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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

Afric

Say: 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

April, Avril | Say: av-rawn

Aibreann is the Irish word for the month April.

Aideen

Say: 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

Alva | Say: al-vah

From a translation into Irish of the Latin Alba meaning ‘white’.

Aileen

Say: 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

Alice, Elizabeth | Say: ay-lish

Irish version of both Alice and Elizabeth

Aine

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.

Alannah

Alana | Say: ah-lan-ah

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

Eavan | Say: eve-een

Aoibhinn means ‘lovely’, the name is also sometime a diminutive of Eve – ‘little Eve’.

Aoife

Eve | Say: ee-fa

A very old Irish name meaning ‘beautiful or radiant’. May also come from Eve.

Ashling Aislinn

Say: ash-ling

In Irish means ‘a vision or dream’.

Aurnia

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.

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

Say: bay-thah

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.

Briana, Brianna

Say: bree-a-nah

The female version of Brian meaning ‘hill’ though often said to be indicative of ‘noble or virtuous’.

Brigid, Bridget

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?

Bronagh

Brona | Say: brone-ah

‘bronach ‘ means ‘sad or sorrowful’ in Irish. Maudlin name to give a child one would think!

Caitlín

Kathleen | Say: kate-lyn

One of several variants of Kathleen/Katherine

Cait

Say: cawtch

Another variant of Katherine.

Caoilfhoinn

Keelin | Say: key-lin

From the Irish words for ‘slender’ and ‘fair’. Quite a few Irish saints had this name.

Caoimhe

Keva | Say: qwee-vuh or key-vuh

From the Irish word ‘caomh’ which can variously mean ‘gentle, beautiful or graceful’.

Cara

Kara | Say: car-ah

In Irish ‘cara’ means ‘friend.’ – Do Chara means Your Friend and thus the name of this site!

Cathleen

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.

Catriona

Katherine | Say: cat-rio-nah

Another Irish variant for Katherine.

Ciara

Keera | Say: keyrah

Feminised version of Ciaran, meaning ‘dark’.

Cliona Clíodhna

Say: 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

Say: klo-dah

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

Say: 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.

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42 Comments

  1. My Name Means GIRL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  2. Why is my name not there and my sisters is

  3. 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?

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

  6. Aoibheann O’Connor | April 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. Kelsey is not an Irish name; there is no “K” in the Irish language…

  8. Bronagh O’Dubhlaoich | April 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.

  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. 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. 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.

    • Kilkenny and other names come from the Irish word for forest, “coill”. Not church. Ireland was one of the most forested regions in Europe until the trees were chopped down. Please don’t spread your “knowledge” unless you know what you’re talking about please. It’s misleading. 

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

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

    • 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. 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.
     

    • What bothers me is nobody is putting in the fáda which completely changes the pronounciation and meaning of some names. To put in the fáda press Alt Gr and the letter you wish to put the fáda on. You need to also press the shift up arrow as well if its a capital. 

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

  18. 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. 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 | August 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. 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. If you need more here is a list of Old English names

  22. 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. Is “Patrick” an Irish last name?

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

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

  25. 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”.

    • Veronica Daze | August 8, 2014 at 6:09 am

      Origin of the name Kelsey:

      Derived from the obsolete Old English name Cēolsige, a compounding of the elements cēol (a ship) and sige (victory).

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

  27. 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!

    • Annie is a popular girls name in Ireland, so is Àine. I am not a hundred percent sure if they are traditional, I think Àine is. Anne is more of an English name, so is Ann and Anna. Yes, that is the way people pronounce Anne in Ireland! :-)

    • Im and Irish Anne, and while its a traditional name its not an Irish name, Áine is the Irish version of it.
      And when I was in New York on a working visa for a summer in 2001, my workmates used to think it was hillarious the way I pronounced my name, as they all would say “eyhnnee” phonetically, to my “Ahhnne”
      lol

  28. What of Brosna. My girl has a schoolfriend/neighbour of the name. They’re no tourists; we’re all straight from the bogs. Is it an Irish name or not? I’d always imagined it was a geoname; pulled off the R Brosna.

  29. P.S I think people would prefer Anne. It’s a nice name!

  30. Wow..can you say vain…lol

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