Even in the Age of Aidan, he might make for a distinctive and decidedly Irish choice.
Thanks to Corrine for suggesting Ciarán as our Name of the Day.
If you’re thinking of calling your son Ciarán, your first choice is a tricky one. Preserve the more authentic spelling, or opt for the common Anglicized form, Kieran? To an unfamiliar American, it is possible that either spelling leads to something other than KEER uhn.
In the US, Kieran has been steadily chugging out of obscurity, though he’s still far from common. In 1992, he first ranked at #971. He’s climbed most years since to reach his current high of #530 in 2008. That’s a far cry from the dizzying heights of popularity enjoyed by Brian, Ryan and other Irish boys’ names ending in -n.
Kieran places in the UK Top 100. Ciarán is popular in Ireland.
Variant spellings are possible, as is the use of either version as a girls’ name, especially considering the many spellings of Kyra currently in the US Top 1000. (Though Kiera, Kierra and Ciara may be given a three-syllable pronunciation, too.)
But Ciarán is an old name, and a masculine one. The Irish Ciar means black. The -an is a diminutive suffix, so Ciarán means something like “little dark one,” probably in reference to hair color. Famous bearers of the names include:
- A semi-legendary Ciar appears as the son of the semi-legendary Fergus, King of Ulster;
- Saint Ciarán the Elder was the first bishop of Ossary and one of twelve apostles of Ireland. He is sometimes Anglicized as Kevin;
- Fellow apostle of Ireland, the second Saint Ciarán, founded Clonmacnoise Abbey;
- At least three more saints Ciarán appear in various records, though only the first two are consistently listed.
Surname Kerry comes from the same soup. While he’s not common today, in 1960 he reached #158 in the US.
Parents probably first heard Kieran in the multiplex. Back in 1990, child actor Macauley Culkin cemented his place in pop culture as Kevin, the son mistakenly left behind as his family flew to Paris in the holiday blockbuster Home Alone. Macauley’s real life brother had a bit part in the flick, as cousin Fuller. Kieran Culkin’s best known role was Igby in 2002’s indie classic Igby Goes Down. Igby was born Jason Slocumb, but nicknamed after his toy bear. It’s not a happy movie.
There’s also Ciarán Hinds, known for small roles in many very big films, like Finn in 2002’s Road to Perdition. He’s set to play Aberforth Dumbledore in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows. Hinds also donned the laurel wreath to play Julius Caesar in HBO’s Rome.
Hinds was born in Belfast, and you’ll have no trouble finding an Irish Ciarán in nearly any field of endeavor, from literature to politics to athletics.
He could wear very well in the US. Kieran and Ciaran occupy that middle space between underused gems with backstory and nouveau names of recent coinage. Kieran looks new, and fits right in with Jalen, Colton and Kellen. But his credentials as a saints’ name and Irish heritage choice are impeccable.