This was submitted as a three-part message to Celtic-L by Bruce L. Jones.
Names of Ireland
The story of Irish names is inextricably woven with her history. Many "real" Irish names predate christianity, their origins residing along with the ancient Celtic origins of Gaelach (Ireland) before the Gaels settled there in the 3rd century BC. Some of these names are based upon, or directly derived from, the ancient pagan religions, myths, legends and superstitions of the Gaels. More modern naming influences were derived from the introduction of christianity to the Emerald Isle after the arrival of St. Patrick, patron saint of Ireland, in approximately 432 A.D. From this time forward the adoption of Roman Catholicism heavily influenced the choices the Irish people made in naming their progeny. The evolution of the legends surrounding the native Irish aristocracy, her kings, queens and others, gave rise to yet more inspiration. Yet, with all of these changes the names still remained true to their Gaeilge origins. The tragedy of later conquest made the most drastic changes.
For many centuries the Irish people held off invasion and conquest by the sheer ferocity of her warriors. Not even the Romans dared to invade though they had subjugated all of Europe and nearby England (Which they called Albion). The Danes came for a time, founding Dublin, for example. Later though, it was primarily the British who desired Irish soil.
After centuries of resistence, Ireland's freedom finally fell to the persistence of a Britain bent on expansion. This eventually led to something euphemistically called the "Plantation of Ireland" which was, in reality, the colonization and conquest of Ireland by the English from 1556 to about 1660. There were many rebellions against the plantation by the Irish people, but all met with eventual failure. The final ugly stages of the conquest took place under Oliver Cromwell. In the British attempt to end the rebellions of the Irish and degrade the influence of the catholic church, Oliver Cromwell carried the effects of the English civil war to Ireland. He murdered one-quarter of the Irish Catholic population in the 1650's and subsequently sold untold thousands of Irish Catholics into slavery in the West Indies (as a result, many Irish despise the name Oliver to this day). This British stranglehold was further solidified under the rule of William III (William of Orange), who defeated a serious attempt at rebellion at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690.
As a result of these defeats, Irish lands and property were forfeit and all things that made up the richness of native Irish culture were banned. The Irish language itself was made illegal: to speak, write or use. Thus, their very names were outlawed; replaced wholesale by English names or gaelicizations of English names supplied by their oppressors. (Even the term "Gaelic" is an English language version of the Welsh word for the Gaels. In Éirinn their word for the language is Gaeilge - pronounced gaelgi). Of course, the unoppressable spirit of the Irish people would not let their culture die completely. The language clung to a tenuous life in "hedge schools" where many taught their native culture and language to successive generations of Irish. However, by law, English names still prevailed.
This was the situation when the majority of Irish emigration occurred in the century after 1820 when, spurred on by the great potato famine, more than four million Irish immigrants moved to the United States, never to return home. With them they brought their Irish Catholic monikers we are all so familiar with: Michael, John, Paul, Matthew, William, Patrick, Mary, Margaret, Kathleen, Patricia, Elizabeth and Anne. These, however, were not true Irish names, but the names decreed by their English oppressors. The Irish language was still outlawed so the anglicization of their names continued.
During the intervening centuries of oppression the Irish people had never given up their hope of freedom. A fear eventually arose among the educated of Ireland that the language might die. As a result, The Gaelic League (Conradh na Gaeilge) was formed in 1893 with the primary goal of rejuvenating Gaeilge. Thus also began a renewed interest in truly Irish names.
Rebellions among the discontented Irish continued to spring up and were savagely suppressed by the British until the Easter Rising of 1916. After its failure the rebellion's leaders were executed, but this created sentiments which led to guerrilla warfare against the British army from 1918 to 1921. During this time the Irish Republican Army (IRA) was formed in 1919. This continuing rebellion finally brought about a partition of Ireland, in 1921, into northern and southern halves. Southern Ireland finally became the Irish Free State while Northern Ireland remained under the rule of the United Kingdom where the IRA (and Sinn Féin) still actively campaign for a free and reunified Ireland.
Southern Ireland finally changed her name officially to Éire in 1937 when the partition was ratified, the first official name in the native language in nearly three-hundred years. Then, in 1949, Éire also became known as the Republic of Ireland, with Gaeilge as the first official language, with English as the second. This rekindled an ever growing interest in true Gaeilge names. It is with this interest in mind that this booklet has been compiled. Considering the above, it is a wonder, and a tribute to the tenacity of the Irish people that any of their traditional names endured.
