Irish names and naming conventions

     

Irish names

Traditional Irish names; naming conventions;
Irish last names; most popular names in Ireland



Sean and Seamus bathing baby SeanSean and Seamus Ó Dubhghaill (aka John and James Doyle) bathing their little cousin Sean O'Geanin (John Gannon)

There's something about Irish names – both first names and last names – that people the world over find compelling. And it's not just those with direct connections to Ireland who are fascinated by them.

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 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 Ireland's heritage wrapped up in the names of our ancestors, so enjoy finding out more on this fascinating subject.


Irish surnames


Irish names for boys


Irish girls names


Miscellaneous articles about Irish names

  • Irish naming conventions/patterns. See below.




Old Irish naming conventions

For sons

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.

For daughters

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.



Modern usage

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.

Understanding old naming conventions can be helpful to Irish family historians. 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 centuries 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 surname.


Modern usage

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.