Popular traditional Irish names, with their origins and meanings, and a guide to finding information on 1000s of other forenames, surnames and clans of Ireland.
Most of the details of names below are taken primarily from Irish Names and Surnames by Patrick Woulfe, but with additions from other sources such as The Revival of Irish Names by F. A. Fahy, Celtic Surnames by Tomas O Flannghaile and Ancient Irish Proper Names by John O'Hart.
Where information is provided at the start of entries without a reference it can be assumed that it comes from Irish Names and Surnames by Patrick Woulfe.
Bear in mind that there can be widely different interpretations of meanings of names, as you will see, and that pronunciation can vary widely according to the region in Ireland and through time.
The suggested pronunciations given below are just that—often no more than rough approximations of one version, so it is important to check for alternatives.
Clicking on hyperlinked names will provide additional information or other relevant sources of information on those particular names, including anglicised (English) equivalents.
Where possible, examples of their use in Irish history, legend and family histories, etc., have been included with links to the relevant references.
Below is a list of 20 of the most popular Irish names for girls with origins and meanings given where possible.
Áine, an ancient Irish name. “The banshee who presided as queen of the palace on the summit of Knockainy hill, in county Limerick, was Aine, daughter of a Dedannan chief, who gave her name to the hill, and to the existing village of Knockainy.” (P. W. Joyce, A Smaller Social History of Ireland). According to the article The Revival of Irish Names (1886) from the Irish Fireside the meaning of Aine is ‘joy’, the name being anglicised as Anne or Anna, Hannah, Anastasia and pronounced “Ann-ya”, although other sources generally suggest ‘Awn-ya’.
Aisling, Aislinn, an Irish name, meaning ‘a dream’; in use in Derry and Omeath. Pronounced ‘Ash-leen’.
Aoife, an ancient Irish name. “Lir … tempted to commit matrimony again, hoping that the sister of his lamented wife, the Princess Aoifé, would do the duty of an aunt, at least, to his orphans.” (Patrick Kennedy, The Children of Lir, Legendary Fictions of the Irish Celts). According to the article The Revival of Irish Names (1886) from the Irish Fireside the meaning of Aoife is ‘pleasant’ and it is pronounced ‘Ee-fa’.
Bríghid, an ancient Irish name, probably derived from brígh, strength; the name of the goddess of poetry in pagan Ireland; sanctified and made for ever illustrious by St. Brigid of Kildare, patroness of Ireland. It does not appear to have come into common use as a woman's name until the 17th or 18th century. According to the article The Revival of Irish Names (1886) from the Irish Fireside the meaning of Brigid is ‘fiery dart’. Commonly pronounced ‘Breege’ with a soft ‘g’.
Dearbháil, compound of dearbh, true, and áil, desire; an ancient Irish name. Pronounced ‘Derval’.
Deirdre. In the bardic tale of The Fate of the Children of Usna (A. M. Sullivan, Story of Ireland) the name is stated to mean ‘alarm’ or ‘danger’: “Then the chief Druid, Kavaiee, named the child Deirdri, which means alarm or danger.” From her misfortunes in this story the beautiful Deirdre is referred to as ‘Deirdre of the Sorrows’. The name is pronounced ‘Derd-rye’.
Eibhlín, sunlight; the name of the mother of Constantine; introduced into Ireland by the Anglo-Normans. This name features in an old and famous Irish song: “The same year is memorable for the demise of Carrol O'Daly (Cerbhall Ua Dalaigh), composer of ‘Eibhlín A Rúin,’” [Eileen A Roon] (William H. Grattan Flood, Irish Music in the Fifteenth Century, A History of Irish Music), 1905. The name is generally pronounced ‘Eye-leen’.
Eithne, an Irish personal name, meaning ‘a kernel’; borne by three virgin saints. Tomas O Flannghaile (Celtic Surnames, For the Tongue of the Gael, 1896) gives the meaning of the name Eithne as ‘knowledge’. The wife of King Cormac Mac Art was called Eithne: “His queen, Eithne, bore him three sons and ten daughters.” (Alfred Webb, Cormac MacArt, A Compendium of Irish Biography, 1878). Pronounced ‘Ethne’ or ‘Enna’ according to The Revival of Irish Names (1886) from the Irish Fireside, but today is perhaps more often pronounced ‘En-ya’.