Thus, Ireland today not only uses her native names from Gaeilge but adopted foreign names transmuted into pseudo-Gaeilge names (Gaelicizations) and anglicized versions of Gaeilge names.
The sources used to compile the contents of this booklet are listed in the bibliography. It is hoped this booklet will aid in understanding the confusing subject of Irish names.
Table of Contents
KINGS, QUEENS, HEROES AND HEROINES
THE LEGEND OF FINN MACCÚMHAILL
Where they are different from the english, the pronunciations are given in parenthesis.
Christina CRISTIONA (Kristeena)
Non-Irish Name Irish-Gaelgae Version (Pronunciation)
Adam ADHAMH (Awv)
Original Irish (Pronunciation) English Equivalent
ÁINE (Anya) Anna, Anne, Hannah
Original Irish (Pronounciation) English Equivalent
MAJOR INDEX OF IRISH NAMES
What follows is the major index of Irish names. These do not contain the anglo names used in Ireland, some of which are in a seperate section. The names most popular in modern day Ireland have been set in bold face type as a reference. Names that also happen to be those of saints are set in bold italic type face while the less popular names of saints are set in plain italic type face. Both the Gaeilge and anglo spelling are used. The pronunciations are an attempt to duplicate the Gaeilge with modern English sounds.
GAEILGE NAME PRONUNCIATION
GAEILGE NAME PRONUNCIATION
NAMES FROM MYTHS AND LEGENDS
Ireland and it's people are rich in myths, legends and folk tales that range from the pagan gods and goddesses of the ancients to their ancient kings and queens to the fairies who live in the roots of old trees. Many of these characters are derived from the story of the legendary hero, Finn MacCúmhaill (pronounced MacCool), a thumbnail of which is givin at the end of the booklet. These are some of the main characters:
ACHALL (Akil): Daughter of the legendary warrior Cairbre Nia Fer; she died of sorrow when her brother was killed.
AÍ ( I ): Aí the Arrogant, daughter of Finn MacCúmhaill, who refused to marry any man who wasn't Irish.
AÍBELL (Evil): A pagan name of one of the ancient Irish goddesses. In various stories, she is the fairy who appears to Brian Boru on the eve of battle, the daughter of a warrior, and the daughter of a king of Munster.
AILBHE (Elva): One legendary Ailbhe was a daughter of the fairy king Midir; another was a daughter of Cormac mac Art and one of the four best lovers in Ireland.
ÁINE (Anya): The name of many legendary heroines: Primarily the Goddess of Love. Also a fairyqueen; lover of the sea god who took her to the Land of Promise; daughter of the king of Scotland who would sleep with no man but Finn, whom she married and with whom she bore two sons.
AINNIR (Aneer): A character in the Finn tales.
BÁINE (Banya): Daughter of the legendary ancestor of Ireland's kings.
BANBHA (Banva): The name of an early Irish goddess.
BEARRACH (Barock): A character of legendary generosity, and the third wife of Finn.
BÉIBHINN (Bevin): One legendary Beibhinn was daughter of the king of the Otherworld; another Beibhinn was the mother of the hero slain by Cuchulainn.
BINN (Bin): A fairy-woman.
BLÁTHNAT (Blawnit): Wife of a West Munster hero, she betrayed her husband and was killed by his poet.
BÓINN (Boyne): Wife and mother of gods; goddess of the Boyne.
BUANANN (Boonan): A goddess; also a mother who tutored warriors in arms.
CAINNLEACH (Konlock): Foster mother of an Ulster hero, she died of sorrow when her son was slain.
CAIRREAN (Karen): Daughter of the king of the Britons, mother of Niall of the Nine Hostages, and legendary ancestress of the High Kings of Ireland.
CATHACH (Kahock): A legendary female warrior.
CEIBHIONN (Ke-uin): Daughter of a fairy.
CEARA (Kyra): Wife of a legendary invader of Ireland.
CIARNAIT (Keernat): Mistress of the legendary king Cormac mac Art.
CLÍDNA (Kleena): The name of three mythical heroines: a Tuatha de Danann, who gave her name to one of the three great waves of Ireland; one of the three beautiful daughters of Libra, poet to the sea god; and a fairy-woman to the MacCarthy clan.
CLOTHRA (Klora): Sister of legendary queen Maeve.
COCHRANN (Kokran): Mother of Dermot, the greatest lover in Irish legend, who eloped with Grania, Finn MacCúmhaill's beloved.
