We've already seen the stats for the most popular names in Northern Ireland in 2015 and the good old English favourites James, Jack, Emily and Ella reign. There are also plenty of lists of "Irish Names" floating around the internet, and we often look at how popular they are in England, America or elsewhere in the Western world. But, I often think, what are the most popular Irish names used currently in their native homeland?
I am using data from Northern Ireland rather than the Republic of Ireland for two reasons. Firstly, NI has a wider range of official data where Ireland only lists the top 100. Secondly, well...this blog is called British baby names, so it makes sense.
The most popular "Irish" name in the chart, at #17, is Conor which has been in the top 10 twelve times since 1997. It is also the most popular "Irish" name in Ireland, having ranked in the top 5 there since 1998.
Conor and Connor are actually the anglicised forms of the old Irish name Conchobhar which was popular in the middle ages and borne by several Irish kings and nobles. It was famously borne by Conchobhar mac Nessa, the legendary King of Ulster in Irish mythology. The origin is unclear. The first element could derive from either the Proto-Celtic *kwon "hound, dog" or *kuno "high"; the second could be from *kar-o "love" or *barro "point, top."
The spelling Connor ranks #102 and Conchur (the modern spelling of Conchobhar) is #342.
Oisín was a great poet and warrior in Irish legend, son of the mighty Finn MacCool, whose mother was transformed into a deer both before and after his birth. Appropriately, the name derives from the Irish os "deer" with the diminutive suffix -in -- therefore "little deer."
Oisin ranks #19 in Northern Ireland and #13 in Ireland.
Ranking at #21, Ryan is an anglicised form of the Irish surname O'Riain meaning "descendant of Rian."
Rian may derive from ri "king" + diminutive suffix -an ("little king") or rian "sea, course, route." Though the former is the most popular etymology, the latter is now gaining more weight. The oldest recorded form of the surname is O'Maoilriain meaning "descendant of Maolrian." The first element maol "devotee, follower," was often attached to either names of saints or earlier pagan gods, so it is quite likely Rian was the name of an ancient water god.
Cillian ranks at #25 and variant spelling Killian at #179. Both rank in Ireland's top 100 (#20 and #80 respectively).
Cillian is the anglicised form of Ceallachán [KAL-əkh-awn] -- also the route of the surname Callaghan -- which itself was an Old Irish diminutive form of Ceallach. It was originally thought that Ceallach was derived from ceall "church" but is more likely to be cenn "head" and luach "bright, value, worth."
Ranking at #31, Darragh and alternate spellings Dara (#100), Daire (#102) and Daragh (#222) derives either from the Old Irish dair "oak" or dáir "bulling"/ dairid "to bull." In Irish mythology, Daire mac Fiachna owned the Brown Bull of Cooley, and his refusal to loan his bull to Queen Medb was part of the reason for the fight between Ulster and Connacht. It was likely the name of an ancient god of bull/fertility or of the oak tree.
Shea (#33) and Shay (#201) are Irish surnames, shortened from O'Shea (Ó Séaghdha). The Old Irish seaghdha "learned" (from seagh "regard, esteem, strength") was first used as a byname and later became a surname.
This legendary Irish name Finn ranks #37 with indigenous spelling Fionn at #43. It was borne by the heroic Finn MacCool of Irish mythology and derives from the Gaelic fionn "white, shining."
Both names are top 50 favourites in Ireland as well -- Fionn at #26 and Finn #32.
An Irish staple, derived from rón "seal" + -an ("little seal"), made known to the rest of Britain thanks to Boyzone's Ronan Keating.
Ronan ranks at #37 in NI and #64 in Ireland -- very close to its 1964 rank at #67.
Ostensibly, Oscar derives from the Old Irish os "deer" and cara "friend; lover of" though it could be Germanic in origin, brought early to Ireland by the Vikings. Oscar appears in Irish mythology as the grandson of Finn MacCool and was used in the middle ages, particularly picking up with the fame of Oscar Wilde.
