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Traditional Irish Girls' Names: A-C

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

The Children of Lir

The Children of Lir

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

Say English Origin/History
Afric Africk 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.
Aibreann av-rawn April, Avril Aibreann is the Irish word for the month April.
Aideen ay-deen 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’
Ailbe al-vah Alva From a translation into Irish of the Latin Alba meaning ‘white’.
Aileen ay-leen From the old Irish ‘ail’ meaning ‘noble.’. The -een is a diminutive, so little noble one. It is a variation of Eileen.
Ailis Eilis ay-lish Alice, Elizabeth Irish version of both Alice and Elizabeth
Aine awn-ya Anya Anne Two origins: 1. An old Gaelic name meaning ‘radiance’ or ‘joy’. 2. Also used as the Irish equivalent of Anne.
Alannah ah-lan-ah Alana From ‘leanbh’ the Irish word for child, this is an affectionate usage of ‘child’, often translated as ‘darling child’.
Alma An early Irish name, used for both boys and girls, meaning ‘all good’.
Aoibheann eve-een Eavan Aoibhinn means ‘lovely’, the name is also sometime a diminutive of Eve – ‘little Eve’.
Aoife ee-fa Eve A very old Irish name meaning ‘beautiful or radiant’. May also come from Eve.
Ashling Aislinn ash-ling In Irish means ‘a vision or dream’.
Aurnia our-nia Orla A variation of Orla, meaning ‘Golden Lady’. The 12th century Irish chieftain Donal Óg MacCarthy had a daughter of this name.
Banba 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.
Betha bay-thah From the Irish word for ‘life’.
Bláthnaid, Blánaid, Bláthnat 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.
Briana, Brianna bree-a-nah The female version of Brian meaning ‘hill’ though often said to be indicative of ‘noble or virtuous’.
Brigid, Bridget bridge-id Brigit 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?
Bronagh brone-ah Brona ‘bronach ‘ means ‘sad or sorrowful’ in Irish. Maudlin name to give a child one would think!
Caitlín kate-lyn Katherine Irish versions of the English name.
cat-rio-nah
Caoilfhoinn key-lin Keelin From the Irish words for ‘slender’ and ‘fair’. Quite a few Irish saints had this name.
Caoimhe qwee-vuh or key-vuh Keva From the Irish word ‘caomh’ which can variously mean ‘gentle, beautiful or graceful’.
Cara car-ah Kara In Irish ‘cara’ means ‘friend.’ – Do Chara means Your Friend and thus the name of this site!
Cathleen kath-leen Kathleen Irish variant of Katherine. Note that in Irish there is no letter K, so it will always be spelt with a C.
Catriona cat-rio-nah Katherine Another Irish variant for Katherine.
Ciara keyrah Keera Feminised version of Ciaran, meaning ‘dark’.
Cliona Clíodhna klee-un-ah From the Irish clodhna meaning ‘shapely.’ In Celtic myth Clíodhna was an Irish Goddess who fell in love with Caibhan (Kevin) a mortal.
Clodagh klodah 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.
Colleen kolleen 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.
 

What Others Say

  1. Cailin Jan 19, 2009 at 12:30 am

    My Name Means GIRL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  2. Shónagh Jan 27, 2009 at 5:57 pm

    Why is my name not there and my sisters is

  3. kelsey Feb 18, 2009 at 3:24 am

    that’s all a lie that’s not all the names my name is irish and there are others why can no one on these site’s get facts staright?

    • John Jul 22, 2011 at 9:21 pm

      Kelsey is NOT an Irish name!!!

      • Aoife Sep 4, 2011 at 6:59 pm

        Yes defintiely not an Irish name, there is no ‘K’ in the Irish alphabet!

  4. Keelyn Feb 18, 2009 at 10:14 pm

    My name is Keelyn and my name is also spelled keelin. In irish it is Caolifhoinn. It means fair and slender! Whoot which is just what i am!

  5. Gearoidin Mar 21, 2009 at 3:10 pm

    Kelsey isn’t an irish name!!!
    It’s a good list, no one could make an exhaustive list ffs.

  6. Aoibheann O'Connor Apr 2, 2009 at 8:26 pm

    I am the only person I know with my name!
    It means Lovely!!
    My brothers have just agreed that all web pages lie… aren’t they sweet.
    Yeah well Cillian means victorious champion!!
    And Tierney means lord of the household!!
    So there!!
    (Kelsey is not an Irish name..)

