Traditional Irish names
The very concept of Irish names evokes the Celts and their rich legacy of glorious myths and folklore, fabulous art and music and their beautiful Gaelic language.
From this Gaelic language (which is known in Ireland as Irish, not Gaelic) came wonderfully arousing Irish names such as Conn Cetchathach, Eochaid Iarlaithe, Cormac mac Airt and Ruaidrí Ua Canannáin.
These are the names that history has recorded, but the ordinary Celts – those who didn't spend their lives going off on epic adventures or slaying aggressors – would have had equally colourful names.
These names were an integral part of the Celtic culture which dominated most of Ireland until the 18th century.
Only then did its light begin to weaken, as you'll see in the brief History of Irish names below.
There's a lot of Irish heritage wrapped up in the names of our ancestors, so enjoy finding out more on this fascinating subject.
- A short history of Irish last names plus the 'O' and the 'Mc' explained.
- The twenty most common Irish surnames, their meaning and prevalence in the 1850s, 1890 and now.
- A random collection of 10 more Irish family names and their meanings.
Irish names for boys
- Irish boys names A–D, their meaning, history and usage.
- The origins and popularity of male Irish names E–M.
- Common and rare Irish baby boy names N–Z.
Irish girls names
- Irish girls names A–D, their meaning, history and usage.
- Irish baby girl names E–M include the names of some fiercely strong women of legend.
- Traditional Irish female names from N–Z.
Miscellaneous names features
- What's the most popular name in Northern Ireland in recent years?
- Top Irish boy names in 2012 in the Republic.
- Top Irish girl names in 2013 in the Republic.
- Irish first names in 1864 – the year civil registration was introduced. Exclusive Toolkit research!
- The history of traditional Irish names, from Celtic origins to 19th century decline and modern revival.
- Irish naming conventions/patterns. See below.
Old Irish naming conventions
The 1st son was named after the father's father.
The 2nd son was named after the mother's father.
The 3rd son was named after the father.
The 4th son was named after the father's eldest brother.
The 5th son was named after the mother's eldest brother.
The 1st daughter was named after the mother's mother.
The 2nd daughter was named after the father's mother.
The 3rd daughter was named after the mother.
The 4th daughter was named after the mother's eldest sister.
The 5th daughter was named after the father's eldest sister.
Understanding old naming conventions can be helpful to Irish genealogy researchers. Just bear in mind that these conventions were not necessarily adhered to by all families all the time. However, most families in the 18th and 19th century did follow tradition when a child was born, with the result that the same names tend to be repeated generation after generation.
While this can cause some confusion when researching your ancestors, a likely 'mix' of first names can be helpful when faced with a choice of families with the same Irish surname.
Although the practice has largely been abandoned, it is surprising just how recently it was still in use. Certainly the 10 siblings of my grandfather, Edmond Tierney, born 1903, were all named according to the convention (he, as second son, was named after his maternal grandfather, Edmond Tobin), but there was a lot of deviation from the pattern when he and his brothers and sisters became parents in the 1930s and 1940s.
- Use the links above to explore the fascinating subject of Irish names more deeply.
- Find out more about the Irish civil registration system (which recorded names for posterity from 1845).
See my personal selection of the very best free online databases for Irish genealogy research. Click image.