Gráinne, an ancient Irish name. The name of a princess in the legendary tale The Pursuit of Diarmuid and Grainne (Ethna Carbery, In the Celtic Past, 1904); also the name of the notorious Irish pirate queen, Grainne O'Mailley (Grace O'Malley). According to the article The Revival of Irish Names (1886) from the Irish Fireside the meaning of Graine is ‘love’ and it is pronounced ‘Grawn-ya’.
Máire, genitive idem (the same), Mary, Moira, Maria. See Muire. The name appears in the title of a composition by the famous Irish harper Turlough O'Carolan: “… O'Carolan composed it in honour of Mary MacDermot (the daughter of the Princess of Coolavin), who was the Princess Royal of the MacDermot family, and for whom O'Carolan composed another song, ‘Maire an Cuilfhin’ (Fair-haired Mary)” (William H. Grattan Flood, O'Carolan and his Contempories, A History of Irish Music, 1905). Often pronounced ‘Moy-ah’.
Máirghréad, Mairghréad, a pearl; the name of a Christian virgin who was martyred at Antioch in the last general persecution; brought to Europe by the crusaders, when it became very common in France and England; introduced by the Anglo-Normans into Ireland, where it has ever since been very popular, and is now found under a great variety of forms. Pronounced ‘Mah-raid’.
Meadhbh, the name of the celebrated Queen of Connacht in the first century; also borne by an Irish saint who was venerated on 22 November and a princess who married into the O'Neills of Ulster: “Aodh Ordnigh: son of Niall Frassach; was the 164th Monarch; and, after 25 years' reign, was slain in the battle of Fearta, A.D. 817. Was married to Meadhbh, dau. of Ionrachtach, King of Durlus.” (John O'Hart, Irish Pedigrees, 1892). According to the article The Revival of Irish Names (1886) from the Irish Fireside the meaning of Maeve is ‘mirthful’. However, Tomas O Flannghaile in his book For the Tongue of the Gael (1896) in a section on Celtic Christian Names has the meaning of the name as ‘the tender’. Pronounced ‘Mave’ (rhyming with ‘wave’).
Niamh, meaning ‘effulgence’ (dazzling light) according to The Revival of Irish Names (1886) from the Irish Fireside and pronounced ‘Neeve’. Tomas O Flannghaile (Celtic Surnames, For the Tongue of the Gael, 1896), however, gives the meaning of Niamh as ‘the splendid’, but Patrick Kennedy in a note to the Progress of the Wicked Bard, Legendary Fictions of the Irish Celts, also gives the meaning as ‘effulgence’. Niamh is a name that dates back to Irish legend: “In the account of the Land of Youth, given by the heathen Fenian Oisin to St. Patrick—when the hero was carried off from the field of battle by the golden-haired fairy Niamh …” (James Bonwick, The Future Life, or Land of the West, Irish Druids and Old Irish Religions, 1894).
Nuala (Nappy, Penelope, Penny); a shortened form of Fionnghuala. Nuala has been a popular name throughout Irish history: “… Lady Nuala O'Connor, daughter of the noble O'Connor Faly, and wife of the powerful chieftain, Hugh O'Donnell.” (Margaret Anne Cusack, An Illustrated History of Ireland, 1868); Lady Nuala O'Connor helped establish the Franciscans in Donegal. Nuala was also the name of the sister of Hugh O'Neill, the Earl of Tyrone, who died in exile in Rome in 1616: “To his sister Nuala, weeping over his grave, his bard Mac Ward addressed that noble “Lament,” which, translated by Mangan, is known to all Irish readers.” (Alfred Webb, Hugh O'Neill, Earl of Tyrone, A Compendium of Irish Biography, 1878). F. A. Fahy in The Revival of Irish Names (1886) from the Irish Fireside gives the meaning of the name Nuala as ‘fair-shouldered’ and the pronunciation of Nuala as ‘Noola’.
Róisín, a diminuitive of Róis. This name is immortalised in the song: “… This is illustrated by ‘Roisin Dubh’—little black rose, an allegorical ballad in which strong political feelings are personified under the form of an address from a lover to his fair one. It was composed to celebrate Hugh Roe O’Donnell, and by “Roisin Dubh” (Roseen Duff), supposed to be a beloved female was meant Ireland …” (John Johnson Marshall, Names under which Ireland was personified in the Seventeenth Century, Popular Rhymes and Sayings of Ireland, 1924). Generally pronounced ‘Rosh-een’ or ‘Ro-sheen’.
