Irish Baby Boy Names
Take a glance at a bookstore's baby
names shelf, and you'll see that Irish baby boy names are a very popular category. But for many prospective
parents, Irish names can be very confusing.
Many different races
have settled in Ireland over the centuries. Celts, Vikings, Normans, and English have all gone into the melting
It was once believed
that the first wave of Celtic settlers were a fair-haired race, while later settlers were of a darker
complexion. However, recent evidence seems to contradict that idea. It is now believed that very ancient
settlers to Ireland came across the sea from Gaul (modern France) and Spain, and were probably a dark-haired
The periodic arrival of
newcomers to the Emerald Isle, each with slightly different appearances, has led to a tradition where Irish
names describe physical characteristics. Whole groups of names revolve around such personal attributes. The name
Ciara means 'black' or 'dark,' while 'Finn' means 'fair.' The name Breac means 'freckled.'
The Irish people were
very fond of creating names that reflected the world around them, especially the natural world. Names such as
Anbhile (pronounced an-vile), meaning 'great tree,' are common. Celtic sun-worship gave rise to a whole set of
names based on sunlight and radiance. The girl's name Grian, for example, means 'sun' or 'sun
Other themes such as
wildlife, warfare, and of course, magic and fairies, gave rise to beautiful and evocative
consequence of the periodic invasions of Ireland is that many Irish and Gaelic names have been transformed over
the centuries, and, in some cases, the original meaning is lost to us. Some names that are considered classic
Irish names did not originate in Ireland, but are Irish versions of names from other cultures.
The name Sean, for
example, is the Irish version of the name John. Then there are Irish names that have been given English
'translations,' which really have nothing to do with the original name. The name Aoife, for example, means
'radiant,' yet it is often translated as 'Eve,' or 'Eva.'
Around 1923, a priest
named Patrick Woulfe wrote a book called 'Irish Names For Children', which gave parents the resources to
research and choose an Irish name. The book helped spark a renewal of interest in names from Ireland, and that
interest has expanded and continued to the present day.
Today, parents looking
for an Irish name might start by thinking about whether they want a Gaelic name or an Anglicized name. For
example, Bairre is Gaelic, while the English version is Barry. The famous Irish name Kevin comes from the Gaelic
Invariably, the English
version will sound less authentically 'Irish,' but it will be easier to pronounce and to spell. That's an
important consideration for a child. Some Irish names, such as Siobhan, (pronounced Shev-orn) work very well in
the original Gaelic, and have become popular in that form.
parents will want to consult some name lists, and to learn about the origin and meanings of names they like.
There are plenty of good resources available, especially websites and books. In the end, parents' personal
choice is the best guide. For those who are looking for a name that evokes the charm and mystery of the Emerald
Isle, the possibilities are almost endless.
Neil Street is co-publisher of Baby Names Garden, one of the Internet’s
leading resources for baby names, including the origin and meaning of Irish baby