Irish Last Names
Irish last names used as first names have eclipsed traditional first names, especially for girls. Irish last names such as Riley, Kennedy, and Finley are more popular baby names in the US today than traditional Irish names such as Bridget and Patrick.
Riley is the top Irish last name used as a first for baby girls in the US today, with Ryan the top Irish surname used as a first name for boys. Along with Riley and Ryan, the other top Irish last names for boys in the US are Connor and Nolan, with the top Irish last names for girls Kennedy and Quinn. Many of these surname-names can be considered gender neutral names.
One fresh factor in Irish last names as first names: Names that start with Mac or O' are now fair game as first names. So if you want to name your baby O'Brien or McNamara, go right ahead. Here's a whole group of rollicking Irish surnames that work for both girls and boys....or you can use one from your own family background.
Meaning:"fair or white"
Description:Finn is a name with enormous energy and charm, that of the greatest hero of Irish mythology, Finn MacCool (aka Fionn mac Cuumhaill), an intrepid warrior with mystical supernatural powers, noted as well for his wisdom and generosity.
Description:Ronan is the compelling legendary name of twelve Irish and Scottish saints that is now drawing some deserved attention; this cousin of the ascending Roman and Rowan was chosen by actor Daniel Day-Lewis and his writer-director wife Rebecca Miller in 1998, and more recently by actress Catherine Bell.
Meaning:"son of the red-haired one"
Description:Flynn, a charming Irish surname, is still used only quietly, despite its easygoing, casual cowboy charm, unlike Finn which is a star of this genre. Flynn was the choice of Orlando Bloom and Miranda Kerr for their baby boy, and is also the middle name -- used as his first -- of a son of Miranda's fellow supermodel Elle Macpherson, of Gary Oldman's son Gulliver and Marley Shelton's daughter West.
Meaning:"descendent of Conn"
Description:Quinn is the Anglicized version of the Irish patronymic surname Ó Cuinn, meaning "descendent of Conn." Conn has two possible derivations—the Old Irish cond, meaning "intellect," or cenn, meaning "chief." One of the most notable Quinn clans was from County Tyrone in Northern Ireland.
Description:Sloane is a sleek, sophisticated surname name that has gradually morphed over to the girls' side. Sloane is definitely a name that's going to continue to rise. Spelled without the final "e," Sloan joined Sloane in the Top 1000 for the first time in 2011.
Meaning:"son of the sea"
Description:Dylan was derived of the Welsh components dy and llanw, meaning "sea." In Welsh mythology, Dylan was a legendary sea god who prompted all the waters of Britain and Ireland to weep when he died. The name came to prominence via the great Welsh poet Dylan Thomas, whose name Bob Dylan adopted in tribute.
Description:Ryan’s use as a given name was inspired by the surname Ryan, a variation of the Irish O’Riain meaning "son of Rían." Rían is composed of the Irish-Gaelic elements rí, meaning "king" and an, a diminutive suffix. Ryan is considered a unisex name in the US, where variant spellings Ryann and Ryanne are also valid for girls.
Description:Nolan is one of the rising Irish surname names, in the spirit of Conan and Ronan, partially inspired by pitcher Nolan Ryan-- who was named Lynn at birth, after his father. Nolan is a cheerful, friendly traditional Irish surname with the appropriate meaning of "champion," and one of the new attractive boy names starting with N.
Origin:English surname and nature name
Description:One of those simple, straightforward English surnames -- and with a presidential pedigree -- that's easy to translate into a first. It was recently chosen by both Kevin Costner and Jessica Alba for their sons, which can likely be credited for its spike in popularity in the past few years. Surname names and nature names like Hayes, which qualifies on both counts, along with occupational names all make up the new generation of stylish English names for boys that go far beyond Harry and Edward.
Origin:Irish, English, and Scottish
Meaning:"broad eye or broad island"
Description:The energetic Brody is a name that claims different meanings and origins depending on whether you're looking at its Irish, Scottish, or English history -- and Eastern Europeans claim a version too. An alternate spelling is Brodie.
Origin:Scottish and Irish
Meaning:"rowan tree; little redhead"
Description:Rowan is the name of a tree with red berries that's commonly found in Scotland (and said to ward off witches). Some scholars say this name has been used for girls as well as boys since the Middle Ages, though no Rowans are found outside literature until modern times. It's also a genial Irish surname choice, especially for a redhead – girl or boy.
