O'Neill's Bicycles

Many well-known Irish boys names are translations from English and although names like Michael, Patrick, Brendan and Thomas were, and are, very common, they are not actually Irish names at all – but English ones which as a result of common usage became associated with Ireland.

Older names of Gaelic origin which have retained their popularity over the generations include Oisin, Cian, Eoin, Cathal and Fionn.

The names below are all of older, occasionally unknown, origin, some popular down the years, others regaining popularity after many years in the wilderness.

Story of a Name: Brendan

Brendan the Navigator

Brendan the Navigator

St Brendan the Navigator is an Irish saint, who lived from 484 to 577. As a young priest he set out on a seven year long “voyage for Paradise”, in search of the Garden of Eden.

He didn’t find it, but on the journey encountered both the horrors of the world – Judas frozen on one side and burning on the other, people with swine heads, the enormous fish that holds his boat in the picture – and the world’s greatest wonders, landing for a time in Tir na nOg.

He was venerated on his return for having survived such travails and is to-day the patron saint of sailors.

Although this story has many paralells with earlier legends, Brendan certainly lived and there are those who believe he may have reached America on his journey, many centuries before Christopher Columbus.

Irish explorer Tim Severin proved that this was not unfeasible when he built a curragh, an ox-skin clad boat such was was used in Brendan’s time, and during 1976 and 1977 sailed in it from Ireland to Newfoundland.

Traditional Irish Boy’s Names A-C

Abban

Say: ab-an

Means ‘monk’. There was a 6th century saint of that name.

Ailill

Say: ail-eel

A ‘sprite’ or other-worldly being. Ailill Molt was an early Irish king.

Ailbe Ailbhe

Albert | Say: alby alvy

A 6th century Irish saint who was a disciple of St Patrick and is said to have been raised by wolves.

Ainmire

Say: ain-mirra

Means ‘mighty lord’. Aedh Ainmire was a 6th century king of Tara.

Amhlaoibh

Auliffe | Say: awe-luf

A Norse name which became an Irish one, from ‘Olaf’. McAuliffe is a reasonably common surname.

Anlon

Say: on-lon

Means ‘great champion’. It was a common name in the O’Brien clan but little used otherwise.

Aodh Aedh

Hugh | Say: ai (as the letter ‘a’ in gate)

Aodh means ‘fiery”. Red Hugh O’Donnell was the leader of many battles with the forces of Queen Elizabeth the first at the end of the 1500′s before being defeated by her army at the Battle of Kinsale in 1601.

Aodghan

Egan | Say: eh-gawn

Means ‘little fire’. More common now as a surname.

Aodhan

Aidan | Say: aid-awn

Aodhan means ‘little Aodh’ or ‘little Hugh’. St. Aidan of Iona who founded a monastery at Lindisfarne in England.

Aongus or Aengus

Say: ain-gus

From ‘aon’ meaning ‘one’ and ‘gus’ meaning ‘strength’ or ‘vigour’. In Celtic mythology Aengus of the Birds is the god of love or of youth and vitality.

Ardál

Arnold | Say: awr-dahl

Means ‘high valour’.

Art

Say: art

Often mistakenly thought related to Arthur, which it isn’t, though it is nowadays used as the Irish for Arthur. Once a common name, the most famous bearer of it was Art McMurrough a king of Leinster.

Banan

Say: bon-on

Means ‘the white one’.

Bearach

Barry | Say: bay-rock

Means ‘sharp’ or ‘spearlike’. St Barry was a disciple of St Kevin at Glendalough.

Bradán

Say: bray-dawn

Means ‘salmon’ which in a round about way means wisdom, as a result of the Irish legend of the “Salmon of Knowledge”, see here.

Brandan

Say: bran-don

Often used in place of Brendan, but is in fact a different name. May derive from ‘bran’ meaning raven. Mount Brandan in Co Kerry is named after St Brendan though. Confusing.

Breandan, Brendan

Say: bren-don

Means ‘prince’. A name which has been in consistent use in Ireland since the 6th century at least. It is widely believed that Irish St Brendan the Navigator reached America before Columbus.

Brín

Brian | Say: breen

‘Brí’ means hill and in the context of a name it means ‘high (as in noble) and strong’. Brian Boru was the first high King of Ireland and the man who defeated the Vikings at the Battle of Clontarf.