  7. Caitriona Apr 3, 2009 at 3:13 pm

    Kelsey is not an Irish name; there is no “K” in the Irish language…

  8. Bronagh O’Dubhlaoich Apr 21, 2009 at 6:25 am

    I like this list, there are alot more traditional names out there but you’ve collected a nit bunch (especially Bronagh, I’m the only person I know that has this name) Good job.

    • Julie Mar 11, 2012 at 8:42 pm

      btw… i love your name :) !!!

  9. Rodger Vail May 21, 2009 at 9:25 pm

    Thank you so much for the list.  I am in the prosses of writing a book that has 200 year old Irish names.  I was able to find the right one for the main caracter.  Aoife.  Thanks again.

  10. Adine Mar 15, 2010 at 2:28 pm

    My name is Adine im from dubin, Ireland. I dont know anyone else who spells there name in this way. It is another form or at least is pronounced the same as Aideen which is the common english spelling of the name. The irish spelling is Eadaoine.

    Kelsey is definetly not an irish name!! :o) sorry to disapoint you

  11. Oisín Apr 2, 2010 at 1:14 am

    Kelsey: perhaps the choice of name by your parents was inspired by “Kells” (literally from “cill” – church – a popular place-name component in Ireland – Kilkenny, Kells – and also the name of the famous manuscript) or “Celts”? Sort of like an adjectival form.
    Also: I understand Kelsey is often related to “Casey” (much as many Gaelic names in common practice are anglicised to others in Ireland,  even if they are not strictly identical – e.g. Denis and Donnchadh – and vice versa; this has been done for centuries, for simple convenience, phonetic similarity etc.); and Casey is of definite gaelic origin.

  12. Anna Nolan Apr 3, 2010 at 11:32 am

    Aoibhinn is my name and I just love it.  Kelsey is a place in Scotland not usually a name but a nice one all the same.

    La Gra

  13. Ciara Jul 1, 2010 at 8:41 am

    Sorry, but Ciara is not the feminised version of Ciaran.

  14. Sinead Jul 19, 2010 at 11:11 am

    Clodagh is named after the river clodagh in tipperary not the clody as far as i know there is no such river.

    Also Kelsey isnt an irish name.

  15. Kelsey Jan 8, 2011 at 11:43 pm

    The name Kelsey is actually derived from Cenél, meaning brave. Therefore, the name Kelsey has Irish roots, if not directly being Irish.

    • Kelsey 2.0 Aug 20, 2011 at 9:50 am

      Kelsey’s an English name. It’s derived from an English given name Ceolsige, which meant “ship’s victory”. It could be an Old English place name meaning “Cenel’s island.” “Cenel’s Island” is a combination of the Old English word “cenel”, meaning “fierce”, and “eg”, meaning island.

  16. Aisling Feb 15, 2011 at 6:04 pm

    I think some of the info on this site  is wrong.
    Although originally a boys name, Shannon is an extremely common girls name in Ireland.
    “Ashling” is spelt Aisling in Irish, and that means a dream or a vision, especially a dream where a homesick person dreams of a woman (who can be either old and ugly or young and beautiful). The woman is supposed to be Ireland personified. “Ashling” is an English variant.
    Caitlin is pronounced like caught-lin, at least in the places of ireland i know.
    That’s all i can actually be bothered to correct, so forgive me. The Aisling one kind of annoyed me, for good reasons. :) Same with the Shannon. I know waaay to may people with the name Shannon.
    Other Irish girls names you might like:
    Roisin = little rose (row-sheen)/(rosh-een)
    Grainne = most well known as a woman in an irish legend (graw-nya)
    Sadbh = good/also a goddess in irish legends (sigh-ve)
    Niamh = most well known as a beautiful fairy queen in the legend Oisin i dTir na nOg (Oisin in the Land of the Young) (knee-ve)/(knee-uh-ve)
    Fiona/Fionnula = fair-haired, like the boy’s name Fionn/Fionnula was also a child of Lir. (Fee=oh-na)/(Finn-ew-la)
    These are just some of some very common but old irish names. If you really want nice names, check out irish legends, they’re full of  beautiful names with nice meanings and they are definitely irish.
     