Meaning:"rye clearing; courageous"
Description:Riley originated as both an English and an Irish surname. The former was derived from British place names that got their names from the Old English words for "rye clearing." Irish Riley is a variation of Reilly, a surname taken from the given name Raghailleach.
Meaning:"floodtide, abundance, prosperity"
Description:Jaunty and raffish, Rafferty is one of the most engaging of the Irish surnames, used by Jude Law and Sadie Frost for their son. Fortunately, it doesn't still go by its original form: O'Raighbheartaigh.
Description:Sullivan is a jaunty Celtic three-syllable name, with a real twinkle in its eye. It was immortalized in the 1930s classic film Sullivan's Travels and was chosen for one of Patrick Dempsey's twin boys. Nickname Sully is equally jaunty.
Description:Mara is the evocative ancient root of Mary, appearing in the Book of Ruth, in which Naomi, devastated after the death of her two sons, says "Call me not Naomi, call me Mara." It's one of the girl names starting with M that both fits in and stands out.
Description:Delaney has been a popular Irish surname name for a couple of decades, projecting buoyant enthusiasm plus a feminine feel.
Description:A growing number of high-profile (and other) parents are choosing to honor their musical idols, such as Hendrix, Presley, Jagger, and now Lennon, an Irish name for girls as well as boys with a wonderful meaning on many levels. Lennon first came to notice when Liam Gallagher and Patsy Kensit used it for their son in 1999, and singer-musician Adam Pascal followed their lead two years later.
Description:Though it has a Scandinavian ring, this is an out-of-the-ordinary Irish family name. The hard 'T' at the beginning prevents it from sounding as feminine as, say, Loren. Torin's Passage was an early video game.
Origin:Irish and Scottish
Description:Fallon is one of several boyish surname names introduced in the over-the-top 1980s nighttime soap Dynasty: they sounded cutting-edge at the time, but no longer.
Origin:Irish or Welsh
Meaning:"little poet or fair"
Description:As Meghan/Megan and Reagan/Regan show signs of wilting, along comes Teagan to take up the slack: definitely one to consider. The vast majority of American babies named Teagan are now girls. A variant spelling is Teaghan.
Origin:Irish or French
Meaning:"dark one, or from Arcy, or from the fortress"
Description:Delicate ballerina name with grace, charm, and heft courtesy of Jane Austen's Mr.
Meaning:"lover of hounds"
Description:Connor, the appealing name of an early semi-legendary king of Ulster in Irish mythology, sits firmly in the Top 100 and taken together with its alternate spellings would rank even higher. In its native Ireland the Conor version is one of the highest charting boys’ name.
Origin:Surname derived from Nicholas or Colin
Description:Collins is a surname name that has made the girls' Top 1000 thanks to its use for the daughter of the real-life Blind Side heroine. This derivation of the Greek Nicholas—which means "people of victory"—or the Irish and Scottish Colin—which may itself be a Nicholas derivation or an Anglicization of the word for pup—has a stylish feel made more so by that final s.
Description:Callahan, the simpler spelling of Callaghan, is a rhythmic jig of a name whose history harks back to the ancient King of Munster. In the Dirty Harry movies, the Clint Eastwood character is Harry Callahan.
Description:One of the first of the appealing Irish surnames to take off in this country, this boys’ name has long outgrown its "Mellow Yellow" association, which came via the single from a sixties singer-songwriter named Donovan.
Description:If you like the Finn names and love James Joyce, Finnegan is extremely winning. Will & Grace 's Eric McCormack chose the Finnigan spelling for his son. And of course Finnegan gains you access to the great short form Finn.
Description:A strong, straightforward Irish unisex surname, with a merry glint in its eye, Reagan has been leaping up the popularity lists, to become one of the top girl names starting with R. Some will inevitably link it to President Ronald, but spell it Regan and it's a Shakespearean name: a daughter of King Lear.
Meaning:"broad meadow or large-chested"
Description:The Irish name given to Miranda Hobbes's son on the dearly departed Sex and the City is a friendly and energetic choice. You well might want to make your son part of the Brady bunch.
Meaning:"son of the handsome one"
Description:Mackenzie begat McKenna -- a catchy but very trendy choice. While the Mc or Mac prefix means "son of," this is exclusively a girl's names in the US, with no boys recorded with either spelling of the name.
Meaning:"the stately, dauntless one"
Description:The short but solid Irish surname Shea works for both genders; Kevin James has a daughter named Shea. Shay is another possible spelling.