Sinéad, a diminuitive of French Jeanne, from Johanna (see Siobhán). “It may be here observed that Joan, Johanna, or Jane, is in Irish Sinead, the feminine of Seaghan or Shane, which is the Irish for John (Lat. Johannes)” (John O'Hart, note to the Fitzmaurice pedigree, Irish Pedigrees, 1892). Pronounced ‘Shin-aid’.
Siobhán, genitive idem (the same), Joan, Johanna, Hannah, (Julia, July, Judith, Judy, Jude, Susanna, Susan, Nonie); the feminine form of Joannes, or John (see Eóin and Seán), which became common in France in the 12th century as Jehanne and Jeanne, and in England as Joan; brought into Ireland by the Anglo-Normans, where it has ever since been one of the most popular of women's names. Pronounced ‘Shiv-awn’.
Sorcha, genitive idem (the same), Sorcha, (Sarah, Sally); an old Irish name, signifying ‘clear’ or ‘bright’; still in use, but now always anglicised Sarah or Sally. Latin—Sorcha. Pronounced, by some at least, ‘Sor-sha’.
Úna, an ancient and once common Irish name, very popular throughout history. “William Fitzadelm de Burgo … was twice married … second, to Una, daughter of Hugh O’Connor, the last king of Connaught” (John O'Hart, Bourke No.1 pedigree, Irish Pedigrees). There are different interpretations of the origin of the name, but The Revival of Irish Names (1886) from the Irish Fireside suggests that the meaning of Una is ‘famine’. Pronounced ‘Oona’.
For an extended list of Irish girls’s names see:
Back to page navigation
Below is a list of 20 of the most popular Irish names for boys with origins and meanings given where possible.
Aodh, genitive Aodha and Aoidh, Ea, (Hugh); Celt. *Aidu-s, fire, Old Irish—Aed; an ancient and very common Irish name; a favourite name among the O'Connors of Connacht and the O'Neills and O'Donnells of Ulster; now always anglicised Hugh. Among the O'Neills, for example, “The Clan of this Aodh (or Hugh) Buidhe passed the river Ban into Eastern Ulster or Antrim and Down; and wrested from the mixed population of old natives and the descendants of the English settlers, the territory hence designated ‘Clanaboy’ or the Clan of Yellow Hugh” (John O'Hart, O'Neill No.3 pedigree, Irish Pedigrees, 1892). Often pronounced similarly to the letter ‘A’ in English, or ‘eh’.
Árdghal, genitive -ghail. Ardal, (Arnold); comp. of árd, high, and gal, valour; a favourite name among the MacKennas and MacMahons of Ulster by whom it was anglicised Arnold. “Ardghal, King of Aileach [in modern Donegal]: his son; first of this family that assumed this sirname [MacLochloinn/MacLaughlan]” (John O'Hart, No. 106 on the MacLaughlan pedigree, Irish Pedigrees, 1892). Pronounced ‘Ard-gal’.
Breandán, Breanndán, genitive -áin, Brendan. See Bréanainn. Saint Brendan of Clonfert is reputed to have sailed to America in the 6th Century—The Tradition of Saint Brendan's Voyage to America (Thomas D'Arcy McGee, A History of the Irish Settlers in North America, 1852). The Revival of Irish Names (1886) from the Irish Fireside gives the meaning of Brendan as ‘brown raven’. Pronounced ‘Bren-dan’.
Cathal, battle-mighty; an ancient and very common Irish name, especially among the O'Connors of Connacht, O'Farrells, O'Reillys, O'Rourkes and Maguires; now generally anglicised Charles. This name features in the legend of Cathal the King: (Lady Wilde, Ancient Legends, Mystic Charms, and Superstitions of Ireland, 1888). Pronounced ‘Ka-hal’.
Ciarán, diminutive of ciar, black; the name of no fewer than fifteen Irish saints mentioned in the Martyrology of Donegal, of whom the best known are St. Kieran of Saighir, patron of the Diocese of Ossory, and St. Kieran, Abbot of Clonmacnoise and patron of that diocese. Their feasts occur respectively on 5th March and 9th September. Ciarán is still a common Christian name in Cape Clear and is also in use in parts of Connacht [1920s]. Pronounced ‘Keer-ran’.