Oscar ranks #40 in NI and #46 in Ireland.
The Irish Gaelic form of John, in use as a given name in its own right since the 19th century. It ranks #40 in Northern Ireland while it is #5 in Ireland, having been in the top 5 there for a decade.
Another Gaelic form of John (more directly from the Latin form Johannes) which is used in both Ireland and Scotland. It ranks #47 in NI and #46 in Ireland.
Ranking #49 in NI and #66 in Ireland, Odhran is an early Irish name borne by several saints, including one who preceded St Columba as bishop of Iona. It derives from odhar "pale, dun-coloured" + -an.
The anglicised spelling Oran ranks #142.
Liam is a longstanding Irish shortform of William, in use as a name in its own right since the 19th century. It ranks #54 in NI and #15 in Ireland (a rise from its rank of #54 in 1964).
As with Connor, Conán is an old Celtic name, derived from wither the Proto-Celtic *kwon "hound, dog" or *kuno "high" with the diminutive -an suffix. It was borne by at least six Irish saints and two members of the fianna warrior band in the Fenian Cycle of Irish mythology. It ranks #64 in NI but not in Ireland's top 100.
An old Irish name, borne by two early saints, derived from caol "slender" + diminutive suffix -an.
Caolan ranks #67 and variants Caelan and Keelan rank #159 and #222 respectively.
Made more widely famous by Westlife's Kian Egan, Cian ranks #67 in NI and #18 in Ireland. Spelling variant Kian ranks at #126.
The name derives from cian meaning "ancient, enduring" which was borne by several figures in Irish legend.
A very popular name in early Ireland, which was borne by saints and several figures in Irish legend. Cormac now ranks at #67 in NI and #76 in Ireland.
The meaning is unclear. It could be related to the Old French corb "raven" or cairb "charioteer" with the diminutive suffic -ac. An alternate theory is that it derives from the obscure early literary name Corbb (possibly from corbbaid "defiles") combined with mac "son of."
Lorcán [LAW-kən / LAW-kawn]
Borne by two early Irish kings, and deriving from the Old Irish lorcc "fierce," Lorcan ranks #71 in NI and #100 in Ireland.
A very common Irish name since the early Middle Ages. It has been borne by over twenty Irish saints, notable St Aidan of Lindisfarne who converted most of Northern England. It is a diminutive of Aodh (Aed) "fire," a name found frequently in Irish myth and legend.
Aodhan ranks #72, Aidan #89, Aiden #201 and Aodan #415.
Thought to derive from the Old Irish daith "swift, nimble." It ranks at #77 in Northern Ireland but doesn't rank in Ireland's top 100.
The anglicised form of the Gaelic name Ruaidhri, derived from ruadh "red" and ri "king."
Rory ranks #80 in NI and #66 in Ireland. The variant Ruairi ranks #118 and #93 in each country respectively.
The anglicised form of the Irish surnames Ó Cuidighthigh "descendant of a helpful person" and Mac Óda "son of Oda." It isn't clear what Oda means, but some believe it is an early Irish form of the Germanic name Otto/Odo.
Cody ranks #95 in NI.
Ranking #95 in NI and #91 in Ireland, Niall is an ancient name of Irish legend.
The name's etymology is unclear. It could derive from nial "cloud," niadh "honour, veneration," or niach "champion."
Ciarán [KEER-ən / KEER-awn]
Ciaran ranks at #97 and anglicised form Kieran ranks #201. It is a diminutive form of Ciar "dark, black, shadowy," and in use since the early medieval period.
Eoghan is a truly ancient name, the Irish cognate to Welsh Owen and Scottish Ewan. For years it has been connected with the Greek Eugenios "well born," but now scholars favour a Celtic origin.
The name ranks #100 in NI and #56 in Ireland.
An old Irish name, with even deeper ancient Celtic origins. The first element is either the Proto-Celtic *kwon "hound, dog" or *kuno "high." The second is walo "prince, chief."
