Last-modified: 25 Sep 99
Part nine of ten.
Frequently Asked Questions on soc.culture.irish with answers.
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1) Does anyone have a list of Irish first names?
2) How do you pronounce that?
3) Are there any books of Irish names?
4) I'm looking for information about a family name.
Subject: 1) Does anyone have a list of Irish first names?
Yes, here are four such lists. The names are separated into
girl's names and boy's names. These are further separated into a
"conservative" list and a more "general" list. The "conservative"
list includes only names acceptable to purists, meaning that
they are of Irish origin and are spelled correctly according
to modern Irish usage. The "general" list includes names from
various sources such as postings, birth and death columns.
The "general" list includes different variant spellings of the
same name on the same line. Not all of these spellings are
strictly speaking correct but they have been or are still used.
I have put the Anglicised spellings last; they are, however,
popular and give English speakers a clue how to pronounce
Where an "equivalent" English name is given, this does _not_ mean
the Irish name is derived from or even related to the English
"equivalent". It just means that the English name has been used
traditionally when a translation was desired.
Irish pronunciation is difficult to work out from the spelling
and Irish names are no exception. In most cases, Irish names
are not pronounced the way they look to an English speaker.
The most notorious case of this is "Caitlín", which is _not_
pronounced "Kate-Lynn". See the (sketchy) pronunciation
It's also worth mentioning here that Fiona Hyland maintains
a page with Irish first names at
that includes pronunciations for each name.
Girl's Names (Conservative)
Bríd (dim. Brídín)
Fionnuala (dim. Nuala)
Sadhbh (dim. Saidhbhín)
Girl's Names (General)
[ ~ Engl. denotes the traditional English equivalent.
= Engl. denotes the English translation ]
Áine (~ Engl. Anne)
Aoife (~ Engl. Eve)
Bláithníd (~ Engl. Florence)
Bláithín (~ Engl. Florence)
Caitríona Catriona (= Engl. Catherine)
Cáit (= Engl. Kate)
Dearbhaile [same as below?]
Derbhle Deirbhle Dearbhla Dervla
Eibhlín Eileen Aileen
Eilis Ailis Aelish (~ Engl. Elizabeth)
Gobnait Gobnat (~ Engl. Deborah)
Gráinne (~ Engl. Grace)
Laoise (~ Engl. Louise)
Máire Maura (= Engl. Mary)
Máiréad (~ Engl. Margaret)
Máirín Maureen (= Engl. Mary [dimuntive at the end -- "little Mary"])
Medbh Maedhbh Maeve
Orlaith Órla Órfhlaith Orla
Róis (~ Engl. Rose)
Saibh Saidhbh Sive
Sinéad (~ Engl. Jane)
Siobhán (~ Engl. Joan)
Treasa (= Engl. Theresa)
Tríona (short for Catriona?)
Úna Oonagh Oona (~ Engl. Winifred [or Agnes for the English spellings?])
Boy's Names (Conservative)
Colm (dim. Colmán)
Boy's Names (General)
Aodán Aodhagán Aidan
Cathal (~ Engl. Charles)
Caoimhín Caoimhghin Kevin
Cruchuar Conchúr Conchubhar Conor
Dáithí (= Engl. David)
Diarmaid Diarmuid Dermot
Donagh Donncha Donnchadh
Eamonn Éamon (~ Engl. Edward)
Eoghan Eoin Owen
Gabhan Gavan Gavin
Gearóid (~ Engl. Gerard, Gerry)
Liam (~ Engl. William)
Niall Neil Neill
Pádraic Pádraig (= Engl. Patrick)
Peadar (= Engl. Peter)
Proinsias (= Engl. Francis, Frank)
Seán (= Engl. John)
Séamas Séamus (Engl. James)
Seóirse (Engl. George)
Tadhg (~ Engl. Timothy)
Tomás (= Engl. Thomas)
Some names I'm not sure of
Are these Irish? If so, what is the canonical Irish spelling?
Subject: 2) How do you pronounce that?
You may have noticed that there's a fair bit of duplication
above. There are anglicised spellings, Irish spellings and
slight variations of the same name, even in the modern Irish
spelling. Some of the variations are probably regional. This
guide is, needless to say, incomplete and may contain serious
Here are approximate transiliterations for the letters that
don't exist in English. The slash above the letter is called a
fada in Irish, meaning long, because it lengthens the vowel).
á = aw - awe, crawl (a - flat in Ulster)
é = ay - hay, bray
í = ee - feed, creep
ó = o - owe, flow
ú = oo - cool, fool (more like the French word for "where")
Some of the consonants are pronounced differently.
s = sh (when it is in the stressed syllable)
bh = v
dh = g
mh = w
th = h
Note that the letters j,k,q,v,w,x,y,z do not occur in Irish.
The letter c is always pronounced hard, as in cow, never soft
as in cigarette.
Irish spelling insists on grouping "fat" vowels and "thin"
vowels when they are separated by a consonant. The fat vowels
are a, o and u. The thin vowels are e and i. So if a word
would have a fat vowel followed by a consonant (or several)
followed by a thin vowel breaks the rule: a vowel must be
inserted to balance the spelling. Thus "Osín" is wrong; it must
be "Oisín"; "Sibhán" must be turned into "Siobhán". The
extra letter is generally silent.
Subject: 3) Are there any books of Irish names?
Title: Irish Names
Author: Donncha Ó Corráin & Fidelma Maguire
Publisher: Lilliput 1990
ISBN: 0 946640 66 1
Title: Irish Names for Children
Author: Patrick Woulfe, revised by Gerard Slevin
Publisher Gill & Macmillan, Dublin, 1974 reprinted 1994
ISBN: 0 7171 0697 7
Title: An Sloinnteoir Gaeilge agus an tAinmnitheoir
Author: Muiris Ó Droighneáin
Publisher: Coiscéim 1995
Title: The Book of Irish Saints
Author: Eoin Neeson
Publisher: Mercier 1967
Subject: 4) I'm looking for information about a family name.
(Where does it come from? What does it mean?)
Soc.culture.irish is not really the right place for questions
like these, but read on.
If you don't mind doing a bit of research of
your own, the Irish Times has a a guide that you
might find useful. You'll find it on the web at
There are several genealogy newsgroups. If you are looking
for information on a particular surname, you might want
to try soc.genealogy.surnames.ireland. Fair warning:
this is a moderated newsgroup, you _must_ read the FAQ
before posting a message. This FAQ can be found at
http://www.rootsweb.com/~surnames/ireland-intro (A more
general FAQ on all the surnames newsgroups can be found at
If you are interested in general discussion about researching
Irish family names, you could try soc.genealogy.ireland
(as of early 1999 this newsgroup does not seem to
have become very popular yet). If you have access
to the web, have a look at the Genealogy Meta FAQ at
End of Irish FAQ part 9