Traditional Irish Girls’ Names: D-I

Story of a name:Deirdre

Deirdre of the Sorrows

Deirdre of the Sorrows

Deirdre of the Sorrows is one of the most great tragic heroines of Irish mythology. From her birth it was prophesied that she would be a great beauty and she was promised in marriage to Choncubar, King of Ulster.

As a young woman she eloped with Naoise, a handsome young warrior and they fled, with his two brothers, to Scotland to escape the furious Choncubar.

However they were never able to settle anywhere. Such was Deirdre’s beauty that wherever they went the local king wanted her for himself and tried to kill Naoise and his brothers.

Eventually Choncubar tracked then to a small remote island and had the three brothers killed.

He still didn’t win the hand of Deirdre, broken hearted at the death of Naoise, she died of grief.

Irish Girl Names: Damhnait – Isleen

Damhnait

Dympna | Say: dav-net

Probably means ‘befitted’. According to legend St Damhnait was the daughter of a pagan king who became Christian and fled to Europe. Her father tracked her down and killed her.

Dana

| Say: dah-nah

Two derivations. It is the Irish word for ‘bold’ in the sense of naughty. Dana or Danu was also the name of a pagan Goddess who gave her name to the legendry Celtic warriors the Tuatha de Danann (the People of Danu).

Darerca

Say: dahr-erka

An Irish saint from Co Kerry who may have been related to St Patrick. If you believe names influence a child’s future be careful with this one – the original bearer of the name had 19 children!

Doireann

Darina | Say: dirren

Doire is the Irish word for a wood, and as a name it is taken to means ‘fruitful or fertile’. Some sources suggest it comes from ‘dorren’ meaning ‘sullen’. It is also used as the Irish version of the name Dorothy.

Dearbhail

Dervla | Say: derville

Means ‘true desire’.

Deirdre

Say: deerdra

The meaning is unclear, though ‘fearsome one’ or ‘one who rages’ have been suggested.

Dubheasa

Say: duv-eesa

Means ‘dark beauty’ and is a very old Irish name little used now.

Ealga

Say: elle-gah

Means ‘noble’ and is derived from ‘Inis Ealga’ or ‘the noble Island’ which was a way of referring to Ireland.

Eileen

Say: eye-leen

The Irish form of both Helen and Evelyn.

Eilís

Elizabeth | Say: isle-esh

One of a number of Irish versions of the English name Elizabeth.

Eimear

Emer | Say: eemer

Although a common name in Ireland, it is of unknown origin. Eimear was the wife of legendry Irish hero Cuchulainn.

Einin

Say: ain-een

This only recently started to appear as a name, so isn’t really a traditional or old name. It means ‘little bird’ in Irish.

Eithne

Enya | Say: en-ya

Another name where, as is the case with Brigid, Celtic heroines and early Christian saints become confused. There are number of saints with the name, but it predates Christianity.

Elan

Helen | Say: ell-anne

Probably an Irish version of Helen.

Erin

Say: ayr-in

The Irish word for ‘Ireland’. Not used as a name in Ireland, but quite common in America and other places to which the Irish emigrated.

Etain

Say: eh-tane

Means ‘little enviable one’. In Irish legend Etain was a married woman who fell in love with the fairy man Midir. Midir turned both of them into swans so that they could escape her husband.

Ethna, Ena

Say: eth-nah, ay-nah

The feminine form of Aidan. Was often Anglicised as Annie.

Fiona

Fiona | Say: fee-ona

More a Scottish than an Irish name, though popular here. From the Scots Gaelic/Irish word for ‘fair’ which is ‘fionn’.

Fionnoula, Finola

Say: finn-ooh-la, finn-ola

Fionn means white or fair and the name means ‘white shoulders’. One of the Children of Lir was called Fionnuala.

Gobnait

Say: gub-net

Means ‘mouth’. St Gobnait was a 6th Century Co Clare saint who had an affinity with bees and used honey to cure many ailments. Her feast day on February 11th is still celebrated in Ballyvourney in Co Clare.