CRÉD (Kree): The name of several legendary queens and princesses, most notably the daughter of Cairbre, king of Ciarraige, who fell in love with the warrior Cáel and died of sorrow when he was slain in battle.
CRÓCHNAIT (Kroaknit): Mother of the Fenians Diarmaid and Oscar.
DÁIRlNE (Dorina): The daughter of a legendary king.
DANA (Dayna): Pagan goddess who bestowed her name on the Tuatha De Danaan, the legendary early inhabitants of Ireland.
DAROVA (Darowva): A legendary princess.
DEIRDRE (Deerdra): Heroine of the tragic legend, she was betrothed to the king of Ulster but eloped with one of the three sons of Uisneach, all of whom were then killed by the king.
DELLA (Della): Came to Ireland in a legendary invasion.
DOIREANN (Dorren): Daughter of the fairy king Midir.
DRAIGEN (Drain): Wife of the legendary ancestor of the kings of Munster.
DUNLA (Doonla): Daughter of the warrior Regamon.
EABHA (Eva): A wife of Nemed, legendary invader of Ireland; also, a Fenian heroine who was drowned at sea.
EACHNA (Ahkna): Daughter of a king, she was reputed to be one of most beautiful and intelligent women in the world.
EACHTACH (Ahktock): A daughter of the great lovers Grania and Dermot.
EADAN (Aaden): The name of Cuchulainn's mistress as well as of the daughter of the mythical god of healing.
EIBHLEANN (Evlin): A mythical spirit who gave her name to a mountain range.
ÉILE (Ayla): Sister of Queen Maeve.
EITHNE (Enna): One of the most popular names of legend. Eithne was, variously, mother of the god Lug, wife of Conn of the Hundred Battles, and wife of Cormac mac Art. The name has been anglicized as Anne, Annie, and Ena.
ÉMER (Ever): Wife of the hero Cuchulainn.
EÓRANN (Oran): A legendary queen.
ÉRNE (Airna): A princess after whom Lough Erne is named.
ÉTAIN (Aideen): A lover of Midir, a male fairy.
EVEGREN (Evegren): Daughter of the tragic Deirdre and Nóise.
FAIFE (Fafuh): Daughter of Ailill and Queen Maeve.
FAÍLENN (Feelin): A princess and the mother of Eithne, wife of the king of Cashel.
FAINCHE (Fanny): One name of the Irish goddess of war; also a mythical saint who, when threatened with marriage, jumped into Lough Érne and swam underwater to the sea.
FANN (Fan): Wife of the sea god.
FÉTHNAT (Faynit): Musician to the Tuatha de Danann.
FIAL (Feel): Emer's sister and also a goddess.
FIDELMA (Fedelm): The name of several legendary queens, princesses, and great beauties.
FINNABAIR (Fenoor): A daughter of Queen Maeve and Ailill. This name is related to the Welsh Guinevere and, therefore, Jennifer.
FINNCHÁEM (Finkeev): Alternately, the wife of Cian; the mother of the hero Conall Cearnach; and the daughter of one fairy king and the wife of another.
FINNCHNES (Finknis): In the Finn stories, the daughter of a king and also a robe-maker for the Fianna.
FÍNSCOTH (Finscot): Cuchulainn's daughter.
FITHIR (Fiteer): The daughter of a legendary king.
FLIDAIS (Flidish): Daughter of Ailill Finn, the legendary Connacht king, she fell in love with an exiled warrior.
FODLA (Fola): Wife of the god Mac Cecht whose name is another name for Ireland.
GEILÉIS (Galays): The daughter of a legendary king of Connacht.
GRANIA (Granya): Finn MacCúmhaill's betrothed, who eloped with Diarmaid.
GRIAN (Green): A daughter of Finn MacCúmhaill.
ISEULT (Eesold): Irish princess who was the lover of Tristan in the Arthurian legend.
IUCHRA (Oocra): She turned Aoife, her rival, into a heron.
LÍADAN (Leedan): Mother of St. Ciaran who, according to legend, conceived him when a star fell into her mouth.
LONNÓG (Lawnog): She was kind to Mad Sweeney, the mythical wild bird-man.
LÚGACH (Loo-ock): A daughter of Finn MacCúmhaill.
MACHA (Mocka): A war goddess of the Tuatha de Danann; another legendary Macha is called "Macha of the red hair".
MÁEN (Men): Daughter of Conn of the Hundred Battles; another Máen was a king's daughter and mother of a legendary judge.
MAEVE (Mayv): The legendary queen of Connacht who led an invasion of Ulster.
