While names like Erin, Colleen and Shannon are often thought of as Irish names, they are rarely encountered in Ireland and are not traditional names. They became popular instead in places to which Irish people emigrated, particularly the USA, probably out of nostalgia for the ‘home country’.
The names listed on these pages are mainly of Irish origin, some of them very old and dating back to pre-Christian Celtic times. Others are commonly encountered Irish versions of well known English names. Some are in common use still, although there has been a definite trend towards ‘International’ names in Ireland and a move away from the old ones.
Where meanings are known they are given, but the reality is that many names have been in use for centuries and, in spite of what you may read on other sites, have no clear meaning or definite origin.
Story of a Name: Aoife
In Irish legend Aoife was the second wife of King Lir, and was so jealous of his love for the four children of his first marriage (to her sister) that she lured them to a lakeside and turned them into swans.
She placed a curse on them that forced them to spend 300 years at that lake followed by 300 years on a river opening to a stormy sea and 300 years at a frozen lake in the North.
After 900 years, returned to human form, they realised with great sadness that all their beloved father and all their family were long dead.
Except Aoife that is – as punishment for her evil deed she had been turned into a crow, doomed to roam the world in that form eternally.
Irish Girl Names: Afric – Colleen
Though it sounds like it should mean Africa, it doesn’t. It has been recorded as an Irish name as far back as the 11th Century and is still quite popular to-day.
April, Avril | Say: av-rawn
Aibreann is the Irish word for the month April.
This is a variation of Etain. It is also sometimes used for girls whose fathers are called Aidan – the -een ending is a diminutive. Aidan comes from the old Irish aed which means ‘fire’ with the -een meaning small, so ‘little fire’
Alva | Say: al-vah
From a translation into Irish of the Latin Alba meaning ‘white’.
From the old Irish ‘ail’ meaning ‘noble.’. The -een is a diminutive, so little noble one. It is a variation of Eileen.
Alice, Elizabeth | Say: ay-lish
Irish version of both Alice and Elizabeth
Anya Anne | Say: awn-ya
Two origins: 1. An old Gaelic name meaning ‘radiance’ or ‘joy’. 2. Also used as the Irish equivalent of Anne.
Alana | Say: ah-lan-ah
From ‘leanbh’ the Irish word for child, this is an affectionate usage of ‘child’, often translated as ‘darling child’.
An early Irish name, used for both boys and girls, meaning ‘all good’.
Eavan | Say: eve-een
Aoibhinn means ‘lovely’, the name is also sometime a diminutive of Eve – ‘little Eve’.
Eve | Say: ee-fa
A very old Irish name meaning ‘beautiful or radiant’. May also come from Eve.
In Irish means ‘a vision or dream’.
Orla | Say: our-nia
A variation of Orla, meaning ‘Golden Lady’. The 12th century Irish chieftain Donal Óg MacCarthy had a daughter of this name.
An old name used for Ireland. I have never heard it used as a girls name in Ireland, but it has been suggested as one.
From the Irish word for ‘life’.
Bláthnaid, Blánaid, Bláthnat
Say: blaw-nid blaw-nat
Blath means ‘flower’, the name is generally understood to mean ‘little flower’. In Irish legend she was rescued by the hero Cuchulainn from an unhappy marriage but later killed by her husbands servant.
The female version of Brian meaning ‘hill’ though often said to be indicative of ‘noble or virtuous’.
Brigit | Say: bridge-id
The name comes from the Irish ‘brigh’ meaning ‘powerful’ or ‘high one’. While mostly associated with St Brigid, it is actually a much older Celtic name. In fact St Brigid predates Christianity too, and was the most important goddess of Celtic times. The stories told of saint and goddess are so intermingled as to be impossible to separate. Could it be they are one and the same?
Brona | Say: brone-ah
‘bronach ‘ means ‘sad or sorrowful’ in Irish. Maudlin name to give a child one would think!
Kathleen | Say: kate-lyn
One of several variants of Kathleen/Katherine
Another variant of Katherine.
Keelin | Say: key-lin
From the Irish words for ‘slender’ and ‘fair’. Quite a few Irish saints had this name.
Keva | Say: qwee-vuh or key-vuh
From the Irish word ‘caomh’ which can variously mean ‘gentle, beautiful or graceful’.
Kara | Say: car-ah
In Irish ‘cara’ means ‘friend.’ – Do Chara means Your Friend and thus the name of this site!
Kathleen | Say: kath-leen
Irish variant of Katherine or Kathleen. Note that in Irish there is no letter K, so it will always be spelt with a C.
Katherine | Say: cat-rio-nah
Another Irish variant for Katherine.
Keera | Say: keyrah
Feminised version of Ciaran, meaning ‘dark’.
From the Irish clodhna meaning ‘shapely.’ In Celtic myth Clíodhna was an Irish Goddess who fell in love with Caibhan (Kevin) a mortal.
Thought to be related to the name of a river in Tipperary (The Clody). Many Irish rivers were named after Celtic Gods and Goddesses, but if there was a Goddess known as Clodagh nothing is known of her.
A phonetic pronunciation of the Irish word ‘cailín’, meaning girl. Rarely used as a name in Ireland, but popular in Irish communities in the USA and elsewhere.
Posted: November 30, 2008 | Updated: July 17, 2014 by Katherine Nolan | Image Credits