Buach

Say: boo-ock

Means ‘victor or conquerer’.

Cairbre

Say: care-bra

‘Strong man’. It occurs frequently in Irish mythology, most notably as Cairbre Nia Fer, who was a King of Tara killed by Cuchulainn. His brother later had a hand in killing Cuchulainn.

Canice Coinneach

Kenneth | Say: kan-iss

Canice is itself an Anglicisation of ‘coinneach’ meaning ‘attractive one’. St. Canice, a 6th century saint, founded the church in Kilkenny which gave the city its name – Kilkenny in Irish means “Canice’s Church”.

Caoimhín

Kevin | Say: quee-veen

St. Kevin’s monastery at Glendalough in County Wicklow, with its round tower, is one of Ireland’s most famous monastic sites.

Caolan

Say: keel-an

From the Irish word ‘caol’ meaning ‘slender’.

Cathal

Say: kaw-hal

Means ‘great warrior’. It was a common name in medieval Ireland.

Cearbhall

Carroll | Say: car-ool

Means ‘victorious warrior’. Cearbhall O’Dalaigh was president of Ireland from1974-1976.

Cian

Kane, Kian | Say: key-inn

The name means ‘long lived’ or ‘ancient one’.

Ciarán

Kieran | Say: key-rawn

Ciar means ‘dark’ and the ” at the end indicates ‘small’ so the name means ‘little dark one’. There are several saints of this name in Irish history.

Cillian

Killian, Keelan | Say: kill-ian

‘Of the church’. Si Killian was a 7th century Irish Christian missionary in Europe who was killed by a Duke after he berated him for marrying his brother’s widow. He is the patron saint for sufferers of rheumatism. The name is likely to become more popular now thanks to Irish movie star Cillian Murphy.

Coileán Coilin

Colin | Say: coal-een

Means a ‘pup’ or ‘cub’. Very old Irish name now more often used in the English version.

Colm

Say: col-um

Means ‘dove’.

Colman

Say: coal-man

Means ‘little dove’, sometime taken to mean ‘peacekeeper’.

Cónán

Conan | Say: kow-nawn

Means ‘little hound’. Was a common name in early Ireland. In Irish legend Cónán Maol (or Conan the Bald) and Conan Mac Lia were both warriors of the Fianna.

Conchobhar

Conor, Connor | Say: conko-var

Means ‘lover of hounds’. Conor MacNessa was one of the most famed Kings of Ulster.

Conn

Say: kon

In Irish legend Conn of the Hundred Battles was a high King of Ireland and a forebear of the O’Neill clan. The name is still quite widely used in Ireland.

Cormac

Say: kor-mack

May mean ‘raven’ or ‘son of the charioteer’. Sometimes translated as ‘impure son’ but this is not believed to be correct.

Críostóir

Christopher | Say: crish-tore

Irish version of the English name. Particularly common in Galway.

Crónán

Cronan | Say: crow-nawn

‘Little brown one’. St Cronan was a 7th century abbot who founded an Abbey and a school at Roscrea, which is still in existence to-day.

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9 Comments

  1. Hello,

    Can’ see any translation for Anthony? Can anyone suggest the Irish translation?
    Thanks

    Brendan

  2. VERY informative.  A joy to use.

  3. On 4 February 2009 at 4:04 pm Brendan said:
    Hello,
    Can’ see any translation for Anthony? Can anyone suggest the Irish translation?
    Thanks
    Brendan
     
    Antaine is the only Irish equivalent I have heard for that Anthony
     

  4. I am looking for info. on my great-great grandfather.  A Philadelphia census lists him as Ailt Kelly, born in Irish Free State. Has anyone heard of the name Ailt, and is there an American equivalant?
    Thank you for any help.

  5. Antóin ( prnounced Ann-tow-in) is the irish for Anthony

  6. Is “Beckworth”or similar ever used? I have a death certificate of a John B??worth Daly, born 1840 Lug, King, Ireland died Nyngan, NSW, Australia in 1929.

  7. Cormac. ‘impure son’. Sounds about right for me.
     

  8. Conchobhar is not pronounced any way like you have here.  In fact the spelling and sound are so different you would never put them together. Con-kover is just the way it looks as if it should sound. The actual pronunciation is
    CRUH-WHO-RR

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