Category: Irish baby names
By Sophie Kihm
So many Americans have Irish ancestry, yet relatively few have embraced authentic Irish names. I’m not talking about Caoimhe or Eithne necessarily, but using names with Irish origins can be a meaningful way to showcase your heritage. If you’re looking for a name that hits the sweet spot between unusual and familiar (and without a difficult pronunciation), one of these could be the perfect name for your little lad or lassie.
You might know the Irish poet William Butler Yeats (it rhymes with Gates, not Keats) from his much-loved poems like The Lake Isle of Innisfree, possibly the most peaceful poem ever written, or memorable lines like “tread softly, because you tread on my dreams.”
One thing (among many) Yeats is remembered for is his retelling of Irish myths and legends. He helped to introduce characters from ancient literature – and their names – to the English-speaking world. Today we take it for granted that it’s easy to access Irish culture – like stories, music, and of course names – but that wasn’t always the case.
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.
Branigan—a 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
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.
The world’s been abuzz lately with the casting of relative unknown Rooney Mara as Lisbeth Salander in the Hollywood version of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo and its sequels. While others might be interested in the young actress’s previous films or her fashion sense, we name nerds can think of only one thing: Where’d she get that cool name? And how can I get one like it?
Rooney Mara comes by her Irish-surname-as-first semi-honestly: It’s her real middle name and her mother’s original last name. Born Patricia Rooney Mara, the actress dropped her pedestrian first name in favor of her more exotic middle, which means red-haired. Great-grandfather Art Rooney founded the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Rarely heard as a first name — there were 23 boys born with the name in 2009, and fewer than five girls — the new prominence of Miss Mara can only add power to the growing trend of using Irish last names as firsts. And while Irish surname names have been used for girls as well as boys in recent years, Rooney Mara‘s fame seems certain to further feminize the image of these names.
Other choices with celebrity or pop culture connections include:
- Brady — Miranda‘s son in Sex & The City.
- Carson — Author Carson McCullers.
- Cassidy — Kathie Lee Gifford‘s much-discussed daughter.
- Cullen — Surname of Twilight hero Edward.