MARGO: The mother of the beautiful Étain.
MELL: The legendary mother of seven saints.
MONCHA (Munka): A pagan goddess.
MONGFIND (Munfin): One Mongfind was daughter of king of the Picts; another Mongfind was a daughter of the king of Scotland and Ireland.
MUGAIN (Moon): The name of a queen or goddess.
MUIREACHT (Mirockt): The wife of the king of Tara.
MUIREANN (Mearan): Name of the foster mother of Cáel and also of the wife of Ossian.
MUIRÍN (Mireen): Lived for three hundred years in Lough Neagh.
MUIRNE (Myrna): The mother of Finn MacCúmhaill.
NEAMHAIN (Navin): An ancient war goddess.
NESS: Mother of Conchobar.
NIAMH (Neev): Princess of the Land of Promise who left with Finn MacCúmhaill's son Ossian for the Otherworld.
SAMHAOIR (Sameer): A daughter of Finn MacCúmhaill.
SARAID (Sorit): A legendary ancestress of the people of Muskerry and of the kings of Scotland.
SCÁTHACH (Scotock): A female warrior and the teacher of Cuchulainn; another Scathach lulls Finn to sleep with magic music.
SCOTA (Skotaw): The name of two progenitors of the Irish race, the wife of Niul and the wife of Milesius.
SÍVE (Sheeva): Daughter of Conn of the Hundred Battles and wife of the legendary Munster king Ailill. Another Síve was a daughter of Queen Maeve.
SUANACH (Swanock): Sister of Finn MacCúmhaill and mother of the warrior Fíachra.
TAILLTE (Talty): A mythical nurse.
TARA (Teara): A mythical character after whom the Hill of Tara is named.
TEFFIA (Teefa): A mythical princess.
TÉIDE (Tayda): A wife of Finn MacCúmhaill.
UAINE (Wanna): In the Finn tales, she makes beautiful music.
ÚNA (Oona): Daughter of a legendary king of Lachlainn and the mother of Conn of the Hundred Battles.
ÁBHARTACH (Avartack): Father of the Fenian warrior Cáel's beloved.
AENGUS (Angus): Aengus of the Birds was the god of love among the pagan Irish.
AILBHE (Alva): The name of twelve warriors of the Fíanna. Another mythical Ailbhe went seeking the Land of Promise.
AILILL (Aleel): A warrior who fought a battle with the legendary Fothad, who had stolen his wife.
ÁINLE (Anla): An early sun god. Also, one of the three brothers who were slain by the king of Ulster, after he eloped with Dierdre.
ALAN: Celtic god, brother of Bran.
AMALGITH (Awley): A man whose seven sons were baptized by St. Patrick.
BRAN: A Celtic god; also, the name of two Fenian warriors as well as of Finn MacCúmhaill's dog.
BREAS (Bras): A popular name in myth and legend.
BRIÓN (Brian): A name often found in very early legends.
CADHAN (Kyne): A legendary hero who, with his dog, killed a monster.
CÁEL (Kale): A fallen Fenian hero.
CAILTE (Kilty): A Fenian warrior famous for being swift of foot.
CAIRBRE (Karbra): There are two legendary Cairbres: one was the son of Cormac mac Art; another Cairbre was the son of Niall of the Nine Hostages.
CASS: A legendary ancestor of the Dal Cais.
CATHAIR (Kahir): A legendary king of Leinster who had thirty-three sons.
CETHERN (Keharn): A name for the god of the Otherworld; also father of a famous mythical Druid.
CIAN (Kane): The name of two legendary heroes.
CIONNAOLA (Kennelly): In early law legends, a hero who remembered every word he learned at law school and wrote it down to form the earliest written record of Irish law.
CLOTHACH (Clock): Grandson of Dagda, the imperial god.
CONAIRE (Connery): A legendary high king.
CONALL: The name of many legendary kings and heroes.
CONÁN: Conan the Bald, one of the Fíanna.
CONN: The name of a legendary king, Conn of the Hundred Battles, who is supposed to have been an ancestor of many famous families, including the O'Neills, the O'Donnells, the O'Rourkes, and the O'Connors.
CONOR (Conner): Conor mac Nessa, mythological king of Ulster.
CORMAC: Legendary king of Tara, Cormac Mac Art, who was ancestor of the O'Neills.
CRIOFAN (Criffin): The name of several legendary kings and warriors.
CUCHULAINN (Koo Cullen): The greatest of all the Irish warriors.
