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!
We are having baby girl number three in October and have nooooo names!
We love Irish baby names given that our last name is D0n0ghue. Our two girls now are named Nessa and Rowan.
I really love the surname/gender neutral vibe. Maeve would be an option, but we have a cousin already named that.
Please read on for my response, and leave your thoughtful suggestions in the comments.
Dear Ana –
Congratulations on your new daughter! I’m one of three girls, and consider myself so lucky to have sisters.
Nessa and Rowan are great together, and Maeve would go so well. At first, I thought this would be the easiest list ever to write because, well – so many Irish names appeal.
But I think there are two possible challenges.
First, Nessa is clearly and unambiguously feminine. Rowan is truly unisex, a name used in nearly equal numbers for boys and girls. It sounds like you may prefer another name like Rowan – tailored and possibly unisex – but not so much so that it leaves Nessa feeling like the odd one out.
Am I overthinking it? I guess that’s what we do here!
Bree – Bree feels breezy and casual, but it claims impeccably Irish roots. It comes from brígh – meaning power. Like Rowan, it’s tailored, but like Nessa, we’re used to hearing it use for girls. It could also be short for Brianna, Briony, Bridget, or lots of other Bri- names.
Finley – Like Rowan, Finley is used in similar numbers for boys and girls alike. It’s a little less common than Top 100 – but still very spirited – Riley.
Neve – You mentioned not being able to use Maeve, so I immediately thought of Neve. The original form is Niamh, which might be challenging in American English – though not insurmountably so. One thing that gives me pause: I rhyme Neve with Dev, thanks to actress Neve Campbell. But many stay it like Eve, which is far more faithful to the long ‘e’ sound of Niamh. So that’s either a recipe for frustration and confusion, or an opportunity to use the pronunciation you prefer.
Piper – Strictly speaking, Piper isn’t Irish. But doesn’t it feel Irish-ish? In “Danny Boy,” the pipes are calling. And what’s more Irish than bagpipes? So, I wonder if this one appeals? I think it hits the tailored and unisex mark well, while still pairing nicely with Nessa and Rowan.
Teagan – This surname name comes from the given name Tadhg, which means poet. Maybe it’s generations of girls named Megan and Reagan that make me see Teagan as effortlessly feminine, or perhaps it’s just that we’re using it for girls in bigger numbers. Unlike Megan + Reagan, Teagan is pronounced with a long ‘e’ sound, which feels vibrant and upbeat.
Tierney – If you know your old Hollywood, this name might make you think of glamorous, Oscar-nominated Golden Age star Gene Tierney. But the name feels very twenty-first century, an Irish surname with history aplenty.
Quinn – Quinn shares the simple, straightforward sound of Maeve, and the surname style of Rowan. It’s used in bigger numbers for girls than boys, which could be a bonus here.
Vivian – Strictly speaking, Vivian hasn’t been unisex in the US for a few generations. (It last made the boys’ Top 1000 in the 1930s.) Today it reads as a vintage charmer for a girl. It comes from the Latin vivus – alive, but picks up some Irish sensibility via Béibin, a name famous throughout Irish legend. It’s often Anglicized as Bevin, but Vivian is another go-to equivalent.
Overall, I’m most drawn to Piper. I think it balances all of your needs and wants effortlessly, and sounds like a sister for both Nessa and Rowan.
But let’s open it up to the community, because I know they’ll have some brilliant suggestions.
Readers, what would you name a sister for Nessa and Rowan?
Would Clover be too much? I really like Nessa, Rowan and Clover.
Or Shea, Flannery, Greer and Elva
What about Aisling (pronounced Ashling) or Saoirse (pronounced Ser-sha). Or Emmett?
Anastasia Donoghue says
Thank you all for your help!!! Will share what we decide this October!
Fiona Jane says
Oona, Bridie, Fiadh/Fia, or Clodagh
Nessa, Rowan and Oona
Nessa, Rowan and Bridie
Nessa, Rowan and Fiadh
Nessa, Rowan and Fia
Nessa, Rowan and Clodagh
Fiona Jane says
Oh… and Clare! I can’t believe I didn’t think of that earlier. It bridges the gap between Nessa and Rowan.
Nessa, Rowan, and Clare
Julie G says
Laura Powell says
Hmm how about:
Niamh (if you like Maeve)
Erin Beth says
I love the suggestions of Darcy and Tierney for your sibset! I would add Sloane, Blaine, Keegan, and Kiley as well.
Erin Beth says
Sorry, I love Irish names and thought of a few more! I also really like Kirby, Casey, and Mallory for your sibset. I also know someone with Bridie, a traditional nickname for Bridget, as a given name and I think that works too.
My first thought was Kerry. Kelly is synonymous is 70’s and 80’s babies but Kerry never got that popular and I think it is the perfect mix between Rowan and Nessa – Unisex like Rowan but it has the 80’s charm Nessa does. Kerry D0n0ghue.
My other thought is Alana. Yes it’s commonly used for girls but I don’t think it’s massively girly and it’s actually a feminization of Alan so I think it would still work well. Alana D0n0ghue.
Other suggestions –
The Mrs. says
Do you like Delaney?
Nessa, Rowan, & Delaney
Congrats and best wishes!!
These aren’t all Irish, but I wonder if they’d bridge the gap between Nessa and Rowan…
Jean C. says
I love Teagan!
I also like Delaney. What I really like about it is that each child gets their own ending.
Nessa, Rowan and Delaney.
But if that doesn’t strike a chord, Teagan would be by next choice—or Fiona.
Keira. Nessa, Rowan and Keira.
or Riley. Nessa, Rowan and Riley.
Maeve is perfect. I say don’t strike it from your possibilities!
Oooooo! Teagan and Tierney- swoon!
Meryl, Ione, and Brenna are other faves from my trusty old “Celtic names for children” book, haha.
Teagan or Neve seem like a great fit! I knew a Neve who pronounces her name like Eve with an N. 🙂
I would also like to suggest-
Evelyn- I believe it’s a poplar name in Ireland, and I love the possible meaning of “wished for child”.
Farrah- I know this name isn’t traditionaly irish but it sounds so lovely with your Irish girls names. 🙂
Good luck and Congrats on your baby girl!
We have a Rowan, and our other two picks were Teagan and Tamsin. I also considered Murphy but decided that it was a bit too much. But I would still love it on a girl.
I wonder if you’d like Sive?
(the more “authentic” spelling being Sadhbh, but that one might be REALLY hard to use outside of Ireland – and there is a John B. Keane play with title character spelled Sive to give the more phonetic spelling a bit of literary clout).
Or Orla, Una, Sheena, Eily, or Emer – all pronounced more or less as they are spelled.
Also immediately thought Sive. Doesn’t have the same Ne- sound as Nessa, so it stands out, but it keeps the simplicity and the Irishness.
Love Teagan for you!
I wonder if Carys would appeal? Harris with a C – Nessa, Rowan and Carys
Or Tamsin? I’d nickname her Zinny – Nessa, Rowan and Tamsin
Maybe Sorcha? It’s a variant for Claire – Nessa, Rowan and Sorcha
If you’re ok with names that aren’t spelled like we pronounce them, I love Aoife (Eva) or Ailish – the main character in the movie, Brooklyn.
Best of luck and congrats!