In an effort to find a unique name, many parents look to their own heritage or borrow freely from others. Some of the most popular names to appear in top ten lists over the past few years are of Gaelic and Irish origin. The appeal is easy to understand. These names have an almost lyrical quality, evocative of a country and culture that is celebrated the world over.
Irish names may include actual Gaelic names or their anglicized versions. Interestingly, if you look at the top girls’ names in Ireland, there are many that are not traditional Irish names. Of the top ten in Ireland for 2005, only three were names of actual Irish origin. The most popular female name in Ireland, Emma, is also the most popular in North America. Of Irish names finding favor in Ireland, the most popular are Katie, Aoife, and Ciara.
Some Irish girls’ names have become so entrenched in North America that it is easy to forget they originated on the Emerald Isle. Names like Brenda (little raven), Bridget (strong), Colleen (girl), and Shannon (old) have been used on this side of the pond for many years. The list below includes some newer names that have taken off in recent years and some older ones that have shown real staying power.
- Alannah – This name means “beautiful” or “dear child”. Alternate spellings include Alana and Alanna.
- Brianna – Brianna is the feminine form of “Brian”. It means “strong” or “she ascends”. It can also be spelled as Briannah. Although popular in Canada and the U.S., this name does not appear in the top 100 in Ireland.
- Caitlin – This name is among the most popular Irish names, appearing in top ten lists for several years now. The name has many variations in spelling, including Caitlyn, Kaitlin, Kaitlyn and Katelyn. It is a variant of the name Catherine, which means “pure”.
- Ciara – Pronounced “kee-ra”, this name means “black” or “dark”.
- Eileen – A very common name that means “light”. It is from the name Eibhlin, which also gives us Evelyn and Evelina. Alternate spellings include Elieene, Aileen, and Aileene.
- Erin – This is the ultimate Irish girls’ name. In Gaelic, it is the poetic name for Ireland. In Celtic, it means “from Ireland”. Alternate spellings include Erinn and Erinne.
- Kelly – The name means “war” or “warrior”. Alternate spellings include Kelley, Kellee, Kelleigh, Kelli and Kellie. Another spelling, “Kellye”, means “lively or aggressive”.
- Meghan – The Anglo-Saxon meaning of this word is “strong and capable”. In Irish, it is defined as “pearl”. Although “Meghan” is the Irish spelling, alternate North American spellings mirror the Welsh variants of this name: Meagan, and Meaghan. Another common spelling is “Megan”.
- Siobahn – Pronounced “sha-vahn”, this name is the Irish version of the Hebrew name “Joan”, which means “God is gracious”.
- Tara – Ancient Tara was a place where kings met. The Gaelic meaning is “from the crag of a tower”.
- Teagan – The name means “good-looking”. It has variant forms, including Tegan and Teige.