macro photo of the center of the rose
Image via Wikipedia

This choice blooms kelly green. If you can’t quite bring yourself to call a daughter Clover, perhaps this equally Irish botanical will appeal.

Thanks to Fran for suggesting Róisín as Baby Name of the Day.

Look her up in the average baby book, and you’ll almost certainly see Róisín’s meaning listed as little rose, from the Gaelic Róis, or Rose. The pronunciation might not be intuitive to an English speaker, but ROSH een is simple enough to say.

There’s a little more to her story. The Germanic element hros meant horse, and plenty of medieval names incorporate the element: Roswitha, Rosamund, Roslindis. While the Latin element rosa has history and simply refers to the flowers, it is almost certain that many of the rose names meant something else entirely when they were first in use.

Thanks to the twelfth century Rosamund Clifford, mistress to Henry II, we can see the name’s meaning changing, as Clifford was nicknamed Rose of the World.

But back to Róisín. In American English, you’d sacrifice her diacritical marks and write her name Roisin. Earlier generations would’ve Anglicized the name as Rosaleen. And yet Róisín’s credentials as a serious Irish heritage choice are considerable, and could give parents a fresh alternative for the oft-heard Megan, Colleen, and Erin.

In sixteenth century Ireland, the Tudors were attempting to assert control. Beyond issues of political control, the religious split kick-started by King Henry VIII of England complicated matters. Hugh O’Neill was 2nd Earl of Tyrone, one of the most powerful men in Ireland. At the tail end of the 1500s, he was even referred to as Ireland’s King. O’Neill led the uprising, and had they won, would certainly be better known. But the English ultimately triumphed, and so O’Neill and his supporters went into exile.

While I’m not finding her on any family trees, a popular song tells of O’Neill’s daughter, Róisín Dubh, the Dark Rose. (The bh sounds live a v; so dubh is pronounced like dove.) It reads like a love song, but it is pure political struggle. It isn’t clear who wrote it first, though James Clarence Mangan was the first to publish an English translation in the nineteenth century. The song is still performed today, so often that it instantly conjures up images of Ireland. Here’s a version performed on tin whistle, and another with the lyrics in the original.

All of this combines for a powerfully Gaelic appellation. While she’s never ranked in the US Top 1000, she’s currently quite popular in Ireland. Many a notable bearer can be found in politics and pop culture. There’s a performance venue in Galway that wears the name.

While the Twilight-tinged Rosalie seems like the most rapidly rising Rose name of the moment, don’t count Róisín out yet. Controversial performer Sinéad O’Connor gave the name to her daughter; Courtney Kennedy Hill (she’s Robert F. Kennedy’s daughter) named her firstborn Saoirse Roisin.

With the easy nickname Rosie, if you’re after an Irish heritage choice, she’s one to consider.

About Abby Sandel

Whether you're naming a baby, or just all about names, you've come to the right place! Appellation Mountain is a haven for lovers of obscure gems and enduring classics alike.

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What do you think?


  1. It Row sheen. Like row your boat. Rosh een is only southern ireland due to the accent. I do use Rosh as my ickname though but again i pronounce it row (like row your boat) shhhh, so rowsh.

  2. My daughter is Roisin and I live in the U.S. She is in elementary school now. We say Row-SHEEN because that’s how our Irish friends say it. Teachers and kids have no trouble pronouncing her name correctly after the first day or so. It’s two syllables and very easy once you’ve heard it said out loud. I love the way it looks, the lovely, lilting sound of it, and the meaning. We are Catholic and she is named for Mary, the Mystical Rose. We have an Irish last name so they sound musical together. She loves her name too. For every once-in-awhile person who makes a joke about raisins or rolls their eyes at pronouncing such a WEIRD name, there are fifty who stop short and say, “That is so beautiful. Say it again. What does it mean?” It’s a nice way to weed out boring people without imagination! I would never tell my daughter that, but that’s how we feel.

  3. It’s actually pronounced row-sheen .. my name is roisin , I have NEVER been called rosh-een