Grainne

Grania | Say: grawn-yah

In Celtic lore the goddess of harvest and fruitfulness. Later a St Grainne emerged with a similar story. This sort of blurring between Celtic Goddesses and early Irish saints is common.

Granuaile

Say: grawn-ya-wail

This was the name given to a famous Irish woman, Grace O’Malley, who long before the emancipation of women was a sea captain of some renown, not to say notoriety.

Ina

Agnes | Say: eye-nah

An Irish form of Agnes

Iona

Say: eye-own-ah

This is the name of the Scottish Island where the Irish saint Columba founded a monastery. It was probably where work on the Book of Kells was started. More Scottish than Irish, but used in Ireland.

Iseult Isolde

Say: ee-solt ee-solde

In Arthurian legend Iseult was an Irish princess who married the king of Cornwall and had a love affair with his knight Tristan. May also derive from the Celtic Goddess Adsulata.

Isleen

Say: Iz-lean

A variation of Aislinn or Ashling.

Article updated: March 31, 2017

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36 Comments

  • Ashling says:

    my friends name is Eireann (with an apostrophe thing on top of the e i dont know how to get that) but the Eireann on here is the english/american version Erin. she’s Irish and her name means Ireland so i knew it was the right name with wrong spelling. also, you dont say it ayr-in its ust like how the american version is spelled, er-rin omg my spacebar hardly works its such an old computer lol

    • Sinéad says:

      Éireann is the (modern) Irish language word for Ireland. The accent over the E is called a fada. Erin is the common spelling used for a girl’s name; most common outside of Ireland. Both are pronounced “ayr-in”, as in “there is AIR IN the mason jar”. Not “eh-rin”. I think the confusion between these two potential pronunciations comes from the fact that both pronunciations (air-in/eh-rin) sound alike in a Mid-West American accent.

  • Isleen Anaya says:

    My name is Isleen and my name has always been said like, “eyes lean” but I’m not Irish either.

  • Gráinne says:

    I’m surprised the most famous Gráinne isn’t mentioned, as it shows how old the name is. I’m talking about the Legend of Diarmuid and Gráinne, where Gráinne is betrothed to Fionn McCumhaill and puts a spell on Diarmuid and runs away with him…

  • Sorcha says:

    There’s a geographical error in the Gobnait section – Ballyvourney is in Co. Cork, not Co. Clare.

  • Muinteoir says:

    The name of the country Ireland in Irish is actually Éire. That is the complete correct name.
    The use word Éireann is a grammatical representation of ownership and is only used in the context of something belonging to Ireland, i.e. “Poblacht na hÉireann”, “Muintir Éireann”. It is similar in its use to Éirinn which is used when Éire is preceded with a preposition, “in Éirinn”, “sa hÉirinn” and so forth.
    It is a common mistake that people think Éireann is the correct base for for Ireland because they are used to seeing it in company and state body names, but actually the usage here implies a company or body belonging to Ireland.

  • janet says:

    Why isn’t Fiadh up there? My daughter is named Fiadh.. Meaning ‘ of the deer’ or ‘ of the wood’ apparently an old irish spelling of Fia.

    • Katherine says:

      Partly because not ALL names are covered here, and partly because Fiadh isn’t a traditional Irish name, it’s an Old Irish word that has recently been taken up as a name. It does sound nice as a name though, so maybe it will become a traditional one in time 🙂

      It also doesn’t really mean deer exactly, or of the wood. Fiadh is an Old Irish word meaning ‘wild’, in the sense of a wild animal and often in the sense of a wild deer. Old Irish is a bit like old English – while it gave words to Irish, those words are not necessarily in current use in their original form.

      Thus ‘Fiadh’ on its own is not a word in common useage now, but it appears in modern Irish in the word for ‘wildlife’ – fiadhúrla, as for example in the name for the Wildlife Act, an tAcht um Fhiadhúlra.