  17. Manus Feb 16, 2011 at 3:18 pm

    The River Clody flows through Bunclody in Co. Wexford
    nice list of names…

  18. Aifric. Apr 16, 2011 at 1:30 pm

    Hi my name is Aifric,
    Other varients of the spelling include Afric(which is mentioned) and Afraic..The actual meaning behind the name is “pleasant”. And can be traced back to scitland, the isle of man and ireland (mainly Galway). Just sharing what Ive learnt. So contrary to what most people think, it has nothing to do with the continent.

  19. colleen Aug 11, 2011 at 1:53 am

    My name is colleen. Why do americans use this name as an irish girl name if its not even used in ireland?

    • Máiréad Ní Mhaolriain Aug 18, 2011 at 1:39 pm

      Americans use the name colleen because they like it I suppose.
      In Irish it is Cailín which is pronounced colleen and means “girl”.
      The fada over the i lengthen the vowel so it is pronounced ee.
      No Irish-speaking person would name their daughter Cailín or Colleen.
      Many Americans think that Megan / Meaghan/ Meagan
      is an Irish name, but it is from Wales and would be Máiréad in Irish
      or Margaret in English.

  20. Cróna Aug 21, 2011 at 6:19 pm

    Firstly I live on the border in Ireland so I teach in northern Ireland but live in the republic of Ireland and what I’ve found is that the names Shannon, Saoirse and Caitlin are extremely popular kids names. In Northern Ireland they most often pronounce Caitlin as ‘Kate-lyn’, which is incorrect. In republic of ireland, where I have lived all my life I have never met a Shannon, Saoirse (meaning free….hense why lots of northern irish people choose the name in my opinion). There are lots of Caitlins but they are pronounced ‘catch-lyn’ here in ROI. Also Colleen is not an Irish name, nor is any name with a ‘K’ as it’s not in the Irish alphabet!

    Another thing to note when choosing an Irish name is that different regions of ireland pronounce names differently. For example in Munster they say ‘Row-sheen’ for Roisin but in Ulster they say ‘Raw-sheen’. Niamh is ‘Knee-yav’ in Munster but in Ulster it’s ‘Kneev’.

    Lastly, the reason I came on this site is to try and find my name. I have never been able to find information on my Irish name ‘Cróna’, which is a saints name as in Co. Donegal there is lots of places called St.Crónas chapel etc. But I’ve only ever met one Cróna but lots of Bronaghs! I’d love if anyone had information about it?

  21. John Worden Oct 20, 2011 at 3:34 pm

    If you need more here is a list of Old English names

  22. Liam Feb 5, 2012 at 12:32 am

    Alot of fadas are missing on these names the letter k is not in the Irish alphabet as is v, w, x, y, z and j so any name begging with those letter are not Irish however the may have Irish derivatives

  23. Julie Mar 11, 2012 at 8:41 pm

    Is “Patrick” an Irish last name?

  24. Anonymous Sep 1, 2012 at 3:38 am

    My name is tierna it’s an old Irish name not there for some reson ???? 

    • annmarie May 22, 2013 at 9:17 am

      my son is Tiarnán,  Tiarna means Lord so I presume Tierna  is the same just spelt differently cos you can spell Tiarnán Tiernan.

  25. Róisín Sep 23, 2012 at 3:42 am

    My name is Roisin and my daughters name is Aoibheann, I’m from Tipperary so we stay AY veen. The husband is American and we live here now so I wanted a good traditional name. People outside Ireland have a hard time with the spellings, but oh well! People these days struggle with spelling Mary for heavens sake. And this list a good compilation I think. No one in Ireland would name a girl Girl (er, i mean Colleen), and Kelsey is “Irish” in the same way that Notre Dame fans are ” Irish”.

  26. Aifric Feb 9, 2013 at 12:47 pm

    Nice list of names! And…Aifric is the first hehehe!…..we win! :P

  27. Anne Oct 22, 2013 at 3:43 pm

    Where’s Anne on this list?   :-)
    I am American with Irish heritage.  Can anyone tell me if the Irish prefer Ann or Anne?
    I was in Ireland recently and some people there pronounced my name with long A -  ie, Ahhn.  I loved it!

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