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Irish baby boy names N-Z

Traditional names for boys in Ireland
conjure up colour, music and legend

Traditional Irish baby boy names beginning N to Z

Don't bother looking for Irish baby boy names starting with the letters Q, V, W, X, Y or Z. There aren't any. Simple reason.... the traditional Irish alphabet doesn't include these letters (nor J or K).

1930s Toddler pushes younger brother in pram.

  Uncle Paddy lets big sister take him for a ride

At one time, there wasn't even a letter P, which means that Pádraig (Patrick), surely one of the most popular and well-known of Ireland's boys' names, would have been a troublesome name for the early Irish! It probably sounded very different until the late 1600s.

Since then, Pádhraig/Patrick has evolved and must now have more diminutives or abbreviated versions than any other single Irish name. Take your pick from Paddy, Patsy, Patty, Pat, Packy and Porrig in English, and Pádhraic, Páid, Páidí, Páidín, Paití and Parra in Irish.

In my own immediate family, we had three Patricks: my uncle Paddy, my father Pat, and my youngest brother Patrick. There was no confusion because each stuck to the version originally chosen. But the thread of any discussion became a bit tricky to follow when other friends or relations called Patrick (and there were plenty of them!) were thrown in to the conversation.

Perhaps the very success of the name was the reason it fell from favour in the late 20th century. It has picked up again since. The official list of the top Irish baby boy names for 2012 (see link in Related Pages box, left) showed it was only just outside the top 20 names in the Republic of Ireland.

Patrick, along with Philip and Timothy, tended to be the names chosen by the less well-off, regardless of religion, during the 18th and 19th centuries. Redmond and Rory were more likey to be Catholic. Sylvester, Theobald and Tirlough were often conferred on the infants of prosperous Catholics, while Paul, Percy, Ralph, Richard, Robert, Samuel and Saul were names preferred by Protestants.

Irish NamePronunciationEnglish equivalentMeaning or Origin
Naoise neesh-a   In Celtic legend, Naoise ran off with Dierdre, the betrothed of the King of Ulster who subsequently killed him. Poor Dierdre died of a broken heart. Although originally a boy's name it has become a unisex name.
Neachtan Nack-tan   An alternative name for the Roman god Neptune and popular in the early medieval period.
Niall Nile Neil Many of the high kings of Ireland bore this name but it was to be made famous by Niall of the Nine Hostages. Its meaning is uncertain, though it possibly means passionate.
Odhrán Oh-dran Oran Although quite a popular saint's name, it has never taken off as a first name, despite meaning dark haired.
Oisín Ush-een   The name of one of the Finn Tales' heroes and meaning fawn deer, this is one of the most traditional Irish baby boy names still in common use. In 2012, it was the 14th most popular name registered in the Republic.
Pádraig Pawdrig/Paw-rig Patrick A Latin borrowing meaning 'a patrician', the widespread use of the name honours Ireland's patron saint.
Rian/Ríghán Ree-an Ryan The English version has become one of the most common surnames of Ireland. The Irish version means little king.
Ríordán Reer-dun   A very old name found mainly in Munster province and meaning royal poet.
Rónán Roh-nan   In legend, King Ronan killed his own son after being tricked by his wife. The name means little seal and was popular in early Ireland.
Rúadhán Roo-awn Rowan Meaning little red one, the name is traditionally bestowed on red-haired babies.
Ruairí Roo-ree Rory The name means red king and it was one of the most popular of medieval Ireland. The last High King of Ireland was Ruairí Ua Conchobair (aka Rory O'Connor).
Saoirbhreathach Serv-ra-hack   A popular name in medieval times among the MacCarthys, meaning noble of judgment. Perhaps due to its awkward spelling it has become uncommon.
Séamus Shay-mus James Adapted from Jacobus, a common Latin name among Anglo-Norman settlers.
Seán Shawn John One of the top three Irish baby boy names in modern times, it was adopted in the Middle Ages from the Anglo-Norman of Jehan, itself an adaptation of the Latin Joannes.
Tadc/Tadhg Teig Timothy/Thaddy In Irish, means poet. It was a very common name throughout most of early and medieval Ireland (and borne by many great historical figures) and has enjoyed a recent revival
Tárlach Tar-lack Terence/Turlough A medieval name enjoying something of a renaissance. The name of kings of Munster and Connacht in the 11th and 12th centuries.
Tiarnán Tier-nawn   In Irish, means lord or chief. Strongly linked to the O Rourke family.
Tomaltach Tum-olt-ack   Extremely popular in Connaught province during the Middle Ages.

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Regional names

Over the centuries, some Irish names have become linked to certain provinces and counties.

Find out more about the four provinces and other Irish land divisions.

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