Unusual Irish Names
But there are lots of unusual Irish names yet to be discovered. We nominate these choices for parents looking for baby names that are both Irish and unique, especially in the US.
Meaning:"little dark one"
Description:Long popular in Ireland and England, Kieran, the name of Ireland's first-born saint and twenty-five other saints, has been building its U.S. fan base thanks to its strong and attractive sound, and its fashionable Irish brogue. While Ciaran is the more authentic Irish spelling, Kieran is more popular this side of the Atlantic.
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.
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: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.
Description:Rory is a buoyant, spirited name for a redhead with Celtic roots. The name Rory is getting more popular overall, but for the past few years has been trending decidedly toward the boys' side -- however, it's been rising to new heights for girls in recent years.
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: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.
Origin:Irish variation of Edmund
Description:Eamon is one of the traditional Irish names that has not yet emigrated to the US. This Irish name pronounced ay-mon was popularized by early president of the independent republic Eamon de Valera (birth name George), who was born in the United States to an Irish mother and a Cuban father. Eamon definitely has possibilities as a successor to the epidemically popular Aidan/Aiden.
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.
Origin:Irish variation of James
Description:Parents who have tired of Sean are now contemplating Seamus, the Irish form of James, which has a lot more substance and verve.
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:Irish version of Malachi, Hebrew
This spelling, which came to the attention of readers of the best-selling Angela's Ashes as the name of author Frank McCourt's father and brother, the latter of whom wrote a bestseller of his own, lends the biblical name a more expansive, almost boisterous image. Malachy is one of the Irish baby names that manages to strike the golden mean between familiarity and distinctiveness.
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.
Origin:Irish or Portuguese or Italian
Meaning:"wild or weaver"
Description:Fia may be most notable at this moment as the Anglicized version of the Irish Fiadh, one of the fastest-rising names in the Republic of Ireland. The meaning of Fia or Fiadh is sometimes given as "deer" but that's in the sense of a wild deer, as the name relates to the ancient word for wild.
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.
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.
Description:This jaunty Celtic surname -- the most common family name in Ireland -- is totally viable as a first. Although there was a possibility of its being feminized via the old TV sitcom "Murphy Brown," it has never taken off for girls and very much retains its masculine image.
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.
Meaning:"god is gracious"
Description:Siobhan is the Irish variation of Joan, which is derived from the ancient Anglo-Norman name Jehanne. In this way Siobhan is indirectly related to the name Sinead—the Irish form of Jeannette, which also derived from Jehanne—although Sinead is not a nickname for Siobhan. Siobhan was the name of several early Irish queens and was introduced to the American public by the actress Siobhan McKenna.
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.
Origin:Irish, diminutive of Quillan or Quiller; also English word name
Description:Quill is a unique possibility for the child of writers -- even if they do use computers rather than pens; could also serve as a rhyming tribute to an ancestor named Gil, Phil, or Bill (or Jill).
Description:Pretty and soulful name of a goddess from Irish mythology and several Irish saints. Singer Enya, born Eithne Ní Bhraonáin, has made the Anglicized spelling familiar. Eithne comes from the vocabulary word "kernel", which was used as a term of praise in old bardic poetry.
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.
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 Mary
Meaning:"bitter; beloved; drop of the sea"
Description:Well-established Irish and Scottish name that has never really caught on across the pond. Remembered by an older generation as the beautiful red-haired ballerina in the film The Red Shoes, Moira Shearer.
Meaning:"white fire or white bull"
Description:Fintan is an ancient Irish saints' name that in legend is also the name of the only person to survive The Flood. Popular in modern Ireland, Fintan is ripe for export to the US where it is rarely used but could make an excellent long form for the stylish Finn.
Description:A popular Irish name virtually unknown here, but one that feels like it could follow in the footsteps of Siobhan and Saoirse. It's pronounced SOR-ka, but with a little hiccup between the 'r' and the 'c' that's difficult for non-Gaelic speakers to reproduce. Spelled (and pronounced) Sorsha, she is a major character in the movie Willow.
