Happy St. Patrick’s Day

The tiny nation of Ireland (including Northern Ireland) has had a great influence on the naming practices and traditions in the United States. The Irish have given us so many wonderful names which have been adopted in large numbers by Americans of Irish descent and even those with none. When we think of Irish names, certain ones come to mind immediately. Of course there’s the patron saint of Ireland, St. Patrick, whose feast day we celebrate on March 17.  Ironically, Patrick is a name derived from Latin and not Gaelic. St. Patrick was born a Roman citizen in Britain toward the end of the 4th century and his name is derived from the Latin "patricius" meaning "patrician, nobly born". Nevertheless, he is so strongly associated with Ireland that the name is practically used in generic terms to describe an Irishman. In Ireland, however, the name is spelled Pádraig and pronounced PAW-drig.
For boys, from the Irish we get the staple, timeless classics such as Sean, Brian, Ryan and Kevin. Although no Irish masculine name is more popular than Aidan right now in the United States (even if Americans spell it Aiden with an "e"). Another popular trend among Americans is using Irish surnames as first names. Some of the most common in this category are Connor, Riley, Brady, Cullen, Donovan, Keegan and Finnegan.  Though less popular for boys in America are other Irish first names such as Nolan and Oscar. Shane, Northern Ireland’s version of Sean, is another cool name. We also like Malachi, Declan and Finn. Of course there are the ever-popular favorites Braden and Brendan.
Let’s talk about the little girls now. Arguably, Erin could be considered one of the "most" Irish female names since the name’s meaning is "Ireland". If you’re a lover of all things Celtic/Gaelic Irish, then naming your daughter Erin is perhaps making the ultimate statement. But if you want to look to another Irish patron saint, then look no further than St. Bridget herself.  Right now, Aoife is a very popular female given name in Ireland, which is the Gaelic version of Eve.  The Irish also use Ciara with great frequency but Americans prefer the more anglicized Keira. Let us not forget Caitlin, the darling Irish equivalent to Catherine which Americans have adopted as their own and repurposed into a multitude of respellings (Katelyn, Kaitlin, Caitlyn, etc). The very popular Bianna is considered a feminized version of the Irish male name Brian. As with their baby boys, American parents are also drawn to Irish surnames as given names for their baby daughters. Some that come to mind are Cassidy, Kennedy, Reagan, and Ashley. There are also several Irish name which have become unisex in America and readily used on both genders: Riley, Teagan, Ryan, Casey, Rowan and Quinn.  Other Irish female names to consider? There’s always Kelly and Shannon. After Ashley and Brianna in terms of popularity, there’s Kaylee (perhaps the most butchered arguably Irish female name in America). We can hardly call that one Irish, but it appears to have been borrowed from the Irish and then mutilated with an obnoxious amount of respellings. Its Gaelic root may be Ceilí meaning "party, celebration".  We get Alana and Maeve from the Irish, but Fíona is actually Scottish-Gaelic. If you want to really show off your Irish roots, then consider the following female names:
Name Pronunciation Meaning
Sinéad shi-NAYD Female form of Jane/John
Saoirse SEER-sha Freedom
Siobhán shi-VAWN Female form of Joan/John
Niamh NEEV Bright (see Nia)
Caoimhe KEE-va Gentle, graceful beauty

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