CUMHAL (Kooval): The father of Finn MacCúmhaill, Cumhal Mac Art was a king and champion of the west of Ireland, whose death in a battle the day after his marriage was foretold by a Druid.
DAGDA: An imperial pagan god and leader of the legendary early inhabitants of Ireland.
DÁIRE (Dawry): An early fertility god.
DIARMAID (Dermot): A hero of Irish legend who eloped with Grania, the betrothed of Finn MacCúmhaill.
DOCTOR: Name given to the seventh son of a seventh son, who is said to have healing powers.
DONN: The god of the dead.
ÉIBHEAR (Ayvar): The son of Milesius.
ÉNNAE (Enna): A legendary king of Munster.
EOCHAID (Ockey): An extremely popular name in legend. One Eochaid was a lover of the fairy Étain.
FEDELMID (Felim): The name of several legendary and mythological heroes, including the ancestor of the O'Neills.
FERADACH (Faradock): The name of several kings of legend.
FEARGHUS (Fergus): Fearghus mac Erca, legendary leader of the Gaels' migration from Ireland to Scotland in the fifth century.
FIA (Feea): A son of Finn MacCúmhaill.
FIACHNA (Feeockna): The son of a mythical sea god.
FINN: Finn MacCúmhaill. The greatest legendary hero of them all, he was the leader of the legendary Fíanna (Feena).
FÍTHEL (Fihel): A legendary judge; also, a brother of Finn.
FRAECH (Frek): The son of a fairy-woman and the handsomest man in Ireland.
GAEL: The hero for whom the Irish race is named.
GLAS: Glas MacAonchearda, a Fenian and follower of Finn MacCúmhaill.
INSIN: The foster son of Finn MacCúmhaill, who was killed by the Greeks while defending Finn against them.
LABHRAIDH (Lowry): Labhraidh of the Red Hand was a Fenian hero who traveled with Oscar.
LOCH (Lock): A mythological ancestor of Ireland's kings.
LUGH (Lou): Tuatha De Danaan hero who killed Balor of the Evil Eye.
MATHA (Maha): A Tuatha de Danann Druid.
MIACH (Meeock): Son of the pagan god Diancecht.
MIDIR: Fairy son of the god Dagda and lover of Étain.
MILESIUS: A legendary leader of the Milesians (or Celts) into Ireland.
MORANN (Moran): A legendary judge who always judged correctly. It was also the name of ten Fenian warriors.
MOROLT: Brother of Iseult, Tristan's doomed lover.
NÓISE (Neesha): Deirdre's tragic lover.
NUADU (Nooa): God of the Otherworld; the fisher-god.
OSCAR: A hero; Finn MacCúmhaill's grandson.
OSSIAN: The son of Finn MacCúmhaill and a woman who sometimes transmogrified into a deer, he lived for a while in the Land of Promise.
PARTHALON: A legendary early Irish settler.
RÓNÁN (Rownun): A legendary king of Leinster who was deceived by his second wife into killing his first son.
TORNA: A legendary scholar.
USHEEN: The last of the Fíanna.
KINGS, QUEENS, HEROES AND HEROINES
ABHLACH (Avlock): An Ulster princess and mother of a king.
AFRICA: Daughter of Fergus of Galway who marrled Olaus the Swarthy, king of the Isle of Man.
AILBHE (Elva): Daughter of a high king and mother of a warrior-king.
AILIONÓRA (Eleanora): Popularized by two queenconsorts of England and introduced to Ireland by the Normans, the name was borne by several noblewomen.
AILLEANN (Alan): Two kings' mothers bore this name.
ÁLMATH (Alva): An early Ulster princess.
AOIBHINN (Even): The name of several princesses, including a daughter of the royal prince of Tara who died in the tenth century.
AOIFE (Eva): Daughter of King Dermot of Leinster who married Strongbow, leader of the Norman invasion; also the name of many other princesses.
AURNIA (Ernia): Wife of Turlogh More O'Brien, thirteenth-century king.
BAILLGHEAL (Beelal): A pious queen of Connacht.
BAIRRIONN (Barin): Wife of a twelfth-century Ulster king.
BEBHAILL (Beval): Queen of the high king Donnchad mac Aeda.
BEIBHINN (Bevin): Wife of Tadgh, tenth-century king of Connacht.
CAINNECH (Konock): Tenth-century princess.
CAOINTIARN (Kinteern): Two wives of high kings.
