Traditional Irish Boys’ Names: M-U

The Story of a Name: Lugh

Lugh Lamhfada (or Lugh of the Long Arm) was a a member of the Tuatha Dé Danann, a mythical Celtic race of great warriors renowned for their skills in poetry and magic.

Before Lugh was born, his Grandfather, the hated Balor of the Evil Eye, was told in a prophesy that his daughter’s son would kill him, so when she gave birth to triplet sons he tried to have them killed. Somehow Lugh survived and was taken away to be reared in hiding.

He grew to be a benevolent godlike figure, skilled in magic, healing and music and was entrusted wih the invincible spear of Gorias. He eventually returned to Ireland, fulfilling the prophesy by gouging out the eye of Balor and killing him, ushering in an era of peace.

The feast of Lughnasadh, named for Lugh, is an Autum harvert or fertility festival which is still celebrated with bonfires and dancing in some parts of Ireland today and was made famous in the movie Dancing at Lughnasa, staring Meryl Streep.

Traditional Boy’s Names L-U

Liam

William | Say: lee-am

Irish form of William.

Lochlann

Say: lock-lun

Means ‘place of the lakes’. and is a Viking rather than an Irish word. After the Vikings were defeated, most of them left Ireland but a considerable number remained and intermarried. This was a name commonly given to their descendants.

Lorcan

Lawrence, Laurance

Means ‘little warrior’.

Lugh

Say: loo

Lugh of the Long Arm was a mythical hero of the Tuatha da Danann, who killed Balor of the Evil Eye. Great names in that legend!

Mainchin

Mannix | Say: maun-chen

The name means ‘little monk’ and St Munchin, about whom little is known, gave his name to a famous Limerick School. The anglicised form is the more popular name, but even it is uncommon.

Malachi

Malachy | Say: mah-lah-key

This is not an Irish name at all, though it is commonly used here, but a Hebrew one meaning “messenger of God”. It’s use in Ireland honours St. Malachi who was the Bishop of Armagh in the 12th century.

Mánús

Manus | Say: maw-nus

Cane with the Vikings, from Magnus. Popular name in Donegal especially, which seems odd as I don’t think the Vikings ever got there.

Maol Maolíosa

Mel | Say: mwail mwail-ee-sa

Maol is thehortened version of Maoliosa meaning ‘follower of Jesus’. There is a well known Irish saint of this name.

Michan

Say: mitch-an

Founder of the church bearing his name in Dublin, St Michan was a monk about whom nothing much else is known.

Naoise

Say: neesh-ah

Old name from Celtic mythology. Was originally a boys name but now used for both boys and girls. In legend Naoise eloped with Deirdre, who was to marry the King of Ulster and was later killed by the King. Deirdre died of grief.

Naomhan

Nevan | Say: ne-van

Means ‘little saint’. Was quite a rare name but a very well known Irish chef, Nevan Maguire, has brought it to public attention again. I would bet on its revival.

Niall

Neil | Say: nile

Means ‘passionate’. One of the High Kings of Tara bore this name.

Odhran

Oran | Say: oh-dran

Means ‘dark haired.’. There are several Irish saints with this name and thus churches called after them in various places.

Oisin

Say: usheen

Means ‘fawn’ or ‘young deer’.Name of an Irish hero and poet, son of Fionn mac Cumhail (Finn McCool) and the goddess Sive. One of the most popular traditional names in Ireland.

Padraig

Patrick | pawd-rig

Obviously the use of the name is in honour of St Patrick, parton saint of Ireland and reputedly the man who brought Christianity to Ireland. The name itself is Latin in origin and means ‘of noble birth’.

Peadar

Peter | Say: pad-ur

Irish form of Peter, which is a Greek name meaning ‘rock’.

Pierce or Pearse

A variant of the French name Piers, which was both a surname and a first name that came to Ireland with the Normans. It is still a common surname and widely used as a forename, though its latter day popularity owes more to Patrick Pearse, a leader of the Irish Rising, than its Norman origin.

Proinsias

Frank, Francis | Say: prunch-ee-us

The Irish name means ‘small french man’. It entered the Irish pantheon of names after the Franciscans, followers of Francis of Assisi came to Ireland.

Rían

Ryan | Say: ree-an

Means ‘little king’. The English version is not common in Ireland as a first name but is one of the most common Irish surnames.

Ronan

Say: roh-nan

Old Irish meaning “little seal”; There was a 6th century saint of that name. Ronan was also a legendary King who was tricked by his second wife into killing his own son. It is a fairly common surname as well as first name.

Ros

Ross | Say: ross

From ‘ros’ meaning a promontory, presumably in the case of a person it can be interpreted as meaning ‘prominent’.

Ruadhán

Rowan | Say: rue-awn

Means ‘little red one’. Most bearers of the name have red hair.