Conchobhar, an ancient and very common Irish name, meaning ‘high will’ or ‘desire’; found in most Irish families; still very much in use, but generally anglicised Cornelius. John O'Hart in the O'Connor Faley no. 8 pedigree (Irish Pedigrees, 1892), however, gives the meaning of the name as ‘the helping warrior’. Pronounced ‘Kon-chav-ar’.
Diarmaid, Old Irish—Diarmait, comp. of di, without, and airmit, injunction, hence a freeman; an ancient and very common name, especially among the MacCarthys, MacDermotts, O'Briens, and O'Connors; still found in every part of Ireland [1920s], but generally anglicised Jeremiah. Eleven saints of the name are mentioned in the Martyrology of Donegal. John O'Hart in Irish Pedigrees, however, gives the meaning as ‘god of arms’. The name features in the legend of the Pursuit of Diarmuid and Grainne (Ethna Carbery, In the Celtic Past, 1904). Pronounced ‘Dear-mid’.
Eoghan, an ancient and rather common Irish name, explained as meaning ‘well-born’; still in use [1920s], but generally anglicised Eugene. The Revival of Irish Names (1886) from the Irish Fireside suggests that the meaning of Eoghan is ‘youthful warrior’ whereas John O'Hart in Irish Pedigrees, differs again by giving the meaning of Eoghan as ‘god of arms’. Pronounced ‘Oh-an’.
Fearghus, Celt. *Ver-gustu-s, super-choice, super-selection, Old Irish—Fergus; formerly a rather common name in Ireland and Scotland. Ten saints of the name are mentioned in the Martyrology of Donegal. John O'Hart in Irish Pedigrees, gives the meaning of Fearghus as ‘a strong warrior’. “Fergus, one of the chiefs who headed the migration of the Irish to the Western Highlands of Scotland” (Alfred Webb, Fergus, A Compendium of Irish Biography). Pronounced ‘Fear-gus’.
Niall, an ancient Irish name, specially common in Ulster among the O'Neills, O'Donnells, O'Dohertys, O'Boyles, &c.; still in use, but the genitive Néill is sometimes used instead of the nominative. The name is probably most famously represented in Irish history by Niall of the Nine Hostages (Alfred Webb, A Compendium of Irish Biography). John O'Hart in ‘Ancient Irish Proper Names’ (Irish Pedigrees, 1892) gives the meaning of the name Niall as a ‘noble knight’ or ‘champion’. Pronounced ‘Nile’ like the river.
Ruaidhrí, Teutonic—Hruodric, Norse—Rothrekr, fame-ruler; a name introduced by the Norsemen and which became very common in many Irish families; now often incorrectly anglicised Roger. Raidhrí and Reidhrí are dialectical variants. However, John O'Hart in ‘Ancient Irish Proper Names’ gives the meaning of the name Ruaidhri as ‘the valiant, or red-haired king’ Ruaidhri O'Conor, King of Connaught, was the last monarch of Ireland before the Anglo-Norman Invasion (Alice Stopford Green, Irish Nationality, 1911). Pronounced ‘Ruhr-ree’.
Séamus, literally ‘one who takes by the heel’ (Gen. XXV. 25, XXVII, 36), from yekeb, a heel, hence to trip up, defraud, supplant by subtlety; the name of the Jewish patriarch (Jacob) and of two of the Twelve Apostles; common among the Anglo-Norman settlers, and ever growing in popularity. It is in honour of St. James the Greater that the name is used in Ireland, as in Europe generally. The anglicised form James is derived from the Spanish Jayme. Pronounced ‘Shay-muss’.
Tadhg, an ancient and very common Irish name, meaning ‘poet’ or ‘philosopher’; still found in every part of Ireland [1920s], but now generally anglicised Timothy. St. Tadhg was martyred at Wurtzburg; his feast was kept on 8 July. The name of a 16th Century Irish bard, Blind Tadhg O'Higgin (Eleanor Hull, The Statute of Kilkenny (notes), A History of Ireland and Her People). Pronounced ‘Tige’ as in ‘tiger’.
