Top Irish Baby Names
Irish baby names on Ireland's recent Top 100 popularity list include the following native choices. In the US, top names from this list include Irish boy names Liam and Finn. Liam and Finn are international stars too, making the lists of top names in nations as diverse as Germany, Sweden, and New Zealand. Irish girl names Caitlin and Tara have been trending downward in the US in recent years, though we're starting to hear more girls named Saoirse and Niamh. Irish baby names that are top-ranked in their native land include the following.
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.
Description:This spirited Gaelic classic, which became popular in Ireland via the illustrious twelfth century king Rory O'Connor, makes a highly energetic choice, now used for either sex. Rory's gender split is still trending boyward; it's one of the coolest boys' names starting with R.
Origin:Scottish form of Columba, Latin
Description:Callum was derived from Latin Columba, a unisex given name meaning "dove." Callum was popular among early Christians because the dove was a symbol of purity, peace and the Holy Spirit. St. Columba was one of the most influential of the early Celtic saints.
Origin:Irish short form of William
Description:Liam originated as a nickname for Uilliam, the Irish variation of William. William is an English name from Germanic roots that was brought to Ireland when the British fled England following the Norman Conquest. The Irish began using English names, including William, which led to the development of Uilliam and its short form, Liam.
Description:Saoirse originated as a baby name in 1920s Ireland as an applied use of saoirse, the Gaelic word for "freedom." The name was first adopted during the Irish War of Independence, when the Irish Republican Army fought the British Army for the liberation of Ireland from British rule. In modern times, Saoirse, as well as a host of other Gaelic names, are being revived in Ireland, the UK, and the US.
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.
Meaning:"war strife or church"
Description:This classic Irish name , which is better known in this country by its Anglicized form Killian, is one of several newer recommended Gaelic choices that have entered the American name pool. Killian now stands at Number 516 in the US, while Cillian is 22 in its Irish homeland.
Meaning:"from the island to the west"
Description:First-wave Irish name and place name—the poetic name for Ireland—now supplanted by newer alternatives such as Maeve and Delaney.
Description:Aoife, pronounced EE-fa, is derived from the Irish word aoibh, meaning "beauty." Aoife was borne by several different heroines of ancient Irish legend. In one tale, she was the fiercest woman warrior in the world and enemy of her twin sister, Scathach.
Description:Lorcan is a name rich in Irish history as belonging to several kings, including the grandfather of the most famous high king of Ireland, Brian Boru. Lorcan O'Toole, known in English as Laurence O'Toole, is the patron saint of Dublin, so it's not too surprising that Irish-born actor Peter O'Toole named his son Lorcan.
Description:Both offbeat and upbeat, this evocative traditional Irish name that runs through Celtic mythology is known here via award-winning novelist Cormac McCarthy (born Charles). The author's adopted name is related to Cormac Mac Airt, one of the great legendary high kings of Ireland.
Description:Niamh, derived from the Old Irish Niam, is an ancient Irish name that was originally a term for a goddess. In Irish myth, one who bore it was Niamh of the Golden Hair, daughter of the sea god, who falls in love with Finn's son Oisin and takes him to the Land of Promise, where they stayed for three hundred years. Niamh can be Anglicized as Neve, Nieve, or Neave.
Description:Orla is an Irish name closely associated with the high king Brian Boru, as it was the name of his sister, daughter and niece. It was very popular in the Middle Ages – the fourth most popular name in twelfth century Ireland – and has become popular again in Ireland, Scotland, England and Wales today. In Irish, the name is commonly spelled Orlaith or Orlagh.
Description:Patrick, long tied to a hyper-Irish image, is enjoying something of a renaissance as a stylish classic, as it has long been considered in England. Along with such choices as Charles and George, Patrick has escaped overuse in recent decades.
Description:Caoimhe, pronounced (more properly) kwee-va or kee-va, is a pretty and distinctive Gaelic name but one that could well lead to no end of confusion outside the Irish community. Even in its native habitat, it is sometimes spelled Keeva.
Description:A handsome Irish name for boys, very popular in that country, but in the US this traditional spelling might cause pronunciation problems. Still, whether Cian or Kian, it's simple and straightforward enough for the initiated. Cian is rising in the British popularity charts. This was the name of several legendary figures, including Cian, son of the god of medicine. His own son was Lugh, the sun god and father of the Ulster warrior Cuchulain and Cian is also the name of the son-in-law of the high king Brian Boru. So very well connected.