Ruairí Ruaidhrí

Rory | Say: rue-ree

Means ‘red king’. Rory O’Connor was the last High King of Ireland.

Seamus

James | Say: shay-mus

Irish form of James.

Seán

John, Shawn, Shane
Irish form of John which in turn means ‘gracious gift of God’.

Senan

Say: senan

A diminutive of Seán, but quite popular in its own right.

Tadhg

Timothy | Say: tie-guh

Means ‘poet or philosopher’.

Tiarnán

Tiernan | Say: tier-nawn

Means ‘little lord’.

Tomás

Thomas | Say: toh- mawse

Irish form of Thomas

Turlough

Terence | Say: tur-lock

Means ‘helper’; Irish form of Terence. Often given in honour of the 17th century poet and harpist Turlough O’Carolan.

Ultán

Say: ult-un

Means ‘Ulsterman’; Ulster is the most northerly of the four provinces of Ireland. Several Irish saints have borne this name.

Article updated: March 31, 2017 | Image Credits

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12 Comments

  • Miriam says:

    Manus was a very popular Indo-European name eg Laws of Manu. It was probably around before the Vikings – I’m Irish and have only 2% Scandinavian blood according to a DNA test. I only mention it because everyone assumes that Irish people look like Vikings. My grandmother’s ancestors were from Donegal and she looked totally Spanish (and yes, we had that whole shipwrecked Armada survivors thing in my family too but same test said only 1% Iberian peninsula -ha ha)

  • MarDee says:

    My dad’s name was Odber.
    Is there an Irish counterpart for that?

  • Senan says:

    Hi there – just to correct you on the name Senan – It isn’t a diminutive of Seán, but rather a diminutive of “sean” – the Irish for old and wise. Senan actually means “little old wise man” and is not related to Seán at all. Look it up or talk to anyone in County Clare where the name originates. Please correct, thanks!

    • rebecca says:

      totally agree. my son’s name is senan because he looked like an old man when he was born. also after st. senan too. Clare people would be annoyed if they read that lol.

  • Bonita Franks says:

    In answer to Shane O’Bruadair: The “h” in Gaelic comes about as a result of aspiration, or lenition–the habit of the mouth and vocal chords to render a breathy sound when certain vowels and consonants meet. Putting n an “H” is a modern way for us to note this special breathy sound and is not therefore a part of the original word. Therefore the Gaelic name “Seán” is pronounced (and often now spelled) with an “H.” There are many thousands of examples of this in the language.

  • Katherine says:

    Ralph – re the name leon richard rd ryan.

    I’m really guessing here, but I think I’ve an idea where that came into your name.

    Ryan as you know is a very common name in Ireland. In some localities it is very, very common indeed – in parts of Limerick and Tipperary for example.  In such places there may have been several Richard Ryans, several Brian Ryan’s and several Seán Ryans etc.

    In such cases, it was (and is) a common practice to add  a family nickname or some other name to identify which of the families you were talking about. So the RD Ryan’s would distinguish a particular family of Ryans in an area from another family with the same surname.

    The initials are probably those of an ancestor – say there were two Richard Ryans, one was maybe Richard Donal and the other Richard Michael, so you could end up with the RD Ryans and the Mickey Ryans or some such names.

    The names would even have been used on mail, to enable the postman to figure out where to deliver letters etc.

  • Katherine says:

    I’ve always believed that Sé is a short version of Seamus, which is the Irish for James.

    I have definitely heard it used as that, but I can’t be certain it does not have some other origin also – if anyone else know, please jump in.

    Good luck!! 🙂

  • says:

    Hi, finding it hard to pin down the meaning of Sé as a first name. Various meanings from noble to gracious but just looking for some finer input if anyone can help. Being born now/next 24 hours!!!

  • Ralph drake says:

    My brother in law has the name of leon richard rd ryan.Does anybody know where the name of RD came from?His great grandfather came to the us from Ireland. His grandfather also has the name of RD.

  • gills says:

    since ‘H’ is not a letter in the original Irish alphabet, Shane cannot be an earlier version of Seán. ‘H’ is used as a modern replacement for séimhiú and other operations and also appears in imported words

  • brendain o rian says:

    to pronounce sean in the english language without the fada would be to speak seain..(using the english language, pronounce seain) shane would of been formed by the english invading and during the creation of plantions on our soil, to speak and spell seain in the english laguage  would of had no place as this would of led to confusion, thus, shane was more visable to spell and pronounce.. it became more acceptable to spell sean as shane among english speakers, due to the ignorance towards the irish language 

  • Shane O'Bruadair says:

    Seán is actually the more modern form of Shane….FACT !!
    Don’t be fooled by the fada on the “á” in Seán….Sort it out .

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