CEALLACH (Kelly): Eighth-century princess. More common as a male name; gave rise to the surnames Kelly and O'Kelly.
CLODAGH (Kloda): The name of a river popularized as a first name when the marquis of Waterford gave it tO his daughter.
CORCAIR (Korker): A popular aristocratic name in the early Middle Ages.
COBHLAITH (Cowley): A daughter of the powerful king Cano; also an eighth-century Leinster princess.
CRÉD (Kree): The name of several Irish queens and princesses as well as of the mistress of Cano.
CRINÓC (Krinoc): An eleventh-century Munster princess.
DAMHNAIT (Davnit): Wife of a king of Munster.
DEARBHÁIL (Derval): The name of several medieval queens and princesses.
DEARBHORGAILL (Dervogilla): The wife of Tiernan O'Rourke, king of Brelfne; she eloped with Dermot McMurrough, king of Leinster, but later repented and became a nun.
DOIREANN (Dorren): The mother of Gilla Patraic, an eleventh-century king.
DUIBHLEAMHNA (Divlowna): Daughter of a king and wife of a high king.
DÚNLAITH (Dunla): Wife of the high king Niall Frassach as well as the name of daughters of two high kings.
EACHRA (Ahkra): A tenth-century princess noted for her beautiful complexion.
EIBHLÍN (Evleen): A popular aristocratic name in Northern Ireland. It was brought to Ireland by the Normans in the forms Avelina and Emeline; is identical with the English Evelina and Evelyn; and - while it achieved popularity as Eibhlin - it has been retranslated as Eileen, Aileen, and other variations.
EITHNE (Enna): The name of several early queens and princesses.
FAÍLENN (Feelin): An early Cashel princess.
FORLAITH (Farvila): A princess who became an abbess.
FINNEACHT (Finockt): A princess of Meath and the mother of a saint.
FLANN (Flan): The name of two famous early queens.
GORMLAITH (Gormley): The name of several early and well-known queens, including the wife of high king Brian Boru who was also a daughter of the king of Leinster and the mother of Sitric, king of Dublin.
GRÁINNE (Granya): Grania Mhaoel Ni Mhaolmhaigh, or Grace O'Malley, was the sixteenth-century queen of the Western Isles of Ireland.
LÍOCH (Leeock). The daughter of one high king and wife of another.
MAOL MHUADH (Melvira): The name of several wives and daughters of kings and high kings and a name of several queens of Ireland.
MUIRGEL (Mirgel): The name of several queens of Ireland.
NÁRBHLA (Narvla): The daughter of a prince and the wife of an abbot.
PATRICIA: A Princess of Connaught.
RANALT: Daughter of Awley O'Farrell, king of Conmacne, and wife of Hugh O'Connor, twelfth-century king of Connaught.
RÓNAIT (Rownet): The daughter of a high king
SÉADACH (Shaddock): An eleventh-century princess.
SADB (Sayv): Daughter of Brian Boru.
TAILLTE (Talty): Daughter of the king of Meath and wife of high king Turlough O'Connor.
TEAMHAIR (Tara): The wife of a seventh-century high king.
TUATHLA (Tuala): An early queen of Leinster.
UALLACH (Wallach): Chief poetess of Ireland in the tenth century.
AILILL (Aleel): Ailill Molt, an early king.
AINMIRE (Anvirry): Sixth-century king of Tara.
AODH (Ay or Hugh): The name of many kings and nobles, incudlng three high kings. Also the name of two famous Irish rebels who lived in Elizabethan times: Aodh (Hugh) O'Neill and Aodh Rua (Red Hugh) O'Donnell.
ART: Art McMurrough, medieval king of Leinster.
AWLEY: Awley O'Farrell, king of Conmacne.
BAODÁN (Baydan): The name of two powerful sixth-century kings.
BLÁTHMAC (Blavock): A seventh-century king of Tara.
BRANDUDH (Branduff): A medieval king of Leinster.
BREASAL (Brazil): An early Leinster king.
BRIÓN (Brian): Name of the most famous high king of Ireland, Brión Boru, who defeated the Norse.
CAILLÍN (Kaleen): An early prince who was ancestor to a dynasty of Cork kings.
CALLAGHAN: A tenth-century king of Munster.
CANO: A seventh-century king of Scotland and Ireland.
CATHAL (Kohar): The name of a thirteenth-century king of Connacht, Cathal Crobhlhearg, as well as the Irish Civil War patriot Cathal Brugha.
CEARÚL (Carol): The name of a great warrior-king and of many noblernen of Leinster.