For an extended list of Irish boys’s names see:
Back to page navigation
Aonghus, Celt. *Oino-gustu-s (from oinos, one, and gustus, choice), Old Irish—Oingus, genitive Oingusso, Middle Irish—Oengus, Aengus, genitive -gusa; an ancient and once common Irish name, frequent among the MacDonnells, O'Dalys, O'Leynes, &c.; sometimes shortened to Naos. Five saints of the name are mentioned in the Martyrology of Donegal. John O'Hart in ‘Ancient Irish Proper Names’ gives the meaning of the name Aonghus as ‘excellent strength’ Pronunciation varies greatly, but can approximate ‘Ang-us’ or ‘Aen-gus’.
Cairbre, Old Irish—Coirbre, charioteer; formerly a common name among the O'Farrells, O'Beirnes, &c.; in use in a few families down to recent times. Four saintly bishops of the name are mentioned in the Martyrology of Donegal. The Three Cairbres were important founders of tribes in Ireland (Margaret Anne Cusack, An Illustrated History of Ireland, 1868). Pronounced ‘Kar-bruh’.
Cormac, Old Irish—Corbmac, chariot-son, charioteer, or son of Corb; an ancient Irish name, very common among the MacCarthys, MacDermotts, MacDonoughs, Maguires, O'Clerys, O'Connors of Connacht, O'Donnells and O'Farrells; now generally anglicised Charles. Eight saints of the name are mentioned in the Martyrology of Donegal. Famous in Irish history, Cormac MacArt reigned for forty years in the 3rd Century as King of Ireland (Alfred Webb, Cormac MacArt, A Compendium of Irish Biography, 1878). Pronounced ‘Kor-mack’.
Donnchadh, Old Irish Donnchad, Dunchad, from Celt *Donno-catu-s, *Duno-catu-s, brown warrior, or strong warrior; an ancient and very common Irish name, still found in every part of the country [1920s], but generally anglicised Denis. The Scots make it Duncan. St. Dunchadh was Abbot of Iona; his feast was kept on 25th May. According to John O'Hart, “This name is more properly derived from the Clann Domhnaigh (see the “MacDonough” pedigree), and is anglicised Donogh and Denis, in Ireland; and Duncan, in Scotland.” (Ancient Irish Proper Names, Irish Pedigrees). Pronounced ‘Don-ah-ka’.
Eireamhón, an ancient Irish name, still in use in Cape Clear Island; now pronounced Eireamhán. Latin—Heremon, Eremon, -onis. Heremon was one of the first Milesian monarchs of Ireland and from him have descended many of the great Irish families: “The House of Heremon, from the number of its princes, or great families—from the multitude of its distinguished characters, as laymen or churchmen—and from the extensive territories acquired by those belonging to it, at home and abroad, or in Alba [Scotland] as well as in Ireland—was regarded as by far the most illustrious” (John O'Hart, The Line of Heremon, Irish Pedigrees, 1892). Pronounced ‘Ay-ra-von’.
Muircheartach, comp. of muir, sea, and ceart, right, meaning ‘sea-director,’ ‘expert at sea,’ ‘able navigator’; an ancient Irish name, common among the O'Briens, O'Connors, &c.; still in use [1920s], but generally anglicised Mortimer, with which it has no connection. Latin—Murchertachus. From Margaret Anne Cusack, Death of King Aengus, An Illustrated History of Ireland, 1868, we learn that “Muircheartach, A.D. 504, was the first Christian King of Ireland”. Pronounced (roughly) ‘Myur-er-tach’.
Tighernach, derivative of tighearna, a lord, and meaning ‘lordly’; an old Irish name, borne by four saints, of whom the best known is St. Tierney of Clones. The name of one of the most revered historians of Irish history: “Tighernach, Abbot of Clonmacnoise, historian and annalist, lived in the 11th century.” (Alfred Webb, Tigernach, A Compendium of Irish Biography, 1878). Sometimes pronounced ‘Tierna’.
Aifric, genitive -ice, Afric, Africa, Aphria; the name of two abbesses of Kildare, one of whom died in 738 and the other in 833; also in use in Scotland and the Isle of Man. It was a lady of this name, Africa, daughter of Godred, King of Man, and wife of John de Courcy, that founded the Cistercian Abbey, known as the Grey Abbey, in the Ards of Co. Down. Now very rare. Latin—Affrica, Africa.
Caoilfhionn, genitive -finne, Keelin; compound of caol, slender, and fionn, fair; the name of an Irish virgin saint who was venerated on 3rd February. Latin—Coelfinnia. Pronounced ‘Key-lin’.
