If there’s a common complaint about baby name books, it is this: they read more like telephone directories than meaningful guides to choosing a single name.

For parents who have already narrowed down their search to a) an Irish appellation, and b) preferably something a little bit off the mainstream, Pamela Redmond Satran and Linda Rosenkrantz’ Cool Irish Names for Babies is just the thing.

The team behind Nameberry are also the authors of Cool Names for Babies and Beyond Shannon and Sean: An Enlightened Guide to Irish Baby Naming.

The new publication is up-to-the-minute. (Shannon and Sean was written in the 90s.) Here’s what I love about their latest:

  • The authors do a great job of listing names that are already popular. Plenty of first time parents are disappointed when they realize they weren’t the first to think of calling their daughter Riley. The “Pop Cool” section can inspire parents hoping for a tamer choice, or re-direct those looking for something truly adventurous.
  • The duo remains unmatched at compiling surprising and unusual lists. While characters from Irish literature might be expected, their list of Irish word names is eye-opening. Fia, anyone?
  • If you’re a newcomer to Celtic myth and legend (as I am), their listing of relevant figures is concise and thorough.
  • Known for their Coolator – a chart showing how to make an ordinary name just a bit more daring – they’ve now created a Celticizer. After all, Irish names have been Anglicized for generations. If you’re honoring Grandma Molly, maybe Maille is an appealing choice.
  • And – my very favorite bit – they’ve compiled a list of given names that are traditionally l bestowed in Irish families. So even if you’re a little fuzzy about your ancestry, you can reclaim some heritage. Last name O’Kane? Call your daughter Aislinn. MacArdle? How ’bout Malachy for a son?

If there’s a shortcoming to the book, it is simply that it is, well, short. You’ll probably want to read more about some of these names before you settle on them for good.

But it is a comprehensive introduction to the many flavors of Irish names – and a positively addictive read!

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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  1. Generally, Irish names don’t appeal to me – but then there are a few (well, one or two) that I just fall for 🙂 My #1 boys name if we have another is Cillian, and I do really like Malachi and Malachy (especially the latter)

    I absolutely adore Cillian – though I do wonder if I’ll chicken out if we have another boy and just opt for Adrien or Jasper, because Cillian will sound too ‘Irish’ next to my kids ‘english’ names – Matilda, Oliver & Iris! My DH is half Irish, so I think I could use that as an excuse to use them! (even though I’m pretty sure my surname is scottish?)

  2. Irish names aren’t really my thing. I like them just fine, but I don’t have any ties to Ireland, so they seem like a silly choice for me.

    Still, I’m intrigued by this book. I’m trying to hold off on buying any baby name books until we’re actually trying or expecting. But perhaps a trip to the bookstore is in order for this evening, if only just to look!

  3. Too funny! I’m Scottish, not Irish, so you’ll find me wearin’ the orange today of all days. ;P

    But this book is still on my “things to get” list along with the updated “Cool Names” book. I have the older version of each and it’s time to update them here too. I think the only one I’m missing of their books is the Anglophile one “Beyond Diana Charles” which I can’t find anywhere anymore. Maybe they need to work on that one next? It would helps me, the serious Anglophile.

    From your randomly mentioneds, Malachy’s the one that appeals the most, so warm & charming Malachy. If he didn’t sound so “I’m trying to be very Celtic” with my surname, I’d use him in a heartbeat!

    Happy St. Patrick’s Day! [ : P