      So, the name means ‘wild’ or maybe ‘wild deer’.

    • janet says:

      Thanks, thats very interesting to know. I have found it difficult to find an exact meaning to her name. Love the name. She is only 18 weeks old now and I hope when she grows up she wont live up to her name.. Wild! 🙂

  • Sinead says:

    My mum’s name is Finola and I’m pretty sure it’s not pronounced ‘finn-ula’ but more like ‘finn-ola’.

  • Tara says:

    Thank god to see some sense at the end of this thread Sinéad!!! As a native Irish speaker and also having a BA in Modern Irish I can say that Sinéad is 100% correct, I also have a daughter called Aoibh pronounced ‘EVE’ AOI does sound ‘e’ as does Í as Íofa suggested, although I have never seen the name spelt Íofa, Íosa is ee-sa as in the Irish for Jesus. Also, Eirinn is an Irish word it is used for example “in Eirinn” in Ireland. The best spelling for the name as used in Ireland is Erin, Eireann is however the correct spelling for the name of the country.

  • Deirdre says:

    As an Irish woman and Irish speaker/teacher I’d like to add to this debate.
    1. Éirinn IS an Irish word. It is a form of Éireann and its usage depends on the grammatical context of the sentence, i.e. Éireann = Ireland, in Éirinn = in Ireland.
    2.  Íofa is a made-up spelling of the Irish name Aoife, which is always pronounce EE-fah, never ever AA-fah.  While Íofa may be original, it is certainly not the correct spelling of the Irish name, sorry.
    Hope this helps.

  • Sinead says:

    Gearóidin is the irish for Geraldine and is pronounced Gar-oh-jeen (gar to rhyme with car) it’s quite unusual.
    re Aoife etc- “Aoi” makes an “ee” sound- hence Aoife. The irish spelling of the name Eve is “Aoibh” (pronounced the same as in English)

  • Aoife says:

    Here, in Ireland, the name Aiofe is always pronounced Eefa.  The vowel blend of ‘aio’ is pronounced ‘ee’.

    The name Gearóidin is pronounced Garodeen.  It is the female form of the boys name Gearóid which means ‘spear carrier’.

    This website: http://www.babynamesofireland.com/ has a good list of Irish names with Irish author Frank McCourt giving the proper pronunciation for each one.

    • Deirdre says:

      Just a point re the website you listed – please note that Frank McCourt’s pronunciation of the some of the names is not completely accurate. 

  • Me says:

    Eilis with fada on E is usually pronounced AY.   As in Sean, Sinead.  Aren’t most words with a fada on the E are pronounced AY?  In Irish you don’t put the ‘h’ on the end to get the SH sound.
     
    Gearóidin: depending on your geography there are different stresses on the syllables.   Have heard: GAR-RO-jean    guh-RO-jean   and I’ve heard the last syllable pronounced “dean” rather than “jean”

    Interesting about how Aoife should be pronounced AA-fa.   The pronunciation as EE-fa is so widespread, I think it would be a losing
    battle at this point.    Iofa is nice.
     
     
     
     

    • Gráinne says:

      Yes, as in Sinéad but not as in Seán. The fada in that is on the A, which makes it a long “aw” sound.

  • Tom says:

    I have just been in contact with a very distant female relative with the name Gearóidin. Since this contact has all been by email, I have no idea how to pronounce it, though searching on Google indicates that it is Irish and means ‘Noble Warrior’. Can anyone elucidate?

    • Gráinne says:

      That would be the Irish version of Geraldine. Unusually, a name translated FROM English into Irish. Gerald would be a Norman name, and Geraldine the female version. You would pronounce the Irish version as “Gar-oh-deen”, with emphasis on the middle syllable

  • eadaoine says:

    hi,

    i am interested in the name Erin, but am looking for a more irish version, and have seen Eirinn / Eireann which would be more correct,
    Many thanks,,

    • Katherine says:

      Since the name is the Irish for ‘Ireland’, which is Eireann, that would be the correct version. Eirinn is not an Irish word.

