Name Help is a series at Appellation Mountain. Every week, one reader’s name questions will be discussed.
We’re relying on thoughtful comments from the community to help expectant parents narrow down their name decisions. Thank you in advance for sharing your insight!
My husband comes from a big, Irish family. He has a one-syllable last name that rhymes with pin, and that will be our kids’ last name, too. All of his family names are Irish-Irish-Irish. There are something like four dozen other people with my husband’s same first-last name. (Not in his family, but so many come up on Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. and there was even another in his high school – no relation.)
We’re expecting our first baby, a boy, in May, and it’s really important to my husband that we find him an Irish name. I don’t mind … except that I feel like every Irish name is either a) taken by a brother/cousin/uncle or b) too obvious, especially with our common last name.
We don’t want a Ryan Jr., so that’s out.
Because of close family members we’ve also ruled out Daniel, Charles, Peter, Kevin, Patrick, Aiden, Connor, Liam, James, Sean, Brendan, Declan, and Nolan. All the Finn- names are awful with our last name. (Which is too bad, because I really like Finley.)
Maybe I’m too focused on what we can’t use? Or maybe all the Irish names really are taken?
We’re using my last name, T@l@ric0, as a middle name for this baby – and any future kids, too. I’m not sure if we’ll stick with Irish names, because really – it’s so much harder than I thought it would be!
Can you help us come up with some Irish names for this baby?
Please read on for my reply and leave your thoughtful suggestions in the comments.
Dear Heather –
Congratulations on your first!
I think part of the challenge is this: you’re not actually considering Irish names, as much as you’re looking at Irish-American names. Sure, Saoirse Ronan has made her Irishy-Irish name almost wearable in the US. But mostly we’re not up for naming our kids Caolán or Oisín, right?
We’re looking for easily spelled and pronounced imports, the kind that your husband’s family has embraced for generations.
Happily, there are some appealing choices you haven’t mentioned. Most of them are a little less common for boys born today than, say, Nolan or Declan – but not all of them.
That might be a consideration because you mentioned future children. Choose a common (and Irish) name now, and you might feel like it defines your choices for the future. The opposite is also true. (Though emphasis on the you might feel part. In actual fact, there’s no rule that says siblings’ names must have similar popularity levels. My own kids’ names represent opposite extremes.)
IRISH BOY NAMES
A logical alternative to long-popular Connor, there’s a third century Irish king named Cormac. It probably means raven, or possibly wheel. But it’s fun name with lots of big, appealing sounds that would pair well with a shorter surname.
Brady is a long-time favorite, an Irish surname name with plenty of swagger thanks to the very successful quarterback. Swap the B for a G, and Grady is an equally Irish surname every bit as upbeat. Bonus? Grady has a great meaning: noble.
There’s nothing expressly Irish about lots of classic names. Except, well. Saint Patrick. Danny Boy. And, as it happens, Jack. Not only are there plenty of notable Irish Americans who answer to Jack – JFK, for one! – it’s topped the charts in Ireland and Northern Ireland in recent years. If names like Cormac feel a little too different, Jack hits the traditional-and-Irish mark exactly.
The Irish spell it Ciaran. (Well, Ciarán.) It means dark, and, like so many traditional Irish favorites, has a saint or two associated with the name.
It’s easy to forget that Oscar counts as Irish. After all, it’s steeped in American pop culture, from Sesame Street to the deli section of the grocery store. But it’s nicely Irish, too – in legend, Oscar is the grandson of hero Finn McCool, and he follows in his footsteps.
We love names like Rowan and Roman. Ronan, too. It’s an Irish import that follows favorites like Aiden and Declan.
The name of an Irish ruler, Rory literally means “red king.” (One note: Hollywood legend Errol Flynn had a daughter named Rory. Which I mention for two reasons. First, it’s been used as unisex in the US since then – well, and especially post-Gilmore Girls. But also because of your surname. Still, she’s not a public figure, and this feels like an obscure point of trivia that you could comfortable forget. But she’s the first hit on a Google search.)