Description:Killian – aka Cillian – is a spirited yet resonant Gaelic name that was borne by several Irish saints and could make a distinctive replacement for the dated Kelly. Possible downsides: an unsavory first syllable and a connection to the trendy brew.
Description:Oisin is one of the most popular Irish baby names in its native land, though largely unknown in the US. The original Oisin was the mythological son of Finn McCool and Sadb, the goddess who was changed into a deer. A legendary war hero and poet, Oisin had a name that is also reminiscent in sound of the ocean. Pronounced correctly, this name has an attractive sheen.
Origin:Anglicized variation of Sean
Meaning:"God is gracious"
Description:Shane ambled into the picture via the 1953 movie, adding a cowboy twist to its Irish essence. Shane is even more popular in Ireland than in the USA or the UK. Singer Siobhan O'Connor and actor Kevin Sorbo have sons named Shane.
Origin:Irish, variation of John
Meaning:"God is gracious"
Description:Though Eoin is a Gaelic form of John, its Anglicized pronunciation links it directly to Owen. Eoin is currently a Top 30 name in Ireland. Other variations: Ewan, Ewen, Evan and Eoghan (pronounced as Owen but also translated as Eugene).
Description:Niall is pronounced nye-al--something like Neil, but this Irish spelling of the name makes it much more current and cool.
Description:The name of several ancient kings and princes of Ireland, Tadhg became so common at one point that it was used to represent a kind of Irish Gaelic everyman, or man in the street, as Paddy and Mick would later. Tadhg has seen a major resurgence in recent years and is also now ranked in England. It is sometimes used as the Irish equivalent of Timothy and is also anglicized as Teague and Thaddeus. Tadleigh and Thad are pet forms.
Origin:Variation of Callum, Scottish form of Columba, Latin
Description:Calum is a form of the boy name Callum, popular in the British Isles and carrying a peaceful meaning.
Description:More commonly seen here as Anya, this traditional yet unique Irish name belonged to the queen of the Munster fairies and is sprinkled throughout Irish folklore as an early Celtic goddess of summer and prosperity. One of the most popular baby names in Ireland, Aine's spelling and pronunciation might seem simple but could prove confusing in the U.S.
Origin:Hebrew, Irish, Scottish
Meaning:"light, song, little green one"
Description:A calm and gentle multicultural choice. Oran is popular in Ireland, where its Gaelic form is Odhrán, meaning "little green one". In Scottish Gaelic, the name means "song", and in Hebrew, it's a combination of Or "light" + Ran "singing".
Description:Aisling is currently a very popular Irish name for girls. Pronounced variously as ASH-ling, ASH-lin or ash-LEEN, it was part of the revival of authentic Irish names in the twentieth century, and is now being sparingly used by U.S. parents in place of the dated Ashley--though often spelled phonetically as Ashlyn or Ashlynn.
Meaning:"little dark one"
Description:Ciara is very popular in Ireland, more familiar here as the Anglicized Kiera or Keira. The uninitiated will tend to pronounce Ciara as the Italian Chiara, a form of Claire—kee-AHR-a or even see-AHR-a, like the American singer-songwriter Ciara. In the US, Ciara peaked in 2005, when it was the Number 150 name; it's since fallen down to Number 882.
Origin:Irish. "little rose"
Description:No, the pronunciation--ro-SHEEN--isn't immediately obvious to the non-Gaelic viewer, but the sound of this shiny Irish version of Rose is pretty enough to make it worth considering. Very popular in its native Ireland, it is now at Number 34. Earlier generations Anglicized at as Rosaleen, but we stay stick to the original.
Origin:Irish variation of John
Description:Sean, after a long reign as one of the top Irish boys' names in the US, has now slipped as parents look to fresher Irish choices such as Liam and Aidan. In Ireland, Sean is still highly popular, but variation Senan, an Anglicized spelling of diminutive Seanan, is also stylish in Ireland. While Sean is the Irish form of John, Seanan and Senan may be thought of either as Sean diminutives or relatives of the Latin word "senator".
Meaning:"little dark one"
Description:Extremely popular in Ireland, Ciaran is also well used in England and is beginning to be adopted by parents in the U.S., though usually via the more American-friendly Kieran spelling. The Irish spelling is, however, becoming more familiar on this side of the Atlantic, due to the rising popularity of Belfast-born actor Ciaran Hinds.
Origin:Irish variation of Catherine
Description:An Irish and Welsh form of Catherine, Caitlin was a boom name of the eighties, rocketing from obscurity (Americans first heard it via the wife of doomed poet Dylan Thomas) to the height of popularity in the space of a decade. The original name was gradually eclipsed by its myriad spelling variations -- Katelyn and Kaitlyn both soon topping it on the popularity lists.