CEAT (Cat): King of Corcumroe.
CINNÉIDE (KENNEDY): King Cinnéide of Munster, father of Brión Boru.
CIONNAOLA (Kennelly): The principal poet of Munster.
CINÁED (Kennay): An eighth-century high king.
CONALL: Conall Cernach was a great Ulster hero.
CONCHOBHAR (Connor): Conchobhar mac Nessa was king of Ulster.
CONGAL (Connell): A seventh-century Ulster king and an eighth-century high king.
CORMAC: Cormac MacCuilleanan, bishop and king of Munster. Also the name of several other kings.
CORMACÁN: One of the chief poets of medieval Ireland.
CRÍONÁN (Creenan): An eleventh-century king.
CRUINN (Krin): An early king of Ulaid.
CUÁN (Kwayne): An early king; also an eleventh-century poet.
CUANA (Kwayne): An early warrior and the king of Fermoy.
DAITHI (Dahy): A king of Tara.
DALLÁN: Two famous early poets.
DANIEL: Daniel O'Connell, early nineteenth-century lawyer who campaigned for Catholic emancipation and was known as The Liberator.
DEÁMAN (Damon): An early Ulster king.
DERMOT: Dermot MacMurrough, the twelfth-century Leinster king, who invited the Normans into Ireland.
DONNCHADH (Donagh): High King Donnchadh, son of Brian Boru.
DONAL: The name of five high kings.
DÚNLANG: The name of two early kings.
EOCHAID (Ockey): An early Irish king, Eochaid Mugmedon, whose name means "Lord of the Slaves".
FÁELÁN (Faylin): The name of three kings of Leinster between the seventh and ninth centuries.
FELIMID (Felim): A medieval king of Connacht.
FEARGHUS (Fergus): The name of several early kings.
FIACH (Feeak): Fiach MacHugh O'Beirne was a sixteenthcentury Irish rebel who fought the English.
FINGUINE (Fininny): The name of two early Munster kings.
FLAITHRÍ: An early king; also an archbishop of Tuam and a distinguished ecclesiastic and writer.
FLANN: A distinguished name borne by a king; a high king, who was an ancestor of the O'Connors; and several famous early poets.
GLASSÁN (Glossawn): An early Ulster prince.
GORMAN: A king of Munster and an ancestor of the O'Keefes.
GUAIRE (Gwarry): A king of Connacht famed for his generosity.
LACHTNA (Locktna): The name of several early kings and nobles.
LAOGHAIRE (leary): A king of Tara.
LENNAN: An early king.
LORCÁN: The name of several kings, including the grandfather of Brión Boru.
MAHON: Brión Boru's brother and a tenth-century king of Cashel.
MALACHY (Malakee): The name of two famous high kings of Ireland.
MUIRÍOS (Meeris): A favorite name among noble Connacht families.
MUIRCHEARTACH (Murtaugh): The name of three kings of Tara, as well as of the prince called Muircheartach of the Leather Cloak.
NIALL (Neil): King of Tara, Niall of the Nine Hostages, who founded the Ui Neill dynasty of Irish kings; also Niall Black-Knee, founder of the O'Neill family, who died fighting the Norse in the tenth century.
PATRICK: Patrick Pearse, the rebel leader of 1916, who reinforced the popularity of the name introduced by St. Patrick.
RORY: Rory O'Conor, who ruled 1166-1170, was the last high king of Ireland. Rory O'More was a seventeenth-century Irish patriot.
RUMANN (Ruvan): A great early poet.
SCANNLAN: An early king.
SÉIGHÍN (Shane): An Elizabethan-era Irish prince, Séighín the Proud, was chief of the O'Neill family.
SITRIC: The name of several kings of Dublin in the Middle Ages, most notably Sitric Silkenbeard.
SUIBNE (Sweeney): An early high king.
TADGH (Teeg): The name of several kings.
TIBBOT: The son of Grania or Grace O'Malley, Tibbot of the Ship was so called because he was born at sea.
TURLOUGH: The name of two kings, Turlough I O'Brien and Turlough II O'Conor, who ruled in the tenth and eleventh centuries.
SOME PLACE NAMES
ENGLISH NAME GAEILGE NAME AND PRONUNCIATION
America Meiriceá (Merikyaa)
THE LEGEND OF FINN MACCÚMHAILL
Perhaps the greatest of Irish legends is that of the mythical hero Finn MacCúmhaill (Finn MacCool). Finn MacCúmhaill was reputedly the son of a heroic warrior and the beautiful daughter of a king. His grandfather tries to drown him the day that he is born. The infant escapes his watery and emerges from the depths holding a salmon in his hand. He is then raised by his paternal grandmother in a cave along with the dog Bran.