Conall ranks #117 and Conal is #156.
The Irish Gaelic form of Patrick, itself from the Latin Patricius "nobleman."
The "English" form Patrick ranks #29, Padraig is #121 and the phonetic Pauric is #415.
Caoimhín [KEE-vin (NI) / KWEE-vin (Ir) / KEE-veen]
Caoimhín is the middle Irish form of the Old Irish Caemgen, borne by two early Irish saints. The name derives from caem "beautiful, loveliness, grace, gentleness, tender, beloved" and gein "birth."
The name was anglicised as Kevin (which ranks at #139), while Caoimhín ranks #133.
Cahir is a phonetic form of the Old Irish Cathair (Cathaoir in modern Irish Gaelic). The name is made up of cath "battle" and fer "man" e.g. "battle-lord" or "warrior."
Cahir ranks #150, Cathair #222 and Cathaoir #237.
The anglicised form of the Irish surname Ó Floinn meaning "decendant of Flann." Flann itself is a Old Irish name derived from flann "blood red, dark red, crimson." It was quite a popular early Irish name, borne by many notable men and even a few women.
Flynn ranks at #150.
Tiernan [TEER-nən / TEER-nawn]
Tiernan is the anglicised form of the Irish surname Ó Tighearnain meaning "descendant of Tighearnán." Tighearnán itself derives from tighearna "lord, chief" with the diminutive suffix -án.
Tiernan ranks #159 and the modern Irish form Tiarnán ranks #201.
Senán [SEN-ən / SEN-awn]
The name of several early Irish saints, traditionally derived from sen "old" + -án. Senan ranks #166 in NI and #60 in Ireland.
Like Cathair, Cathal derives from cath "battle" combined with val "rule, leader." This makes it cognate with the Welsh Cadwal/Cadwallon.
Cathal ranks #169, while the phonetic form Cahal ranks #415. In Ireland Cathal ranks #69.
Enda is the anglicised form of the early Irish name Énna (modern Éanna), borne by early kings and a saint. The name is thought to derive from ean "bird."
Enda ranks #169.
Finlay and Finley are the anglicised forms of the old Irish name Findláech (modern Fionnlagh), derived from the Old Irish find "white, bright" and láech "one who carries arms, warrior, hero."
Finlay ranks #169 and Finley ranks #187.
Rossa is a name which seems to have recently come into fashion in Northern Ireland, though it was used in the 15th and 16th century as a genitive form of Ross. Ross is a Celtic place name, found in Ireland and elsewhere in the Celtic-speaking world, which derives from the Proto-Celtic *frosso "height, elevated land."
Both Rossa and Ross rank jointly at #169 in Northern Ireland.
Rowan itself isn't specifically Irish; it is a name of the mountain-ash tree. It has for a long time, however, been used as an anglicised form of the Irish surname Ó Ruadháin meaning "descendant of Ruadhán."
Ruadhán itself was derived from ruadh "red" + the diminutive suffix -án.
Rowan ranks #179 and Ruadhan is #319.
Donal is a modern form of the Old Irish Domnall / Domhnall, a popular name in early Ireland. Its origins lie in the Proto-Celtic*dubno "deep, world" and *walo "prince, chief."
Donal ranks #187.
An old Irish name, derived from donn "brown, brown-haired," and cath "battle."
Donnacha ranks #211, and Donncha and Donnchadh tie at #314.
The modern Irish form of the ancient Irish name Fáelán, derived from fáel "wolf" and the diminutive suffix -án.
Faolan ranks #222.
Names ending in -an can either be pronounced 'ən' or 'awn' depending on whether there is a fada over the a. The fada elongates the 'a' sound.
Where there is more than one pronunciation listed this is due to regional variations. 'OA' for example can be an 'ee', 'ay', 'wee' or 'way' sound. For example, Caoimhin is KEE-vin in Northern Ireland and KWEE-vin in Ireland.