Damhnait, feminine diminuitive of damh, a poet, corresponding to the masculine Damhán; the name of a celebrated Irish virgin who was martyred at Gheel in Belgium. She is patroness of Gheel where her feast is kept on 15th May. Can be pronounced ‘Dav-net’.
Fainche, the name of two saintly Irish virgins, one the sister of St. Enda of Aran and patroness of Rossory, on Lough Erne, whose feast was kept on 1 January; and the other patroness of Cluain-caoi, in the neighbourhood of Cashel, who was venerated on 21 of same month. Pronounced ‘Fon-cha’.
Gormfhlaith, compound of gorm, blue, and flaith, lady; still in use, but rare [1920s]. Gormflaith was the name of the wife of the famous Brian Boru: “It will be remembered that Brian had married the Lady Gormflaith … She was remarkable for her beauty, but her temper was proud and vindictive. There can be no doubt that she and her brother, Maelmordha, were the remote causes of the famous battle of Clontarf.” (Margaret Anne Cusack, An Illustrated History of Ireland, 1868). Pronounced ‘Gorm-lah’.
Lasairfhíona, compound of lasair, a flame, and fíona, of wine; an ancient Irish name, still in use in parts of Connacht [1920s]. Pronounced ‘Lah-sah-reen-ah’.
Sadhbh, an ancient Irish name, meaning ‘goodness’; still in use, but generally anglicised Sally. Sadhbh was a daughter of Brian Boru and Lady Gormflaith (see Gormfhlaith above). Pronounced ‘Sive’ (rhyming with ‘hive’) or ‘Soyv’.
For more old Irish names:
Back to page navigation
Below is a list of attractive names not included in the foregoing sections.
Ailbhe, genitive — id. (the same), Alby, Alvy, (Albert, Bertie); the name of the patron of the Diocese of Emly; revived in recent times, but the anglicised form is generally Albert (Bertie), which is incorrect. St. Ailbe died in 541. His feast is kept on 12 September. This name appears to have been applied to both sexes, see, for example, James Bonwick, ‘Magical Branch’ paragraph 2, Irish Druids and Old Irish Religions. Pronounced ‘Alba’ or ‘Aylba’.
Bran, an old and once common Irish name meaning ‘raven’; in use in the family of O'Byrne down to the middle of the 17th century or later. In the O'Byrne family pedigree, John O'Hart (Irish Pedigrees, 1892) gives the widely differing meaning (to Woulfe) of Bran as ‘impetuous as a mountain torrent’. Pronounced ‘Bran’.
Cian, an old Irish name, meaning ‘ancient’; common among the O'Haras and O'Garas of Connacht and the O'Carrolls of Ely, who, no doubt, took it from their great ancestor, Cian, the son of Olioll Olum, King of Munster, and among the O'Mahonys of South Munster, after their great ancestor, Cian, the son-in-law of Brian Boru, who led the forces of Desmond at the battle of Clontarf; still in use, but sometimes ridiculously anglicised Cain. Pronounced ‘Kee-an’.
Éamonn, Anglo-Saxon Eadmund, ‘blessed-protection’; the name of a saintly King of England, who was martyred on 20th November, 870; introduced into Ireland by the Anglo-Normans, where it has become very popular and has almost completely absorbed the other great Anglo-Saxon name Edward, the Irish Éamonn generally standing for both names. Usually pronounced ‘Ay-mon’ with ‘Ay’ rhyming with ‘hay’.
Flann, an ancient and once common Irish name, meaning ‘ruddy.’ It survived among the MacEgans and O'Mulconrys down to comparatively recent times. Several saints of the name are mentioned in the Martyrology of Donegal. Pronounced ‘Flann’.
Lochlainn, a name borrowed from the Northmen. The native home of the northern invaders was known to the Irish as Lochlainn, a name which is supposed to signify ‘Lakeland’ or ‘Fiordland.’ This was quickly adopted by the Irish as a personal name and became very popular. Dr. MacBain suggests that it was originally Maclochlainne ‘son of Scandinavia,’ hence a Scandinavian. It still survives, anglicised Loughlin and Laughlin. Pronounced ‘Lock-lan’.
Murchadh, Celt. *Mori-catu-s, sea-warrior; an ancient Irish name, formerly common in most Irish families, especially among the O'Briens, O'Flahertys, &c.; still in use [1920s], but generally anglicised Morgan. Brian Boru “… had a famous son, Murchadh, who destroyed all serpents to be found in Ireland.” (James Bonwick, Serpent Faith, Irish Druids and Old Irish Religions, 1894). Pronounced ‘Mur-ra-ha’.
