasionally one-syllable names;  we’d like to suggest that the next wave will consist of the bouncier, even friendlier and more genial names with three syllables, and here are some of the best candidates.

Most of this brand of Irish baby names seem more suited to boys—but let’s not forget what happened to Cassidy and Delaney in the 1990s, when they tinted decidedly pink.

Branigana possible update for Brandon; the name means the descendant of the son of the raven, the latter being a nickname for the first chief of the clan. Spelled Brannigan, it was a 1975 John Wayne movie, and Zapp Brannigan is the antihero of the satirical animated sitcom Futurama

Callahan –means “bright-headed”; also spelled Callaghan, a name that harkens back to the ancient King of Munster

Connolly—could make a livelier substitute for Connor, means “fierce as a hound”; also spelled Connelly, as in detection fiction writer Michael

Cullinan—not as familiar as some of the others but has a long and distinguished Irish history—and, for a bit of trivia, the Cullinan diamond was the largest rough diamond ever found (3,000+ carats) when discovered in 1905.

Donegan—a possible namesake for an ancestral Donald–for those who find Donovan too Mellow-Yellow sixties folksie

Finnigan –an energetic extension of Finn, used by Will & Grace star Eric McCormack for his son; also spelled Finnegan

Fitzwilliam—the Christian name of the dashing Mr. Darcy in Pride and Prejudice; Fitzpatrick is another possibility, and more authentically Irish

Flanagan– an elaboration of Flann, cousin of Flynn and Finn and one of the colorful red-headed names

Garrity—an alternative to Garrett; this one could conceivably work for a girl, à la Amity, Clarity and Charity.

Gulliver—fairly obscure Gaelic surname known primarily through its literary Travels until actor Gary Oldman used it for his son, instantly transforming it into a lively first name option, one taken up a decade later by Damian Lewis

Halloran—a non-Henry or Harold path to Hal.  Halloran derives from a word meaning pirate, or stranger from overseas

Kennelly—modernizes and energizes Kenneth, and also the more recent Kennedy.  Can also be spelled Kenneally.

Lanigan means “little blackbird”; also appealing are Lonegan and Landrigan

MacCormacJohn McCormack was an illustrious opera singer; some other Mac (son of) options: MacDermot, MacDonnell

Morrissey—a possible namesake name for an ancestral Morris; associated with the single-named singer

Rafferty—this raffishly upbeat name means “rich” or “property wielder” in Gaelic and was used for their son by Sadie Frost and Jude Law

Sheridan –the surname of a famous British playwright and heroic Civil War general; possible downside is the dated nickname Sherry, as heard in the classic play and movie The Man Who Came to Dinner 

Sullivan—used by Patrick Dempsey for one of his twin boys, means “descendant of the black-eyed one” and is the third most popular surname in Ireland.  It’s been on the US boys’ popularity list since 2002, now at Number 652

For more Irish baby names, check out our lists of Irish Names for Boys and Irish Names for Girls.

Do you have any other favorites?  How do you like this genre in general?

(image courtesy of


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12 Responses to “Irish Baby Names: Last Names First”

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anniebee Says:

March 17th, 2011 at 1:36 am

Shhh. Please do not mention Sullivan! It seems like every time I think I’ve found a boy’s name that isn’t overly popular, it starts getting trendy. I love this name and the nn Sully. Morrissey, Callahan, and Gulliver are great too. Great list!

mcintyr1 Says:

March 17th, 2011 at 8:02 am

we really can’t use a last name as the first name because our last name is usually a first name and everything would sound backwards.

just an fyi… zapp branigan is far from the “hero” in futurama lol! he’s actually a terrible person.

“how did you defeat the kill bots?”
“everyone knows that kill bots have a predetermined kill limit, so i sent wave after wave of my own men at them. Isn’t that right men?!”

sadiesadie Says:

March 17th, 2011 at 8:44 am

I love Irish surnames. I think they make the best first name choices.
You could also use Roarke and Dempsey.

Lola Says:

March 17th, 2011 at 9:14 am

Thanks for not mentioning Clancy! 😀 I’m not a fan of surnames up front on boys, but I’ll admit some of them work beautifully on other people’s kids. With a very Scottish Mac- surrname of my own, I have to be careful with Celtic names. I don’t want my kids to sound like leprechauns!
Happy St. Pat’s Day!

Linz Says:

March 17th, 2011 at 10:22 am

For baby #3, we briefly considered MacKinley–which, I think, is Scottish, but still would continue a Celtic tradition of names in my family. Delainey was also considered for a time. However, we ended up changing our minds. But, my first is Keira, a beautiful Irish girl, with a very Irish name (if not the Gaelic spelling…). Love, love, love Irish names.

Fawn Says:

March 17th, 2011 at 12:43 pm

My husband is a Donald Jr. so we’re going to use Donnelly as a middle name to continue the name, but a bit more updatef

Stefanie Says:

March 17th, 2011 at 3:18 pm

I love Quinn too – for a boy or girl. My SIL is Irish and this was up for consideration for my niece. I still think it would be a great name for a boy if they have one in the future – as a first or middle.

Lyndsay Says:

March 17th, 2011 at 4:11 pm

I love Rafferty so much. To me, it’s one of those perfect names. The only reason it’s not on my list is that I don’t like Raffy because I can only think of the children’s singer. I might have to rethink that, Rafferty is so cool. Most of the others are just too Irish for my children, but I love them on others.

stephanie_elizabeth Says:

March 17th, 2011 at 9:39 pm

Lyndsay-I like Rafferty, too. I always thought you could use Rafe as a nickname…just a thought!

Holly Says:

March 17th, 2011 at 9:51 pm

My son is named Rafferty and we call him Raff. (I liked Raphael, hubby thought it was too fancy, so Rafferty was the compromise!)

babynamesrule Says:

March 17th, 2011 at 9:56 pm

Happy St. Paddy’s! I really love Rafferty, but it sounds like a sinister villian.

linzybindi Says:

March 19th, 2011 at 10:26 pm

I love this genre! Irish names sound so crisp and spunky!

My favorites from this list are…

If I could add a few…

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