The baby name Ronan belongs to a saint and a centaur. And it’s a fast-rising Irish import with plenty of charm.
It’s our Baby Name of the Day.
We name our children Fox and Wren and Bear. And names like Leo, Caleb, and Paloma refer to animals. The baby name Ronan falls in the latter category.
Both the Atlantic grey seal and the Harbour seal live on the coast of Ireland. Rón is the Irish for seal; adding the diminutive “an” turns the name into “little seal.”
If you know your mermaids, you might be thinking of selkies. In Irish and Scottish legends, they’re mermaid-like creatures, but instead of being part-fish, they’re human on land and seals in the water. An old folktale tells of a selkie who married a fisherman. Their children were ronans – little seals.
The historical record gives us a saint by the name, sometime in the sixth century.
It’s said the future Saint Ronan was well-educated. He served as a bishop, but chose to travel to Brittany as a missionary. The place he settled eventually became known as Locronan, in his honor. During his life, he attracted followers, and legends about his life abound.
The village is stunningly picturesque – it’s part of Les Plus Beaux Villages de France, an association formed to raise awareness of France’s many small, but lovely, towns. If you’ve seen the 2004 romance A Very Long Engagement, then you’ve spied Locronan.
Despite the long-standing connection between the saint and the village, the baby name Ronan remains rare in France.
SO MANY RONANS
However, Ronans are plentiful in Ireland. Until recently, that’s almost the only place you’d hear it.
During the seventh century, at least one – and possibly two – kings of Leinster answered to the name.
And more saints appear in the record, too.
In 1823, Sir Walter Scott published Saint Ronan’s Well, a novel set in a fashionable spa on the Scottish border. It’s still there today.
More recent notables include Irish pop star Ronan Keating, writer Ronan Coughlin, and rugby player Ronan O’Gara.
Journalist Ronan Farrow is likely the best known at the moment. The son of Woody Allen and Mia Farrow, he was born Satchel Ronan, but has used his middle name in his adult life.
And then there are the fictional figures:
- A centaur in the Harry Potter series first appears in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone and returns for the Battle of Hogwarts.
- Marvel Comics gave us Ronan the Accuser, a villain who has appeared in both the Guardians of the Galaxy and Captain Marvel movies.
- Jason Momoa played Ronon Dex on Stargate Atlantis in the early 2000s – but he’s from a planet in the Pegasus Galaxy, not Ireland.
In 2012, Taylor Swift recorded a single for charity titled “Ronan.” It was inspired by a young boy by the name who died of neuroblastoma. It’s a heart-rending song.
BY THE NUMBERS
The baby name Ronan has been a Top 100 choice in Ireland and Northern Ireland for years, and it’s familiar elsewhere in the English-speaking world.
American parents have embraced the name more recently. It debuted in the US Top 1000 in 2001.
It rose with other two-syllable, ends-with-n favorites, most notably Aiden. But it also fits right in with Ryan and lots of other modern traditionals we love for our sons.
Pop culture steadily bolstered the name, from Taylor Swift’s song to Jason Momoa’s character.
As of 2021, the name stands at #274. That’s a sweet spot – not as popular as Ryan or Aiden, but still plenty familiar.
NEXT WAVE IRISH BOY NAMES
We’ve traded Brian for Kevin, Sean and Ryan for Connor and Aiden. And lately, it’s a new wave of Irish boy names that have been discovered in the US. The baby name Ronan fits in this category, but so do Liam and Finn.
Ronan fits with another category of names – the equally Irish Rowan, the Italian-inspired Roman, and Japanese warrior name Ronin.
Between the vibrant Ro sound and our love of Irish boy names, it’s easy to imagine Ronan continuing to gain in use.
All of this makes the baby name Ronan a great fit for parents after something authentically Irish, steeped in history, but accessible to an American audience and not too very popular – yet.
What do you think of the baby name Ronan? Would you consider it for a son?
First published on July 25, 2008, this post was revised and re-published on September 16, 2020 and again on July 27, 2022.
I love the name Ronan! Our son is Ronan and it fits him so well. We liked it for the different-but-not-too-different reasons mentioned as well as the connection to water and the saint. We call him Ro or RoRo a lot now while he’s little. Ronan has an older sister Clara. We are expecting our third and looking for a name that fits with these two! (Don’t know yet if it is a girl or boy!)
I love Ronan! I’m considering it for a future son, along with Callum, Lachlan, and a few others. I love Eamon too, but my mom doesn’t because of someone she knew. My sister just named her new baby girl Morrigan (which I don’t like because it sounds too close to Morgan, which is masculine to me and Morrigan will probably be confused with it constantly. lol Would have been Declan if she had been born a boy).
For Ronan’s and Isla’s little brother:
Graham, Fintan or Callum
For Isla’s and Ronan’s little sister:
Aurora, Flora or Brenna
My son’s name is Ronan (born August 2007). It’s actually John Ronan, but he only goes by Ronan. His younger sister is named Isla. We love his name. Strong, a bit different, but not too “out there”. We call him RoRo a lot. That fits him now because he’s only four… but I think he’ll enjoy his name as he gets older. 🙂
By the way, we’re expecting our third, and while we’re not “sure” if the baby is a boy or a girl, I’m thinking it’s a boy, and we’re stuck on a name to fit our Ronan, Isla sibset! I’ve been scouring this site all morning. 🙂
I love Ronan and Isla as a sibset! It’s gorgeous and I can understand why you’re having so much trouble finding a third name to go with it. Have you thought about using another Irish saint for a little boy? My first thought would be Cormac or Dermot, neither would have a spelling to pronunciation issue that Irish Gaelic names often have. For a girl I like Niamh with your two (but I am biased around that name :)). Or away from Irish names how about Phoebe?