Description:Despite a rich history in Irish myth preceding its plantation appearance in Gone with the Wind, widespread use in the seventies caused Tara to lose its Irish accent.
Origin:Spelling variation of Connor, Irish
Meaning:"lover of hounds"
Description:Conor's more popular brother name Connor has been in the Top 100 for long enough that both are ready to make way for a new generation of Irish boys' names.
Meaning:"born of the yew tree"
Description:Pronounced like Owen, this was the name of several early Irish kings and saints, as well as a celebrated Ulster hero. Often spelled with two 'n's in Scotland, it has been Anglicized as Ewan, Ewen, Euan, Owen, Hugh, or Eugene.
Meaning:"little pale green one"
Description:Odhran, Anglicized as Oran, was the name of an ancient saint. Today, Odhran is among the Top 100 Irish names for boys in Ireland.
Origin:Phonetic spelling of Shea or Shai
Description:Shay has an old-fashioned feel due to its association with the word for a kind of horse-drawn carriage and at the same time seems modern thanks to its simple straightforwardness. Use Shay as a phonetic equivalent of the Irish surname Shea or the Hebrew male name Shai, or as an abbreviated form of such names as Seamus or Shane.
Origin:Irish river name
Description:A popular choice in Ireland, Clodagh was the name of a river and later a saint. The "cloddy" aspect of the name has prevented it from spreading beyond Ireland, but that could change. Famous namesakes are singer Clodagh Rodgers and chef Clodagh McKenna.
Description:More authentic and original form of Ryan.
Origin:Irish form of Eve
Description:Eabha, along with Aoife and Aoibhe and even the Anglo Ava, are all Eve sisters or soundalikes in the Irish Top 100. Outside of Ireland, though, this Gaelic spelling would prove difficult. Confusingly for English speakers, this name beginning with E is pronounced as Ava, while the A-beginning Aoibhe is like Eva.
Origin:Irish form of Janet
Meaning:"God's gracious gift"
Description:One of the best known of the Irish girls' names, thanks to singer Sinead O'Connor. Though it's still in the Irish Top 100, it's no longer quite as fashionable in Ireland as Aoife or Aisling. But by now everyone in the Western World knows it's pronounced shin-aid and so would have no trouble fitting in on an American playground.
Origin:Irish, variation of Seanan
Description:St. Senan was a famed founder of monasteries, whose ruins can still be seen. Legend has it that before he could found it, he had to banish a great monster. Other versions are Sionan, Sinan, Synan and Sinon. Seanan is also a pet form of Sean.
Description:In early, pre-Norman Ireland, this name was borne by both a sister and a niece of high king Brian Boru. Now, the English form Orla is more commonly used.
Description:Also Anglicized as Dara and also spelled Daire in its native form, Darragh has an undeniably rugged appeal. It's used for both girls and boys in Ireland, but it's very popular in particular for boys.
Meaning:"fair or white"
Description:Fionn, the modern Irish form of Finn, is more popular in Ireland these days than Finn, which is rising fast in the U.S. where Fionn is virtually unknown. Though some sources list the pronunciation as finn, others say fee-UN or fee-ON. It's the namesake of a great hero from Irish mythology, Fionn MacCumhaill, who acquired divine wisdom by eating an enchanted salmon of knowledge.
Description:Daire, along with brother names Dara and Darragh, is among the Top 100 boys' names in Ireland today. An ancient name with an inspirational meaning, pronunciation could prove confusing to Americans.
Origin:Irish, Persian, Punjabi, Khmer
Meaning:"oak tree; wealthy; leader; star"
Description:Though Dara in the U.S. would be considered mainly a girls' name – the most recent count is 10 times as many girls given the name last year than boys – it's a boys' name in Ireland, where it's in the Top 100 along with variations Daire and Darragh.
Origin:Variation of Aoibheann, Irish
Description:Aoibhinn and its twin name Aoibheann may be popular in Ireland but most English-speakers would find the spelling baffling and the pronunciation impossible to divine. It's ee-van, or se-vin, fitting with the Irish popularity of many names -- Aoife, Eabha, Ava -- with this similar sound.
Description:The name of an ancient Irish saint is in the contemporary Irish Top 50. While it's one of the rare Irish names for boys that hasn't immigrated to the U.S., it may follow brothers Aidan and Declan to our shores. The t is not pronounced.