A Letter from Ireland:
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Irish Names for Boys and Girls

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facebook5Do you have Irish names in your family? What are your favourite Irish names for boys and girls?

I guess we all have our favourites – many spring to mind such as Patrick/Patricia, Brigid, Seán and so on. However, when you dig a little deeper into the Irish names out there – ones that you might use with  a new baby – it can be surprising how many old Irish names are available. It may also be surprising to see the English translation of some of these names.

Here’s what I mean:

5 Sisters and 1 Baby

My own mother, God rest her soul, was brought up in east Galway – one of ten children on a small farm. Her father died when the eldest was eleven and she was one of five sisters and five brothers.

Her given name was Margaret – but no one called her that – she was always called by her second name – Philomena.

Her eldest sister was Pauline. Next down was Norah – except in typical Irish fashion that migrated from Noreen to Norah as she got older. Next down was Bridie – short for Bridget – whose feast day is the first of February.

And then along came the youngest girl – whom everybody called “Baby” when she was born – but they kept calling her “Baby” long after the younger children came along. I remember my mother calling us kids together to go visit “Baby’s house” – even when Baby was a forty-year old mother of four!

Those memories come back to me – spurred on by the wonderful stories and naming “conventions” in your family that I have been reading all week. In my mother’s time – both boys and girls adopted the names of various saints as given names. It was only in my generation that many of the older Irish names started to come back into vogue.

So, today – let’s have a look at some familiar “English” names – and some of the old Irish equivalents (as opposed to direct translations).

English Names And Old Irish Equivalents.

These are names that are not direct translations from English to Irish – but “equivalents” – some of which may surprise you.

Let’s start with some girls names:

  • English: Jane/Janet – Equivalent Irish: Sinéad (pronounced “Shin-ade”)
  • English: Barbara – Equivalent Irish: Gormladh (pronounced “Gurm-la”)
  • English: Joan – Equivalent Irish: Siobhán (pronounced “Shiv-awn”)
  • English: Margaret – Equivalent Irish: Mairéad (pronounced “Mor-ade”)

  • English: Charles – Equivalent Irish: Cathal (pronounced “Caw-hal”). This also gives us the surname Cahill also.
  • English: Terrence/Terry – Equivalent Irish: Turlough (pronounced “Tur-lock”)
  • English: James – Equivalent Irish: Séamus (pronounced “Shay-mus”) – often Shay for short.
  • English: Daniel – Equivalent Irish: Domhnall/Dónal (pronounced “Dough-nal”). This also gives us the surnames McDonnell and O’Donnell. Think of “Daniel O’Donnell”.
  • English: Timothy/Tim – Equivalent Irish: Tadhg (pronounced “tie-g”).

Regarding all the “Patricks” and “Patricias” out there – there were many comments and questions on this name during the week. In Ireland – the Irish for Patrick is often used – it is Pádraig which is pronounced “Paw-drig”.

HOWEVER, in Munster, especially, most Pádraigs are pronounced “Paw-rick” and often the shorter version of that is used – “Paudie” (pronounced “Paw-dy”).

So, you Patricks might want to try on these alternatives for a change. On Patricia – this is almost always shortened to either Pat or Trish or Trisha.

(By the way – that’s a picture of Athenry Castle in County Galway – close to where my mother and her family lived.)

What are the Irish names in your family?

  • Edel Codd says:

    I have a few. I’m named after Edel Quins, the Cork-born Legion of Mary missionary. I *think* is peculiar to Ireland as a Catholic girl’s name, though it comes up in other languages as a boy’s name, and an adjective in German. We also have Dympna, Oonagh, Sadhbh, Meadhbh, Colm, Ultan, and Eamon. Oh, and one I like – Fiadh.

  • Edel Codd says:

    That should be Edel Quinn. I hate autocorrect.

  • Kimberly says:

    I am lucky to have Shawn as my middle name, & nephews are Aidan & Liam.

  • Maureen says:

    If there is a question as to our heritage—I always say well our parents named us:
    Michael, Maureen, Sheila and Daniel, that answers the question.

  • tonyfleming says:

    My two Irish born ancestors were named Robert and William, and they had strong Ulster genes. Are those names in any way Irish or did they likely come from Scottish or the English in earlier centuries? Are there any distinctly Ulster/Northern Irish names?

    • bealnablath says:

      Robert and William are both used strongly in England/Scotland and Northern Ireland. In Ulster, there are a number of old Irish names that are used a lot e.g. Rory and Cathal.

  • Lizzie says:

    How about, Cornelius, Michael, Bridget, Mary to name but a few…….

  • Ferg Ranson says:

    I’ve always liked Feargus.

  • Lauren says:

    My mam name is MARGARET but sometimes people calls her Maggie and my name is lauren and my dad use 2 call me Laurie and now he calls me chicken my brother is name Daniel and we call him dan and my sister is edel and her friends call her adel and my brother evan name is evanleena cause me and my sister edel use 2 dress him as a girl and we put kiddys make up and a dress lol so that’s why and my dad name is michael some of his friends call him mike

  • Lovely says:

    Hi..i would like to know irish names for the ff: martin, marchell, eissa,celso ,oslec..thanks.

  • Shannon Dunigan says:

    Everyone was James. I’m not even kidding. Not even a little.

  • Kate says:

    My German mother, married to an Irishman, named us Michael, Maureen, Deirdre, Daniel and Kathleen. My four boys are Shane Patrick, Neal Brendan, Myles Declan & Aidan Conor.

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  • John Cornelius Daley (Daly) says:

    We have John, Cornelius and Patrick in our family. So our youngest grandson (3yrs) is John Patrick Cornelius Daley. Shortened to JP … his cousin calls him “Jeep” … I’m afraid the nickname is there to stay😀.

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