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Traditional Irish boys names, A - D

Irish boys' names are largely drawn from tales of great warriors in Celtic Mythology or from early Ireland's regional kings. This isn't always immediately obvious because they've been adapted and changed spellings many times. But Brian is one of only very few Old Irish names that remains instantly recognisable.

Brian Boru, High King of Ireland

Brian Boru is, by popular demand, history's greatest High King of Ireland who, as any Irish schoolboy will tell you, died at the Battle of Clontarf on Good Friday, 1014.

Such was his reputation that his name became extremely popular and was chosen with great pride for new-born sons through the centuries.

Even as a surname, when it it usually appears as O'Brien, it remains associated with the great warrior king. The name itself probably originated from the Celtic form Brigonos, from which the Irish name Bregon directly evolved, and changed first to Brion with two syllables and from then to Brian.

While Brian might be the greatest of all warrior names, there are others to choose from, as the list below shows.

The selection below is mine and by no means comprehensive. It includes some well-known Irish boys names as well as some that, though rarely encountered in recent times, may yet make a comeback if the current trend to seek out the unusual continues among new parents.

Irish NamePronunciationEnglish equivalentMeaning or Origin
Áed/Aodh Ee Hugh Once the most common boys' name, it's been anglicised as Hugh, although there is no real connection with that name.
Aichear e-har Ehir In Irish it might mean sharp, keen or fierce. Aichear was one of the musicians of the Fianna in the Finn Tales. Also spelt Aicher.
Ailbhe Al-veh Albert/
Also a girl's name, Ailbhe suggests the colour white. Twelve warriors of the Fianna bore this name according to the Finn tales. Anglicised choices have no real connection. Also spelt Ailbe.
Áilgenán Al-an-an   In Irish, it means a soft, mild person. Once the name of a Munster king, Ailgenan occurred mostly in the south.
Ailill Al-il   A spirit or elf. In the Finn Tales there were ten warriors of the Fianna called Ailil. It was once one of the most popular Irish boys' names but it's now rare.
Ainéislis An-esh-lish Stanislaus In Irish it might mean careful, thoughtful. Used to be popular around north Munster and south Connaught. Anglicised name has no real connection.
Alusdar Al-as-dar Alaistair Greek Alexander. Introduced to the north of Ireland by Scots. Very popular among MacDonnells and MacDowells.
Annraoi Own-ree Henry Brought to Ireland by the Anglo-Normans. Popular with the O'Neills of Ulster in the 15th century.
Aodhan Ayd-awn Aidan In Irish, it means little fire. A common name in early Ireland.
Ardal Awd-ahl Arnold In Irish it means great or high valour. Still reasonably popular.
Art Art Arthur Borne by many early legendary kings of Ireland. Anglicised version has no real connection. Art is an ancient word for bear.
Bearach Bay-rach Barry In Irish, pointed, sharp or spear-like. Also a girl's name.
Bran Brawn In Irish, a raven. One of the most popular Irish boy's names of early Ireland and in legend.
Breandan Bren-don Brendan From the Welsh for prince. One of the oldest Irish names. In existence since 6th century at least.
Bree-an Brian In Irish, noble and strong. Original form was Brion. Brian Boru was the first high king of Ireland and defeated the Vikings at the Battle of Clontarf on 23 April 1014.
Caoimhín Kiv-een Kevin Means comely child. Best known bearer of the name was St Kevin, founder of Glendalough Abbey.
Cathal Caw-hal Una A common name during the Middle Ages, it means great battle warrior in Irish. Sometimes incorrectly anglicised as Charles.
Cian Key-inn Kane Means 'ancient' and was the name of two legendary heroes.
Ciarán Key-rahn Kieran In Irish, means dark or black. There are probably more Irish saints of this one name than any other.
Cillín Kill-in Killian/
A 7th century Irish missionary to Europe. Name possible derives from Irish word for church.
Colm Cul-lum In Irish, means dove. Another very popular name among saints.
Conán Ku-nawn Conan A common name in early Ireland and, in legend, the name of two warriors of the Fianna. Means hound or wolf.
Conchobhar Croo-hur Connor/
Conchobhar MacNessa was one of the most famous kings of Ulster. Means lover of hounds. Sometimes incorrectly anglicised as Cornelius.
Conn Kown Conn of the Hundred Battles was a high king of Ireland in Irish legend. It remains a fairly popular name.
Cormac Cur-mock Meaning unknown. Possibly raven. One of the most popular Irish boy's names down the centuries.
Crónán Cro-nahn Cronan The name of a 7th century abbot who founded a school which has survived to modern times. In Irish, the name means little brown one.
Dah-van In Irish, it means little stag or ox. The name of a 7th-century king of Munster.
Darragh Dar-rah Dara In Irish, the word means oak.
Deaglán Deg-lahn Declan A common name in Ireland and may date back to before St Patrick's arrival.
Diarmuid Deer-mit Dermot/
Appears frequently in Celtic mythology and remains popular in Ireland.
Donncha Dun-a-cha A popular name, it means brown headed warrior.
Donagh Dun-ah Name of Brian Boru's son.
Dónal Don-al Donald/
A big name for a child to handle: it means ruler of the world.