He’s a saint and a centaur, and also the little boy down the street. Today’s Name of the Day is the Celtic charmer Ronan.
You can spot the Atlantic grey seal and the Harbour seal on the coast of Ireland. Rón is the Irish for seal; adding the diminutive “an” turns the name into “little seal.” It’s not clear how – or exactly when – the term leapt from the sea creature to human beings. Still, it strikes us as a neutral meaning for a name – neither inspiring nor off-putting.
Plus, we love the sound of Ronan – RO nin – with that ever so current “o” sound. It’s been worn by plenty of real and fictional figures, giving the name the kind of character that develops over long use.
The earliest Ronan in the historical record was a Celtic bishop who preached the faith in sixth century Cornwall and Brittany. Check the map and you’ll find an ancient village in France, Locronan, was named in his honor. It’s stunningly picturesque – if you’ve seen the 2004 romance A Very Long Engagement, then you’ve spied Locronan. St. Ronan is sometimes confused with his contemporary, St. Rumon – or they might even be the same person. At about the same time, the Irish province of Leinster was ruled by King Ronan.
The name was fairly common in early medieval Ireland and has been used sparingly ever since, gaining momentum in the 20th century. A few notable Ronans include Irish pop star Ronan Keating; writer Ronan Coughlin; and rugby player Ronan O’Gara. Two other well-known Ronans are fictional – a centaur in the Harry Potter series and a bad guy in the Fantastic Four comics.
Today it’s a Top 50 choice in Ireland, and is also heard in Scotland and Canada. In the US, Ronan first entered the Top 1000 in 2001 and has climbed steadily since then. As of 2007, it ranked #554.
Given the dizzying heights that Aidan has reached, and the popularity of Ryan, Connor and Sean, it’s little wonder that parents have started to dig deeper for authentic Gaelic heritage choices. Ronan works well because he’s a little bit different from any of the more popular choices, but has plenty of backstory of his own.
If there’s a drawback to Ronan, it is his similarity to other current up’n’comers for boys: Roman (#207 in 2007), Ronin (#978 and either a variant spelling of Ronan or a title taken from Japanese history) and Rowan (#366 for boys and also used for girls.)
We quite like this name, but we’re biased by the darling, chubby 10 month old Ronan a few doors down from ApMtn HQ. He has a father and two big brothers with shamrock green appellations of their own, so Ronan fits in perfectly with their clan. And, truth told, it’s the kind of name that fits well in our neighborhood – unexpected but not unfamiliar.
Given his recent race up the charts, we’re calling it a Hot Name for 2010, and we’ll be on the lookout for more small Ronans in the next few years.