    • Merfa says:

      Éireann is tuiseal ginideach, that is, genitive case form of  Éire, which is Ireland.

    • Peter says:

      Eirinn is indeed an Irish word – it is the dative case of Eire….e.g. in Eirinn – in Ireland.

  • Siobhan Murphy says:

    I am not sure but my father suggests the difference in pronunciation maybe due to geography and accents.  Obviously there are many different accents in Ireland  be they subtle or more obvious.  So maybe you are all right and put it down to difference of opinion.

  • Íofa says:

    I have spoken with a Irish lecturer at University and in his opinion Aoife should not be pronouced ee -fa and anyone who has studied irish knows an A does not make an E sound! 🙂 whereas Í does make an e sound 🙂

    to eilis , i’ve got a sister called  Éilish and we pronouce it I-lish 🙂

    • Daire says:

      Irish, and Irish speaker. My father is bi-lingual Irish-English, and a well known Irish writer, writing in the Irish language. I went to  an all-Irish speaking school in Ireland. Aoife is generally pronounced eefa, although some scholars believe that at one time a regional pronunciation ayfe was used (one time being long before christianity) A does not make an e sound, but anyone who has studied or speaks Irish SHOULD know that all vowels influence each other, hence A+oi changing the vowel sound, allowing for the e sound. furthermore the original e sound of aoi is not as strong as the i + fatha, (Í) even if over time it has become so. regarding the name Éilish it is pronounced aye-lish the É being of course affected by the i and thus the pronunciation changing.

    • Merfa says:

      In Ireland, we Irish people pronounce it like EEfa. End of.
      It’s absolutely correct that ‘a’ doesn’t make an ee sound. However ‘aoi’ DOES – eg Maire Mac an tSaoi, cén chaoi a bhfuil tú,  déardaoin.
      Sorry, don’t think much of your lecturer.

  • Nevada says:

    just curious is Fallon Irish and if so what does it mean
    thanks!

    • Gráinne says:

      Fallon is usually a surname, and is the English version of O’Faolain. Never heard it as a first name.

  • Eilis says:

    Eilis can be pronounced a whole variety of ways.
    my father’s irish, and named me Eilis — but we pronounce it ‘ey-lish’

  • orla says:

    The correct pronunciation of Aoife is EE-FA. My father is a Gaelic teacher & has confirmed this! I hope this was of some help! 

    • Robert Cain says:

      Dear sir-we named our lovely daughter Colleen Daun Cain. Does Daun mean light haired girl? My sources at the time of her birth, indicated such was the case, and that baun, the alternate choice , would mean that she was a dark haired girl–she turned out to be a raving beauty with dark hair and dark eyes!! We don’t regret the choice, because Daun is beautiful, and we feel it’s irish as well–but where does the truth lie??many thanks for your reply Bob Cain

    • Katherine Nolan says:

      It’s not quite so. ‘Daun’ isn’t an Irish word I’m afraid. ‘Dubh’ is and and means black or dark – it is often used in names or to describe someone. ‘An cailín dubh’ would mean ‘the dark girl’ which is usually used to mean a girl with dark hair and eyes. Similarly ‘an cailín rua’ would be ‘the red girl’ or ‘the red haired girl’.

      Baun (actually bán, ‘baun’ is a phonetic spelling) means white or fair, so ‘an cailín bán’ is the white or fair haired girl.

  • Íofa says:

    How come my name is not included? Íofa pronounced EE-i-Fah.
    Aoife should be pronounced AA-Fah , you info is incorrect!

    • elaine says:

      Aoife, ee-fa. I’m irish and have lots of friends called Aoife Ee-fa… Get it right from someone who has grown up in Ireland!

    • Lucia says:

      I’m Italian and even I know that Aoife is pronounced as EE-fa. Your information is incorrect, Iofa, and your name is not included because it is not a Traditional Irish name … it looks to be a made-up name.

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