He’s an ancient king of Ireland and a modern American novelist.

Thanks to Bevin for suggesting her brother’s moniker as Name of the Day: Cormac.

Cormac is Irish, and just like Aidan and Ryan, Connor and Brendan, his kelly green color gives him a lift. His meaning, however, is open to debate. I’ve found four:

  • Tree trunk;
  • Charioteer;
  • Son of the raven, not unlike Corbin;
  • Impure son – another possible translation for the Gaelic corb is defiled.

The raven link is perhaps the most appealing, but a parent would have to accept a certain amount of ambiguity with this choice.

What’s certain is that Cormac reads Irish, thanks to the third century High King of Ireland Cormac mac Airt. While it is difficult to separate history from legend with the High Kings, Cormact was almost certainly a real person. And a good real person, too – most accounts suggest that he was a wise ruler.

Cormac would’ve been king during the lifetime of Finn McCool, and so he’s often mentioned in Celtic myth. The tales of his military campaigns may have some basis in fact; the stories of magic contributing to his success, probably not so much. Some accounts also claim that he converted to Christianity late in life. Given the difficult of dating his reign, that’s hard to prove.

Another Cormac appears in Celtic legend, this time an exiled prince from the Ulster Cycle.

A few other historical figures worn the name, including:

  • Saint Cormac, a sixth century Irish abbot, lent his name to the village where he lived – Kilcormac. You can still visit St. Cormac’s Well;
  • Cormac mac Cuilennáin, an Irish bishop and scholar, once considered a saint;
  • A twelfth century Bishop of Dunkeld in Scotland.

In an interesting twist, twentieth century writer Charles McCarthy chose the name for himself. Today Cormac McCarthy is a well-known novelist – and he’s often considered a Southern novelist. This gives Cormac a certain cowboy cool vibe – and perhaps opens him to use by families without Irish backgrounds, too. Cormac could almost substitute for Wyatt.

Cormac also occupies that elusive space – familiar, but never ranked in the US Top 1000. In Ireland, he’s charted in the Top 50 in recent years. You might hear him in Scotland, Australia or Canada, too. But in San Fransisco, Minneapolis or Miami? Your Cormac will stand out in the crowd of Aidans.

With the masculine nickname Mac or the retro 80s Cory, Cormac is also far more flexible than many a two-syllable name.

It’s hard to find a name with more potential for a son than Cormac.

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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What do you think?


  1. It’s pronounced Cor-muck. I’ve been researching it all morning and the pronunciation MACK is anglicized.

  2. My husband (who is Irish…as in born there.) and his family pronounce it Cor-Mac. They don’t have extremely strong Irish accents though (varies by where in Ireland you’re from, much like the US). I think the pronunciation “mick” comes from the accent…not necessarily the correct emphasis. For instance – my name is Pam. In Texas it’s pronounced P-aym. In England it’s more like Pahm. Neither is wrong…they’re just different accents.

  3. Cormac (we say COREmick) is my youngest son’s name. We call him Mac or Mackie. Love the name 🙂

  4. Yup, we pronounce it just like Sebastiane does. My brother goes by the nickname “Maggers” rather than “Mac”, though I’m not quite sure how that started!

    Love the review – lots of stuff in there I didn’t know about 🙂

  5. I much prefer Cormac to the overused Connor. It at least has a more usuable nn for a boy, Mac, which I find quite cute, or even Cory.

  6. I like Cormac but I struggle with saying it. I tend to say it more like “Cormick” and have to concentrate to pronounce the “mac” part correctly. How are other people saying it?