Peadar, genitive -air, Peter; Latin—Petrus, rock; the name given by Christ to Simon, son of Jonas, whom He made Chief of the Apostles and the foundation-stone of His Church. This form of the name is comparatively recent, Piaras (which see) being the form previously in general use. Pronounced ‘Pad-der’.
Caoimhe, an Irish name, signifying ‘gentleness,’ ‘beauty,’ ‘grace,’ ‘courtesy’; borne by a Scoto-Irish saint whose feast-day is 2 November. Pronounced ‘Kee-vah’.
Fodhla, an ancient name for Ireland. Pronounced ‘Foala’ [F. A. Fahy, The Revival of Irish Names (1886)]. “… the country was ruled over by three Dedannan princes, who reigned each for one year in their turn. The names of their wives were Banbha, Fodhla and Eire. … they [the Milesians] desired to know her name, and she replied that her name was Fodhla, which was also the name of the island.” (John J. Marshall, Milesian names for the island, Popular Rhymes and Sayings of Ireland, 1924).
Ineen, meaning ‘daughter’ and pronounced ‘Innein’ [F. A. Fahy, The Revival of Irish Names (1886)]. “… and the widows and mothers of the great chiefs, among whom were the Ineen Dubh MacDonnell, mother of Hugh Roe …” (Eleanor Hull, The Plantation of Ulster, A History of Ireland and Her People).
Maoin. Meaning ‘wealth’ and pronounced ‘Mween’ [F. A. Fahy, The Revival of Irish Names (1886)].
Mealla, genitive idem (the same), Mella; the name of several holy women in ancient Ireland. Latin—Mella. Pronounced ‘Meh-lah’.
Sláine, an old Irish name, meaning ‘health’; common among the O'Briens. Pronounced ‘Slawn-yuh’.
Toiréasa, a name of uncertain origin; peculiar to Spain until the 16th century, when the fame of St. Teresa made it world-wide. Pronounced ‘Tur-rey-sah’.
Back to page navigation
From ‘Principal Surnames in Ireland’, Special Report on Surnames in Ireland (1909) by Robert Matheson. Clicking on the individual names will provide information on the surname distribution in Ireland taken from the Birth Indexes of 1890.
For the top 100 see:
In this section are featured some of the most popular pages from the site relating to Irish names and other names found in Ireland:
Irish clan names: “Besides personal names, our Irish ancestors had from an early period, and even from pre-historic times, a complete system of fixed clan-names by which each family-group and its subdivisions had its own distinct name.”
Over the centuries settlers from other races and nations introduced a variety of new names into Ireland:
Welsh Names in Ireland looks at the Welsh immigrants who made their way to Ireland and, in particular, the colony that settled in the baronies of Forth and Bargy, County Wexford.
In Varieties and Synonymes of Surnames and Christian Names in Ireland especially (see book section below) can be found evidence of how difficult the job of an Irish registrar was in the past and why it can be particularly difficult to trace some Irish relatives:
Names applied to both sexes gives some unusual cases of female Christian names applied to boys and vice versa.
Curious English Surnames is a light-hearted look at English names found in old directories.
Rev. Patrick Woulfe, 1923
Provides details not only of 100s of Irish forenames but also 1000s of surnames and names of clans in Ireland.
Robert E. Matheson, 1909
A great background to the types of names in Ireland as well as ‘… Notes as to Numerical Strength, Derivation, Ethnology, and Distribution; based on Information extracted from the Indexes of the General Register Office.’
Robert E. Matheson, 1901
A very useful resource for finding alternative spellings of different names and surnames, ‘For the Guidance of Registration Officers and the Public in searching the Indexes of Births, Deaths, and Marriages.’
Patraig Mac Giolla Domhnaigh
This book identifies many surnames in Ireland that have been transmuted from their original gaelic forms.
Tomas O Flannghaile, 1896
Eugene O'Growney, 1898
From The Irish Fireside, 1886
James MacGrady, 1853
From The Cabinet of Irish Literature, 1880
The audio resource below can be very useful for some names, but wildy inaccurate in others, so exercise caution and double-check with reliable sources for phonetic spelling: