This choice sounds quite aggressive, but one of the earliest bearers was a saint.
Thanks to Sophie for suggesting our Name of the Day: Cillian.
Gunnar. Slade. Cannon. Believe it or not, these hyper-masculine monikers all appeared in the US Top 1000 in 2007 – and appear to be gaining in use. Cillian can’t escape their company. Not only does the first syllable of his name sound like “kill,” the meaning found in most baby names guides is “war or strife.”
The seventh-century Saint Cillian knew how to start a fight. Born in Ireland, he was dispatched to Bavaria to convert the heathens. Cillian made progress until a local noblewoman refused to see things his way. Instead of backing down, Cillian attacked her marriage and got himself beheaded.
Still, he is considered a martyr and a saint. Like Blaise, he sounds trendy and current, but has all the history a parent could want.
There are alternate meanings – and spellings – for Cillian:
- Cillian could trace his roots back to the Gaelic ceall – church;
- Ceallach, commonly given as the original version of the name, might also mean bright, instead of bellicose.
Just like Kaitlyn has eclipsed Caitlin, the K spelling of this name is more common, too. While Cillian failed to rank in the US Top 1000, Killian came in at #836 in 2007. Kilian is also sometimes seen.
Opinions vary on the precise pronunciation. KEEL yan or KILL yun blurs the sounds and puts this one in a class with Ronan and Orrin. But I’ve most often heard KIL ee ahn – possibly influenced by our familiarity with Jillian.
Handsome actor Cillian Murphy has boosted his given name’s profile. He’s played Batman’s enemy Scarecrow and Rachel McAdam’s scary seatmate in Red Eye. You’ll also find a smattering of Irish football and rugby players answering to Cillian.
There’s another connection that keeps this choice familiar – Killian’s Irish Red is a widely available beer. Despite the Irish name, this one is owned by Coors. But George Killian was a real Irishman – and a brewer. It’s reasonably common as a surname, but seems to have started out as a given name.
I can’t help think that the popularity of the lager should influence parents to stick with the more authentically Gaelic Cillian. (In Ireland, Cillian ranked #28 in 2006.) But it doesn’t appear to be working quite that way.
The incredibly popular and uber-Irish appellation Kelly traces his roots to Ceallach, too – making him a related name. Since Kelly has gone to the girls, parents might opt for Cillian instead. Or if you’re trying to honor a sister called Kelly, here’s a way to give her nephew a related name.
Cillian has some real possibilities for parents searching for an authentically Irish moniker that is familiar but uncommon. You will need to be patient with the K/C spelling – but that’s a challenged shared by Catherines, Karls and Christinas the world over. And while Cill doesn’t seem like a good nickname, opt for the three-syllable pronunciation and you could always call your boy Ian for short.
If Ryan and Aidan feel too popular, Cillian might just be the name for you.