It is an elusive combination – a name that seems familiar, but is shared by few, and can be easily spelled and pronounced without being too close to current favorites.

Thanks to Bek for suggesting a boy’s name that just might possess these elements. Egan is our Name of the Day.

1984’s smash hit Ghostbusters included Harold Ramis playing the nerdy Dr. Egon Spengler, straight man to fellow paranormal experts Dan Aykroyd and Bill Murray. While many name sites list Egon and Egan as variants of each other, they have different roots. Egino was a twelfth century Bavarian saint, his name stemming from a Germanic element meaning sword’s edge. Egon is a modern version of the name, still used in Eastern Europe.

Egan’s story is a little more tangled. It is tempting to connect Egan to Eoghan, a Celtic name. Trouble is, Eoghan is pronounced YO in or OH in – and so the usual English version is Ewan, Owen or even Eugene.

Instead, Egan comes from the surname Mac Aodhagáin. The family traces their roots to Galway. Early Mac Aodhagáins were in service to kings as lawyers and clerks from the 1300s onward.

Mac Aodhagáin has been Anglicized as MacEgan, Egan and Eagan as well as Keegan and Hagan. Plenty of people bear the surname. If you remember Gene Hackman’s character in The French Connection, you might also recall that the story was based on real events – Eddie Egan was the real life detective.

Other Egans have included the first governor of Alaska, William Allen Egan; the first Catholic bishop of Philadelphia, Michael Egan and 1904 Olympic gold medalist in golf, Chandler Egan. It’s a long and varied list and includes Canadians, Australians and Americans.

But look closely at the original name. One of the most interesting things about Egan is his root. Aodh is the origin of the chart-topping, spinoff-spawning, unstoppable Aidan, too.

Aodh, Aedh or Áed appears as a god in Irish mythology and was worn by several kings. There was more than one Saint Aodhan or Aedan. It has long been an impeccable Irish heritage choice. Then, of course, Carrie Bradshaw fell in love with Aidan Shaw on Sex in the City in the late 90s and the already fashionable name went from white hot to world dominating in a New York minute.

Like Aidan, the meaning for Egan is usually given as little fire. Unlike Aidan, Egan has never even cracked the US Top 1000.

This makes him an intriguing option for parents. Egan looks like plenty of popular boys’ names – Evan and Ethan, especially – but his “g” sound is distinctive. It seems like we all should know someone called Egan.

Egan is upbeat and Irish. Best of all, he’s unusual without being even a little bit strange. If there’s any drawback, it is the possibility that he’ll blend in with all the two-syllable-ends-in-n picks for boys. But I rather think that, like Ronan, his sound is sharp enough to remain an inviting option.

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.

You May Also Like:

What do you think?


  1. As an Egan I can confirm, top-tier name (also this was f*ing insane to find because I was born on February 20th 2009 and that’s when this article was posted)

  2. I could go for Egan. I’ve never heard it as a surname OR a first name (so I’m unbiased), but its sound is quite appealing.

    My only possible problem with it? It reminds me a bit of Egor.

  3. I really have a fetish though – Egan, Ewan and Eben are all on my short list this go-around. I may need to seek help 😉

  4. Sophie, I hadn’t thought of the rhymes-with-vegan thing. Hmmm … Egan the Vegan. Maybe he’d grow up to have a fabulous, all-veg cooking show. 🙂

    Bek, I think your perspective on last names/first names is pretty close to mine. If it *sounds* like a first name, I’m inclined to think of it as possible first name.

    The Nameberry duo have a new Irish names book coming out next month. I’ll be curious to see if Egan shows up there.

  5. Despite his interesting history, Egan is all surname to me as well. I don’t dislike him though – he has a kindness about him which I find rather endearing; but he’s just not for me.

    Plus, all that comes to mind is ‘vegan’ whenever I say him aloud – not that that’s a bad connotation, just slightly annoying to me!

  6. I actually knew a kid named Egan growing up, and never heard it used as a surname! Interesting. I think most names/surnames all become interrelated at some point, and since my daughter has a surname, that certainly doesn’t bother me (though it’s not my usual taste) But ever since elementary school, and being friends with Egan, I’ve been intrigued.

    I find it a really interesting name to just say over and over. I like it’s slightly familiar, yet definitely unique nature. What can I say? I just really like it. Thanks for the history of it, Verity. It’s always good to get the in-depth look 🙂

    Even my husband likes it, so that must be good for something 😉

  7. Well, Egan is the surname of my parents’ close friends. To me it is undeniably a last name,neverto be used as a first name. I can’t even imagine naming a child Egan. It’s just odd.

  8. I went to HS with a girl whose surname was Egan, Susan was her name. Drove me bananas saying her same aloud.

    I think I like Egan, after saying him aloud a few times. Interesting sound, neat look great history, awesome meaning and simple, no nickname appeal. Egan’s not for me, too surnaey and not in my tree but I wouldn’t mind seeing Egan on other people’s kids!