6 Favourite Irish First Names

Here are some of my own favourite Irish given names for girls and boys - see if you recognise any of them.

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6 Favourite Irish First Names

Do you have a favourite Irish name? Supposing you were looking for an Irish-related first name for your new baby (or wanted to gently hint about one for your grandchild)?

What would it be? Seán? Kelly? Colleen? Conor? Patrick?

Well, in Ireland we have experienced the highest birth rate of all the European countries over the past couple of years. I was curious about the most popular baby names – and looked up the 2012 results in our statistics office.

They were:


  • Jack
  • James
  • Daniel


  • Emily
  • Sophie
  • Emma

Which may not be what comes to your mind when considering “Irish names” (looks like a lot of English “costume drama” had an influence on the girls names).

So, let’s look at a few alternatives to these names. I suggest we take a journey back to a time when Ireland was cut off from much of the rest of the world. A time before Christianity came to Ireland and a time before history was written down. A time when Ireland produced many first names that still resonate around the world today.

Ireland – A Country of Heroes and Champions.

Let’s search for Irish names before the Patricks and the Seáns came on the scene. Let’s go back to a time of Ireland of Myths and stories – just at the start of our written history.

What were the names used at that time? Would you recognise any of them? Are any of the names “useable” today? Would you dare suggest one for a new member of your family?

Here are some of my own favourites.

Let’s start off with some strong female names:

  • Aoife (pronounced “ee-fa”) – Meaning Radiant and beautiful – Aoife was the mother of Cuchullain, one of Ireland’s legendary heroes.
  • Meadbh – (pronounced “Mayve”) also Maeve in English – meaning source of joy – Maedbh was the warrior queen of Connacht of the old myths.
  • Gráinne – (pronounced “Grawn-ya”) – she was the daughter of an ancient high King of Ireland and also who can forget “Grainne Ui Mhaille” (Grace O’Malley) of Mayo – the Pirate-Queen?

And onto the boys:

  • Aodh – (pronounced A – just like the capital letter) – meaning born of fire – Aodh is one of those names that is the root for so many more familiar first and surnames. Aiden/Aidan means little Aodh. While the surnames McHugh, McGee, McGeoghagen, Egan all come from “son of Aodh”
  • Niall – (pronounced Nile – like the river) – meaning passionate – Niall of the nine hostages was a King in Ireland around the 400s. We get many surnames from this first name. The most obvious one is O’Neill. However, the Vikings were also impressed with the name and took it back to Scandinavia as Njall – and it came to England many centuries later as Nelson and Neilsen.
  • Cormac – (pronounced halfway between Corr-muc and Corr-mac) – meaning son of the charioteer – Cormac Mac Airt was a King of Ireland in the 200s and this name has been popular since then. Of course, you’ll also find it in surnames such as McCormack.

So – that’s my 6 choices for Irish baby first names. Maybe we’ll see them back in vogue soon enough if we start a campaign together.

Perhaps you already have some of these names in your family tree?

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