Undiscovered Irish Baby Names

March 16, 2016 Pamela Redmond
Irish baby names

by Pamela Redmond Satran

The immigration of Irish baby names to the US has been going on for decades and just won’t quit, with the original Bridget and Patrick succeeded by Kathleen and Kevin, Kelly and Conor, who were followed by the current crop of babies named Aidan and Liam and Riley and Maeve.

So who’s left? Incredibly enough, there are still plenty of undiscovered Irish names ripe for import. The names here are all widely used in contemporary Ireland, are accessible in terms of spelling and pronunciation, yet are virtually unknown in the US.

BronaBrona or its Irish version Bronagh, a girls’ name that means sorrow, fell below the five-baby threshold in the US last year and so can be considered truly unique. The name of an ancient mystic, Brona is popular in Ireland and is also heard on television’s Penny Dreadful, which could broadcast its appeal.

CahirCahir, pronounced quite logically ka-heer, was used for no boys in the US last year, nor was its Irish form Cathair. It means “battle man.”

Cliona – The appeal of this ancient name increases dramatically when you learn that it’s pronounced as the rhythmic CLEE-uh-na and does NOT rhyme with Fiona. Meaning “shapely,” Cliona was used for no girls in the US last year.

Conal – Okay, there were 26 boys in the US named Conall and another 26 named Connell, but none called Conal. Meaning “strong as a wolf,” this name is prominent in Irish history and can make a great substitute for the flagging Conor.

Dara, Darach, Darragh, and Daire – All these names are pronounced Dara and all are popular for boys, while in the US there were 74 baby girls named Dara last year but only six boys, with another six called Daire, 12 named Darragh, and none given the Darach spelling. Darragh is a Top 50 boys’ name in Ireland. The name means “oak tree.”

Dervla – No girls in the US were given this ancient and still well-used Irish name last year, which means “daughter of the poet.” The Irish spelling is Dearbhla – and not surprisingly, that wasn’t used either.

Donnacha – This popular boys’ name in Ireland was given to zero boys in the US last year. Pronounced dunn-ah-ka, it means “brown-haired warrior”.

EmerEmer was a legendary wife who possessed the six gifts of womanhood: beauty, voice, speech, wisdom, chastity, and needlework. Used by Yeats, Emer – pronounced ee-mer – is widely used in modern Ireland. Yet in the US, plenty of girls are called Emery or Emerson but none are named Emer.

FiaFia and its Irish version Fiadh are among the fastest-rising girls’ names in Ireland yet are virtually unknown in the US, where there were only 21 girls named Fia and none called Fiadh last year. It means “wild deer” but might also be a short form for Sofia.

FintanFintan has a great meaning, or rather two great meanings – white fire or white bull – and a worthy ancient namesake: the legendary Fintan is said to be the only person to survive the Flood. A perfect long form for the stylish Finn, Fintan was used for only 22 boys in the US last year.

Lorcan – Despite its use in Harry Potter and its status as the name of the patron saint of Dublin, Lorcan was given to only 15 baby boys in the US in 2014. Meaning “little and fierce,” it’s the perfect successor to Logan.

Nuala – Girls’ name Nuala is a short form of Fionnuala, which means “white shoulders,” that is frequently used on its own. Nuala was given to 13 girls in the US last year.

Oran – Both Oran and its Irish version Odhran are in the Top 100 names for boys in Ireland, yet Oran was given to only 28 boys in the US last year and the more difficult Odhran to none. The name means “pale little green one.”

Orla – This accessible name that means “golden princess” was as popular in medieval Ireland as it is today. Associated with the famed high king Brian Boru, it’s in the Irish Top 100 yet was given to only 28 girls in the US last year.

Piran or PieranThis Irish name is unusual on both sides of the pond, though in the US neither spelling was used for any boys last year. Meaning prayer, Piran is the name of the patron saint of miners and of Cornwall.

Senan – Pronounced she-NAWN, Senan is one of the hottest boys’ names in Ireland, now standing among the Top 100. In the US, it was given to only eight boys last year though it makes a perfect substitute for Sean. Meaning “old and wise,” Senan was the name of an ancient founder of monasteries.

Ultan – It’s no surprise, given that this name means “man from Ulster,” that it’s most popular in Northern Ireland. While 18 saints were named Ultan, no babies in the US were given the name in 2014.

About the author

Pamela Redmond

Pamela Redmond is the cocreator and CEO of Nameberry. The coauthor of ten bestselling baby name books, Redmond is an internationally-recognized name expert, quoted and published widely in such media outlets as the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, The Today Show,, CNN, and the BBC. Redmond is also a New York Times bestselling novelist whose books include Younger, the basis for the hit television show, and its new sequel, Older.

View all of Pamela Redmond's articles


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