24 of the Best Irish Baby Names -- and Their Meanings
Whether traditional or anglicized, Irish baby names can be charming and beautiful (although often a bit hard to spell)! If you're looking for just the right fit for your wee one, this list is a great place to start.
Lilting and lyrical, Irish baby names bring forth images of ancient times, merging the mystical and magical with a modern, cool sensibility. Beautiful to the ear and composed largely of Gaelic, Celtic and Norman roots, they trip off the tongue -- but hardly off the page, baffling parents desperate to decipher Irish baby name books and, of course, teachers on the first day of school.
"The spelling of Irish baby names can be off-putting. It's not immediately obvious how one should pronounce 'Fionnuala' or 'Ruari,' for example, but anglicized spellings can help, and, in my opinion, it is better to simplify the spelling than to lose the names," says Loreto Todd, a professor of English at the University of Ulster, Coleraine, and author of "Celtic Names for Children." June Rifkin, the author of "The Everything Baby Names Book" agrees. "Many moms take traditional names and spell them the way they want to," she says.
Of course, you don't have to be Irish to choose an Irish baby name. Todd, who is a world traveler, has seen Irish baby names increase in popularity, not only in countries with a strong history of Irish immigration, like the U.S. and Australia, but also in Africa and parts of the Caribbean.
"Parents typically think deeply about what to call their baby. They are giving their child a gift and they want that gift to be beautiful and appropriate for a lifetime. They want to link it to the people and places they love. Just as every infant is unique, every parent will select the name they feel to be most appropriate," she says.
Whether you're Irish just on St. Patrick's Day or by birth, here are some popular and interesting Irish baby names heralding from the Emerald Isle:
Irish Names for Lasses
- Aednat (AY-nit)
The feminine form of Aidan, Aednat means "little fire."
- Alanna (A-LA-na)
This sweet name means "darling child."
- Brannagh (BRAN-na)
Sometimes spelled "Branna," this name means "raven-haired beauty."
- Brigid (BRIDGE-id)
This no-nonsense name means "power and virtue."
- Caitlin (KAYT-lin)
An Irish version of the name Catherine, Caitlin is inspired by Saint Catherine of the Wheel, a fourth-century virgin and Christian martyr.
- Cassidy (KA-si-dee)
Cassidy was a 14th-century physician. The Gaelic meaning is "clever" and Irish is "curly-haired."
- Ciara (KEER-ah)
The feminine version of Ciaran (or Kieran), Ciara means "little dark one."
- Fianna (FEE-ana)
The Fianna were ancient Celtic warrior women who fought the Romans side by side with male soldiers.
- Fionnghuala (Fia-NO-la or Fin-OO-la)
"Fair-shouldered" Fionnghuala, as legend has it, was turned into a swan and wandered the lakes of Ireland for 900 years.
- Maeve (MAYVE)
Maeve means "the source of great joy" or "intoxicating."
- Regan (RAY-gan)
Meaning "impulsive" or "the king's child," Regan is one of a handful of unisex Irish baby names.
- Siobhan (Shiv-AWN)
This more commonly-seen name means "God is gracious."
- Aidan (AY-dan)
An Anglicized version of the Gaelic name Aodhan, Aidan means "little fire."
- Braden (BRAY-den)
Want your boy to be a swimmer? Braden means "a salmon."
- Connor (KONN-ar)
This name means "dog lover."
- Kevin (KEV-vin)
Commemorate his arrival with a name meaning "beautiful birth."
- Kian (KEE-an)
This strong name means "ancient and enduring."
- Brian (BRI-ann)
Brian means "noble."
- Cody (CO-dee)
An Irish surname of Norman origin, Cody means "descendant of Otto."
- Dillon (DIL-an)
This is the perfect name for a child who is "a flash of lightning" or "faithful and loyal."
- Liam (LEE-am)
The Irish version of William, Liam means "strong protector."
- Niall (NILE)
Niall means "passionate."
- Patrick (PA-trik)
Ireland's patron saint and one of the most popular Irish baby names, the name Patrick has Latin roots and means "nobly born."
- Sean (SHAWN)
The Irish version of John, Sean translates into "gift from God."
Want more name ideas? Check out 22 of the Best Greek Baby Names -- and Their Meanings.
Corey Kagan Whelan is a freelance writer specializing in all things mom and living in New York. Her twins' names are on this list. Want to know which ones they are? Contact her on Twitter.