Origin:Irish variation of Edmund
Description:This friendlier Celtic version of Edmund has an upbeat feel and a good chance of competing with Aidan and Damon sometime soon.
Description:This attractive and unique Irish form of Alice can also be found in the spelling Ailish. It was introduced into Ireland by the Normans in the French form ALIZ.
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.
Origin:Irish variation of Latin Columba
Description:Colm is a popular Irish name for boys that could immigrate, especially with its peaceful meaning. Colm Toibin is a contemporary Irish novelist and critic, author of The Master and Brooklyn; Colm Meaney is an Irish actor. Pronunciation is two syllables instead of one, like Colin with an 'm' at the end. Colm is related to Columba, Colom, Colum, Callum, and Malcolm.
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.
Origin:Hebrew, Slavic or Irish
Meaning:"pearl of wisdom; gift; or oak tree"
Description:Though Dara was an (extremely wise) male figure in the Bible, this name feels mostly feminine to modern Americans. The Irish Gaelic version, Darragh, is well-used in contemporary times for boys.
Description:This lilting Irish saint's name shone in neon lights on Broadway for the classical 1947 musical "Finian's Rainbow," later made into a film starring Fred Astaire as Finian McLonergan, and there was also a character on "General Hospital" named Finian O'Toole. With the growing popularity of Finn and Finlay/Finley--and boys' names ending in 'an'--Finian, which can also be spelled Finnian, seems like a sure-fire winner.
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.
Meaning:"drop of the sea, bitter, or beloved"
Description:Mirren is a lively and attractive Scottish name, popular in its native country but best known outside Scotland as the surname of the English actor Dame Helen Mirren. It is thought to be a Scottish derivative of the name Marion, from Mary.
Description:Clancy, one of the original crossover Irish surname names, is as energetic and appealing as ever — full of moxie, more distinctive than Casey, and also one of the less obvious of the red-headed names.
Origin:Irish, short form of Fionnuala
Description:Officially a shortening of the traditional and tricky Gaelic Fionnghuala/Fionnuala, Nuala makes a lovely choice all on its own. Nuala is well-used in Ireland.
Origin:Irish variation of Elizabeth
Meaning:"pledged to God"
Description:Thanks to the lovely movie Brooklyn based on the Colm Toibin novel of the same name, we now all know that this name rhymes with Irish. But as with many Irish names , that isn't evident from this spelling, at least to English speakers. Popular in medieval times, it is still used in Ireland and maybe make an alternative to the super-popular Isla. Eilish, Eillish and Eibhlis are alternate forms.
Origin:Irish, Anglicization of Diarmaid
Meaning:"free from envy"
Dermot is an appealing, relatively undiscovered Irish mythological hero's name long popular in the Old Country, and imported into the American consciousness by actor Dermot Mulroney. We see it in the next Celtic wave following Connor and Liam.
Description:This name of several early Irish saints makes a nice Logan/Conan alternative.
Meaning:"strong as a wolf"
Description:If there are too many Connors in your neighborhood, this name is equally authentic and much more unusual. Spelled Conal or Conall, it's a prominent name in Irish history, borne by a number of kings and heroes.
Origin:Variation of Aidan, Irish
Description:Egan's likeness to the word eager gives this Irish surname a ready-to-please, effervescent energy, and it would make an appropriate substitute for the overused Aidan.
Meaning:"castle, stone fort"
Description:Cashel is one of the many appealing Irish names that have not yet emigrated to the US. Cashel was chosen by actor Daniel Day-Lewis and his writer-director wife Rebecca Miller for their son.
Description:Gulliver is an obscure Gaelic surname known almost solely through its literary Travels until actor Gary Oldman used it for his son, instantly transforming it into a lively option. British actors Damian Lewis, of Homeland, and Helen McCrory also have a son named Gulliver.
Description:More unusual than Fiona and more user-friendly than Fionnuala, the engaging Scottish Fenella, has been scarcely heard in this country.