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.