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Modern Irish girls names

Irish baby girl names have moved on from Mary and Bridget.

Irish baby girl names have moved on from Mary and Bridget.

(Republic of Ireland only)


Some of the Irish girls names you're likely to encounter in primary schools in Ireland.

Modern Irish girls names have changed quite dramatically since the civil registration system started recording the names of newly-born infants was introduced in 1864.

The top ten in 2007 showed that only Sarah had survived the passing of 150-plus years. If you take a look at my research into Irish first names in 1864, you'll see that Sarah took the No.9 spot back then.

Fast forward to 2020, and having fallen out of the top 10 in 2008, Sarah ranked in 60th place with just 34 Sarahs registered out of a total of 27,057 female births in the full year.

No room for Mary in the Top 100 of Irish girls names in 2020

Perhaps the biggest change in the last 150 or so years is that the parents of one third of all infant girls in Ireland no longer select Mary. Yes, that's right! Back in 1864, one in three girls was called Mary.

None of 2020's top 10 most popular names for girls appeared anywhere in the top 100 girls' names in 1970.

A century later, in 1970, it was still the most popular girls name, and chosen for nearly 1,900 female new borns. Just another 50 years later, there were just 64 instances of Mary being registered as a first name in 2020. Like Sarah, above, Mary fell out of favour and out of the top 100 names back in 2007. By 2018, it had nearly fallen out of the top 200! But it has clawed back some of the loss since then.

None of 2020's top 10 most popular names for girls appeared anywhere in the top 100 girls' names in 1970.

Poor old Mary has had a good innings, and still retains a high spot as a middle name, so she'll probably be recognised as THE architypical Irish girls name for many years to come.

Traditional Irish names ie not anglicised

Another significant feature of 21st-century lists of Irish girl names is the appearance of so many traditional Irish names. I'm talking about names in the original Irish version. Examples include Aoife, Caoimhe, Eabha, Niamh and Roisin which were the options chosen for 1,228 little colleens born in 2013.

In 2020, examples were Fíadh, Meabh, Clodagh, Saoirse and Eimear.

These are Old Irish names, drawn from Celtic history or from the Celts' Gaelic language. However, it is noticable that Irish names have experienced a drop in popularity since the first decade of the 2000s. They remain popular, and as such still rightly feature in listings of modern Irish girls names. But they are now being given to babies at only about half the rate of the Celtic Tiger years when the Republic of Ireland was enjoying an economic boom and confidence boost.

You can find out more about traditional Irish girl names and their meanings by following the links in the Related Pages box at the foot of the page.

Modern Irish girls names - Influences

While the most popular Irish boys names have continued to draw on the bible for inspiration, modern Irish names for baby girls do not.

The influences are much more varied and much more exotic, suggesting that Irish parents are prepared to express their imagination when naming their daughters but prefer much more 'solid' and 'trusted' monikers for their sons.

Modern Irish girls names. Central Statistics Office of Ireland.
Modern Irish girls names in Ireland in 2020. From cso.ie

This greater variety in the choices made is clearly expressed in the statistics... Some 4,624 different girls names were recorded on the 27,071 birth certificates issued in 2020, while only 3,715 distinct boys names were counted from 28,887 birth certificates for new born males. 

These numbers count different spellings as distinct names ie Caitlin is counted as a distinct name from Katelyn.

For the first time since records began, Grace was the most popular name for new-born girls in 2020.

Emily had been the number one name since 2011.

Regional differences in modern Irish girls names

For the first time since records began, Grace was the most popular name for new-born girls in 2020. It held first or joint-first position in 12 areas of residence including South Dublin.

Fiadh was the second most popular name nationally but was the top girls name in Munster. Fiadh held the top or joint top name in five counties and shared first place with Grace in Kilkenny.

Sophia was the top name in Dublin City yet nationally it was ranked 18th.  Freya ranked 24th nationally but was first choice in Waterford City. Ellie, the 13th most popular name was the most chosen name in Monaghan. Hannah and Isla were tops in Donegal. In Meath, Ava was the name most favoured. Although Maisie ranked 57th nationally it held top spot jointly with Sophie in Longford.

The lists below show that the top Irish baby girl names in each of the regional authorites has changed in the last 22 years.


 1998

Borders: Chloe

Midland: Ciara

West : Rachel

Dubln: Chloe

MidEast: Aoife

MidWest: Chloe

S.Eest: Chloe

S.West: Ciara/Sarah


All Republic of Ireland: Chloe

 2013

Borders: Sophie

Midland: Emily

West : Emma

Dublin : Emily

MidEast: Emily

MidWest: Emily

S.East: Emma

S.West : Emily


All Republic of Ireland: Emily

2020

Borders: Grace

Midland: Grace

West: Grace

Dublin: Olivia

MidEast: Emily

MidWest: Grace

S.East:  Grace

S.West:  Fíadh


All Republic of Ireland: Grace

 1998

Borders: Chloe

Midland: Ciara

West : Rachel

Dubln: Chloe

MidEast: Aoife

MidWest: Chloe

S.Eest: Chloe

S.West: Ciara/Sarah


All Republic of Ireland: Chloe


 2013

Borders: Sophie

Midland: Emily

West : Emma

Dublin : Emily

MidEast: Emily

MidWest: Emily

S.East: Emma

S.West : Emily


All Republic of Ireland: Emily


2020

Borders: Grace

Midland: Grace

West: Grace

Dublin: Olivia

MidEast: Emily

MidWest: Grace

S.East:  Grace

S.West:  Fíadh


All Republic of Ireland: Grace


The 40 most popular girls names in the Republic of Ireland in 2020


1. Grace

2. Emily

3. Isla

4. Fiadh

5. Olivia

6. Sophia

7. Sophie

8. Amelia

9. Lucy

10. Ella

10. Freya

12. Charlotte

13. Ava

14. Anna

15. Lily

16. Aoife

17. Ellie

18. Erin

19. Evie

20. Ruby

21. Annie

22. Molly

23. Mia

24. Eva

24. Katie

26. Hannah

27. Niamh

28. Eabha

28. Maisie

30. Ivy

31. Cara

32. Chloe

32. Rosie

33. Sienna

32. Willow

36. Clara

37. Jessica

37. Meabh

39. Alice

40. Emma

40. Georgia