The Unique & Wonderful World of Irish Names

Written by Ryan Grace on 08/08/2022


Ireland has many unique and beautiful names which are rarely heard outside of the country. They are known for appearing difficult to pronounce and often derive their meanings from Ireland’s rich mythology. Other Irish names find their origins in nature, with the names of rivers and plants being given to babies.

Although popular culture has somewhat influenced baby name trends, many traditional Irish names appear annually in the top 100 names given in the country.

In this article, we will explore some famous Irish names for boys and girls that are commonly used today.

Before examining some Irish names in detail, some notes on Irish pronunciation will help to guide us through. Irish names are often seen as difficult to pronounce. This is because their spelling follows the system of the Irish language.

In the Irish language, vowel sounds can be elongated by adding a dash instead of a dot to the top of the vowel (é, á, í). The letters “bh” and “mh” combine together to make a v sound.

Popular Girl’s Names

Aoife (ee-fa)

Aoife is a girls name meaning beautiful or radiant. The name comes from the Irish word “aoibh” meaning beauty. The name appears in Irish myth, as Aoife is the wife of the famous warrior Cuchulainn. Other names which stem from Aoife include Aoibhe (ee-va), Aoibhín (ay-veen) and Éabha (Ay-va).

Niamh (Nee-uv)

Niamh is an ancient Irish name most commonly associated with the story of Oisín in Tír na nóg (Oisín in the Land of Eternal Youth). In this story, Niamh of the Golden hair is the beautiful daughter of the King of Tír na nóg. She travels across the sea on a dazzling white horse to seek out the famous hero Oisín.

Aisling (Ash-ling)

Aisling is a very popular girls name meaning “dream” or “vision”. It is also the name of a figure in Irish poetry and mythology, who symbolises the spirit of Ireland.

Saoirse (Seer-sha)

This name was of course popularised outside Ireland by Academy Award nominated actress Saoirse Ronan. Saoirse means “freedom”. This name rose to popularity during the 1920s as the country sought independence from British rule. The name is still commonly used for baby girls today.

Popular Boy’s Names

Eoghan

Pronounced and sometimes anglicised as Owen, Eoghan means “born of yew” or “youth”. The northern county of Tyrone translates in Irish to Tír Eoghan or land of Eoghan.

Cormac

Cormac was the name of a 3rd century High King in Ireland. Legend has it that King Cormac was raised by a she-wolf. He was an esteemed king who inspired many old Irish stories. Cormac means “raven” or “son of the charioteer”.

Séan - Shawn

Séan is the Irish name for John. This name means “God is gracious” and is sometimes anglicised as Shawn or Shaun. The name most likely came to Ireland during Norman times and derives from the French Jean. Famous actors with the name include Sean Penn and Bond hero Sean Connery

Tadhg (t-eye-g)

Often a source of confusion when it comes to those not familiar with the Irish language, this name is simply pronounced t-eye-g. The name comes from the old Irish word for poet and is the Irish form for Timothy. The name Tadhg appeared on the top 100 boys’ names in 2021.



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