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Irish FAQ: Irish Names [9/10]

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Archive-name: cultures/irish-faq/part09
Last-modified: 25 Sep 99
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Part nine of ten.

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Irish Names

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 the name. 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 guide below. 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) Áine Aisling Aoibheann Aoife Bláthnaid Bríd (dim. Brídín) Clíona Dearbháil Deirbhile Deirdre Doireann Éadaoin Eithne Fionnuala (dim. Nuala) Gráinne Íde Méabh Muireann Niamh Órlaith Sadhbh (dim. Saidhbhín) Sorcha Úna Girl's Names (General) [ ~ Engl. denotes the traditional English equivalent. = Engl. denotes the English translation ] Girl's Names Áine (~ Engl. Anne) Aisling Aislinn Aoibheann Aoife (~ Engl. Eve) Blathnat Bláithníd (~ Engl. Florence) Bláithín (~ Engl. Florence) Bríd Caitríona Catriona (= Engl. Catherine) Caoímhe Keeva Caoilfhionn Clíona Cliodhna Cáit (= Engl. Kate) Cáitlin Kathleen Ciara Clodagh Críosa Dáiríe Deirdre Daoirdre Dearbhaile [same as below?] Derbhle Deirbhle Dearbhla Dervla Eadaoín Aideen Eibhlín Eileen Aileen Eilis Ailis Aelish (~ Engl. Elizabeth) Eimear Emer Eithne Fionnuala Fionula Gobnait Gobnat (~ Engl. Deborah) Gráinne (~ Engl. Grace) Liadán Laoise (~ Engl. Louise) Máire Maura (= Engl. Mary) Máiréad (~ Engl. Margaret) Máirín Maureen (= Engl. Mary [dimuntive at the end -- "little Mary"]) Medbh Maedhbh Maeve Muireann Muirin Neassa Nóirín Noreen Nuala Niamh Neasa Orlaith Órla Órfhlaith Orla Ríonach Róis (~ Engl. Rose) Róisín Saibh Saidhbh Sive Sinéad (~ Engl. Jane) Siobhán (~ Engl. Joan) Síle Sheila Siún Sorcha Treasa (= Engl. Theresa) Tríona (short for Catriona?) Úna Oonagh Oona (~ Engl. Winifred [or Agnes for the English spellings?]) Boy's Names (Conservative) Aodh Aodhán Breandán Brian Caoimhín Cathal Ciarán Cillian Colm (dim. Colmán) Conchúr Cormac Dáithí Déaglán Deasún Diarmaid Donncha Dónall Eoghan Fearghal Fearghas Féilim Fiachra Fionnbharr Lorcán Niall Oisín Ruairí Rónán Tadhg Toirealach Boy's Names (General) Aonghus Aongus Aodán Aodhagán Aidan Breandán Brendan Brían Brefni Breffni Cathal (~ Engl. Charles) Cian Ciarán Kieran Cilian Killian Caoimhín Caoimhghin Kevin Colm Colum Cormac Cruchuar Conchúr Conchubhar Conor Dáire Darragh Dáithí (= Engl. David) Deaglán Declan Diarmaid Diarmuid Dermot Donagh Donncha Donnchadh Dónal Donal Eamonn Éamon (~ Engl. Edward) Eoghan Eoin Owen Enda Feargal Fergus Fiachra Fionnbár Finbarr Fionntán Fintan Fionn Gabhan Gavan Gavin Gearóid (~ Engl. Gerard, Gerry) Guaire Iarla Jarlath Liam (~ Engl. William) Lilis Mícheál Naoise Nessan Nessun Niall Neil Neill Oisín Oscar Osgur Pádraic Pádraig (= Engl. Patrick) Peadar (= Engl. Peter) Proinsias (= Engl. Francis, Frank) Ronan Ronán Ruairí Rory Ruairc Ruán Seán (= Engl. John) Séamas Séamus (Engl. James) Seóirse (Engl. George) Tadhg (~ Engl. Timothy) Tiarnán Tomás (= Engl. Thomas) Turlough Uinsin Ultan Some names I'm not sure of Ulick 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 mistakes. 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?) 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 (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 ***********************

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Ivan Brookes

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