TIERNAN and TIERNEY
We tend to hear Tierney and Tiernan as a surnames, but they come from an Irish given name. (There’s a sixth century saint Tighearnach or Tigernach, and a few other historical figures, too.) Neither is common in the US, and both are potentially unisex. Tierney is used in higher numbers for girls and Tiernan for boys, though they both feel as flexible as, say, Rowan or Riley.
Overall, I think I’m drawn to names with more distinctive sounds to go with your short surname: Kieran, Cormac, Ronan. But when I factor in the middle name, I think Jack could be terribly appealing, too.
The Mrs. says
My 100% Irish great-grandfather was…Edmund.
It doesn’t shout, “Irish!”, but he is well-used in Ireland.
I know Abby said you don’t seem like the person who wants Oisín, buuuuuuuuut the anglicized versions of the name are _adorable_. Osheen Pin hits my ears just right! And you could make everything deer themed!
But if we’re talking a bit more mainstream, I think Callahan and Cormac are delightful.
Would Quinlan be too close to your surname?
Or maybe Ronan?
Or Sullivan? (Sully?)
Jean C. says
I’m not sure what the last name is, and I know Finley/Finnegan won’t work, but would Griffin? Just a thought.
I also love the suggestion of Lachlan.
All of Abby’s suggestions are great, and I liked Eamon and Seamus as well. Have you considered Bàlor rhymes with Valor? He’s a giant in Irish legend. WWE fans may recognize the name because of Finn Balor (Fergal Devitt).
Malcom (not Irish but related to the Irish name Colm)
I second Seamus and Angus.
It’s too bad you can’t use Brendan.
Since Ryan means King, it would be adorable if Ryan’s son was Brendan, which means Prince!
Alison Doherty says
I love Cormac and Rory. I also come from a big Irish family (28 first cousins) some names not on the list yet might be Callum, Lorcan, Keenan/Kellen, Garrett, Shay/Seamus, Rorke, Doyle, Eamon, Devlon, and Blaine. Some seem a little out there. But I think the sounds are familiar enough that they actually fit in quite well.
Erin Beth says
Cormac and Rory are my favorite suggestions so far. I also quite like sound of Dermot and Emmett (surname of an Irish patriot) with the surname. I will also thrown in Malachi, a Biblical name that has been well-used among the Irish over time, although it remains unusual enough to add distinction to a familiar last name.
Love love love Tiernan! And Ronan! No one has mentioned Lachlan—which is both Scottish and Irish—so I’ll throw that out there. (We have a Callum, a Lachlan, and a Maeve )
Cormac is perfect! I really like this name. So handsome, strong and playful.
I second the suggestions of Grady, Callahan (Cal), Desmond, and Shane! Also what about Murphy? It’s the perfect quintessential Irish name with a bit of rogue-ish charm. Or Rafferty?
Oh! Or Crosby! Another fave of mine
What about Kennedy?
My favorite Irish boy’s name is Tadhg, but that may be too much. So how about Seamus?
Irish boys names is a favorite category! Here are a few more:
Hugh (a big name crush of mine right now)
Grady and Cormac are great suggestions. I also like: Callum, Callahan, Sullivan, Angus,
Amon/Eamon, Arlen, Deacon, Crosby, Dugan, Donovan, Quinlan, Rafferty and Ronan.
Tiernan and Tierney are great but I prefer them both on a possible future girl.
Eamon is one of my favorites, and I also love Abby’s suggestion of Grady. I would also like to recommend Egan for consideration. 🙂
Callaghan or Seamus!
Lots of great options already suggested! I’ll add Desmond to the list as it’s one of my favorites, and also Donovan.
How about Breccan, Dillon, Garrett, Rafferty, Callahan, Lucan, or Sullivan? All of those sound specifically Irish to me and would be uncommon but not shocking choices for an American child. My favorite of Abby’s suggestions is Cormac. I think you have plenty of great options even after nixing all of the names already in use in your family and names that rhyme with “in.”
I like your suggestion of Grady! Oscar is an all time favorite of mine as well. I wonder if Curran, Cullen or Kellen would be of interest. Best of luck! Please let us know what you go with!