Description:This attractive surname name still projects that Kennedy family charisma. While it didn't come into widespread use until long after the deaths of martyred heroes President John F. or Senator Robert Kennedy, Kennedy is now one of the most popular unisex names for girls as well as the top girls' name starting with K. This is one name that manages to sound trendy and classic at the same time.
Description:Cullen is an appealing Irish surname name that upped its cool factor considerably when it became the Twilight family name of Edward et al. It's considerably less popular than it was at its peak in 2010, but is still widely used.
Origin:Spelling variation of Kellen
Description:Kellan Lutz is the attractive young actor who plays Emmett Cullen in the Twilight series.
Meaning:"flood, peaceful, or hill"
Description:Tully is a relaxed, rarely used Irish surname possibility. Sources disagree on the meaning, depending on what root is used. The Irish tulach means hill or mound, while tuile means flood. Other sources relate it to the Roman Tullius, most notably the name of the philosopher Marcus Tullius Cicero, sometimes anglicized as Tully. Statesman Alexander Hamilton used the pen name Tully when he wrote editorials denouncing the instigators of the Whiskey Rebellion.
Description:Madden is an Irish surname relative of Madigan rising through the charts thanks to its trendy two-syllable, -en ending sound along with its appeal to Madden Football video game-playing dads. John Madden is a former pro football player who went on to coach the Oakland Raiders and become a popular NFL commentator. Madden is also the surname of groovy Nicole Richie baby daddy Joel Madden.
Description:Following in the footsteps of popular brother Brady, Grady is another lively, ebullient Irish surname name. The O'Gradys (originally O Gradaugh) were an ancient clan that produced an impressive number of bishops.
Perhaps the most remarkable O'Grady descendant is Muhammad Ali, whose mother's maiden name was Grady.
Meaning:"brave in battle"
Description:One of the original unisex Irish surname names, energetic Casey bounced onto the scene in the 1960s, then peaked in the 1980s for both boys and girls.
Origin:Spelling variation of McKenna or Eastern African
Description:Part of the Mackenzie/Mackena/Mackenna family, this variation has a positive meaning.
Description:Though the cinematic Ferris Bueller was twenty years ago, the time for this name may be now.
Meaning:"son of Egan"
Description:Keegan is one of a clan of spirited Irish surnames starting with K and ending with 'n'--this one with the cheery double 'e' in the middle-- that are appealing to an increasing number of parents. It derives from Mac Aodhagáin, meaning "son (or descendant) of Aodhagán," a diminutive of the Irish name Aodh--pronounced Aye.
Description:Has fallen off its Kathie Lee Gifford inspired peak in the 1990s, but since that notably celebrity baby is now a grownup and out of the limelight, Cassidy may once again reclaim its own Irish charm.
Meaning:"village with crosses"
Description:Crosby is an attractively laid-back Irish surname with retro musical associations to Bing and Crosby, Stills, and Nash, and with a jaunty air. Crosby Braverman was the name of a character on the TV show Parenthood, played by Dax Shepard.
Meaning:"settlement by the sea"
Description:Murray, you may be surprised to discover, is a Scottish surname name --that of an ancient noble clan--with a sea-swept meaning, and just could be in the next wave of reevaluated grandpa names. Currently Number 60 for baby boys born in its native Scotland; it was at its highest in the US in 1922, when it reached Number 208, but has been off the list since 1975. Could it be time for a comeback?
Meaning:"descendent of the sad one"
Description:Brennan is a winning Irish surname name, more modern than Brian or Brendan, more unusual than Conor and Aidan. The only possible problem with Brennan: people might think you're saying Brendan.
Origin:Irish variation of McKay
Description:One of numerous usable Irish and Scottish surnames starting with Mac and Mc, this is the real McCoy. McCoy Tyner, the well-known jazz pianist, is one of the few to use this very cool name. Bonus: Nickname Mac.
Origin:English and Irish from French
Description:Bellamy is emerging as an up-and-coming girls' name, an Irish surname-y riff on the super-popular Bella series of names. While the Bella connection makes Bellamy sound a little trendier and more popular than it really is, we see the name possibly rising through the ranks for both genders in the coming years.
Meaning:"hound of the sea"
Description:This surname name popularized for girls by TV's Murphy Brown back in the 80's and 90's still has some breezy energy.
Description:Once the quintessential bouncy teenager name, Kelly helped launch the trend of unisex Irish names . But it now takes a backseat to more substantial surname names like Kennedy.