He grows up to become a warrior with great and magical powers. After he use his magic to save the king's horse, he refuses the offered reward of the princess' hand in marriage and asks instead for the lives of the condemned champions of Érin. These rescued heroes become loyal followers of Finn MacCúmhaill. They are the first Fenians; the legendary Fíanna of Ireland.
SOME AREAS OF CONFUSION
There are two areas of confusion experienced by English speakers when incountering Irish Gaeilge names. The first area is the seeming sameness between some names while the second is the way names seem to magicly change during the course of conversation in Gaeilge.
The first area of confusion has resulted from the extreme degree that native Irish names were influenced by outside forces and cultures. Since the fifth century, priests and others traveling to and from Ireland brought stories of saints and martyrs to the newly religious people of Ireland which inspired them to use these foreign names. Then, the Vikings invaded in the eighth century (whom the Irish and English called Danes), followed by the Norman French in the twelfth century. The British under Oliver Cromwell savaged and claimed Ireland in the seventeenth century. All of these invaders left behind a lasting influence in the form of their names. Many of these foreign and exotic sounding names became very popular with the Irish people, and remain popular to this day. Many of them, but not all, were Gaelicized. That is, they were translated into a pseudo-Gaelgae version and popularized as "Irish" names separate from their origins.
The confusing history of true Irish names versus adoptions from other languages or English translations is clearly demonstrated by the confusion over the name of Owen. Eoghan, which in Gaeilge is pronounced Owen, is an ancient and common Irish name that was eventually perverted to Eugene in the English language and Owen, a name entirely Welsh. The Irish were encouraged to use the English name of John, which was gaelicized to Seán (pronounced Shawn) and Eoin (pronounced Owen).
The original Irish name of Eoghan and the anglo Owen and the Gaeilge name of Eoin (for John) are mistaken by many people to be different spellings of the same name. All three of these names are pronounced as Irish, but only the original, Eoghan, is authentic.
To further confuse matters, one of the Irish versions of John, Eoin (pronounced E-n), has been mangled into Ian by trying to pronounce the written Gaeilge with English phonetics in some places, further confusing matters. This makes John the owner of several Irish variants: Seán (considered the most correct), Eoin and Ian; not to mention the awful Americanization of "Shawn". It may be that fuel was added to this fire by the fine old Irish name of Íon (pronounced Een), which was probably confused by the English with Eoin. As a result, several Irish names or their anglicized versions are considered by some to be interchangeable with John.
The second area of confusion is where it really gets interesting. Those English speakers who hear conversation in Gaeilge are thrown by conversations that include more individuals than seem to be present. This happens because in the Irish language, the pronounciation of names change according to whether the speaker is referring to second or third person. This is because names are "aspirated", called the vocative case, when they are addressed. For example, the name of Seán (pronounced Shawn) is the name everyone is familiar with, but in Gaeilge it is pronounced "a hyann" (spelled "A Sheáin") in conversation when a person of that name is directly addressed . Thus, Pádraig (Paarick) becomes "a Fawdrig" when spoken to directly (spelled A Phádraig). Likewise, Séamus (Shaymus) - for James - becomes A Shéamais (a heymish). So, in conversation one might hear reference to "Shaymus" and "Haymish" thinking that two people are being spoken of when, in fact, it is only one.
Irish Names by Donnchadh O'Corrain and Fidelma Maguire; Dublin, The Lilliput Press, 1990.
Irish Names for Children by Patrick Woulfe; Dublin, Gill and Macmillan, 1923, revised 1974.
Pocket Guide to Irish First Names by Ronan Coghlan; Belfast, The Appletree Press, 1985.
Book of Irish Names: First, Family & Place Names by Ronan Coghlan, Ida Grehan, and P. W. Joyce; New York, Sterling Publishing, 1989.
The First Book of Irish Myths and Legends and The Second Book of Irish Myths and Legends by Eoin Neeson; Cork and Dublin, The Mercier Press, 1990.
Irish Folk Tales edited by Henry Glassie; New York, Penguin Books, 1987.
Beyond Shannon & Sean, An Enlightened Guide to Irish Baby Naming by Linda Rosenkrantz and Pamela Redmond Satran; New York, St. Martin's Press, 1992.
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