For a boy: Lachlan! It’s a huge hit in Australia, yet rare in the U.S. Owen would fit in seamlessly with the names of your other two children, although it might be too popular for your taste. Fiona would be stunning on a little girl. You might want to check out the baby names forum on mumsnet, the UK site – they would probably have some great Celtic suggestions. Best of luck!
John Ronan & Isla…. so nice together!
The only Ronan i know has a sister named Vienna… i always liked how those sounded together.
For a boy: Alden, Bram, Brian, Callum, Declan, Donovan, Eamon, Owen, Gavin, Lochlan, Neil, Nolan, Oisin, Rhys, Seamus, Seth, Graham, Timothy, Toby
For a girl: Esme, Eire, Anna, Astra, Bridget, Carys, Clara, Eden, Eve, Felicity, Fiona, Flora, Hazel, Juliet, Lora, Maeve, Moriah, Neve, Opal, Pearl, Rosa, Tessa, Vera
Ashley SP says
Ronan Gregory was our name choice if our last little one had been a boy (we were surprised with twin girls instead!) We already have a Liam, a Calum and an Isla. Our new little girls are Rhiannon and Aria.
Some suggestions: Owen, Calum/Callum, Silas, Eamon, Ian, Alasdhair (Alastair). For girls, I love Maeve (it’s my Isla’s middle name), Aoife, Niamh (my Aria’s middle name), Anya, and Epona. Good luck!
I named my youngest son born March 31, 2008 Ronan. My wife and I thought this would be a good middle name, after thinking about what ould be a good first name to go with it we decided we liked it so much why not give it to him as a first name. My wife and I both grew up on the coast so harbor and grey seals are familiar to us, it was our way of naming our son after the sea. We also thought it was different but not too different that he would be teased on the play ground. After deciding our son needed a good Irish Catholic name we went with Ronan Xavier, a good strong name that he will grow into.
My baby brother answers to Rohn, so we’d probably skip Ronan/Rowan/Rohan in favor of tucking Rohn in the middle spot somewhere.
Kayt, it is crazy how you’ll meet someone with such an eclectic assortment of naming styles – I wonder if one parent chose some names and the other won out the rest of the time?
Friend of a friend, Corbin it is for August 12. I do remember Corbin Bernsen from LA Law, and there’s also a Corbin Bleu from the cast of High School Musical. I haven’t a clue about his origins, so it will be fun to find out!
My last name is Ronan, First name is Kevin… Ronan= little seal, Kevin=handsome at birth. Ronan is a very old Irish name from the SouthWest I believe, around Munster, Near Cork.
Friend of a friend says
Ronan sounds so “brutish” to me though your right, it’s a better alternative to some of the other -an sounding names out there. I do like the Ro- sound though, but I think I may prefer a Rory. Have you ever written about the name Corbin? I love this name and I haven’t heard it used much. I think there’s a famous actor named Corbin out there and it’s also the name of the character played by Bruce Willis in The Fifth Element. I think it’s English?
It’s a great choice! I love how authentically Irish it is wihout being Aidan, Connor, etc. I would love to hear him in my neighborhood, but I live near a bunch of Skylynns and Sammys and Jaydens. I actually have a neighbor with five kids, and overall, they don’t have awful names. They have an Aisling, a Danica, and a Brenna, but they also have a Skylynn and and a Jayden. Weird, huh?
See, I think of Ronan as an alternate to Rowan (and to get around that, I quite like Rohan, and he’d easily fit into the rapidly growing Indian community around me). I agree that with the huge -n sounding trend, Ronan may get a bit lost, but I can guarantee if you’re looking for a “fits in yet stands out” name for your boy, Ronan’s a grand choice and will age a great deal better than Jayden/Jailyn/Mason/Landon/etc. He’d also make an ideal brother for Colin/Aidan or even… Rowan! ;D
I quite like Ronan. I have a thing for Celtic names but I think I’ll put this with Rowan. They’re getting far too popular and they’re being used on girls, which I don’t like. I’m not such a big fan of unisex names and like DirtyHippy, -en boys’ names are far too popular for my liking.
I hate boys’ names for girls too, and I also dislike “unisex” names mostly (I’m actually okay with them for boys, but not girls and I generally prefer them as middle names), because they’re not truly unisex to me. I cringe when someone uses them for girls, and more so when they become almost exclusively used for girls. Mackenzie, Morgan, Rowan, and Quinn come to mind here. I love those for boys and wish they’d go back to the boys’ side.
I’ve actually met a baby girl with this name . . . grrr . . .
Ronan is fine, but with the popularity of all the “-en” boys names around me (I’m drowning in a sea of Colins, Landons, Masons, Aidans) it doesn’t strike me as a particularly inspired choice.
There’s tenor Ronan Tyan too and call me Geek, but Ronan Dex is a character on Stargate Atlantis played by Jason Momoa, as well.
I find his look smooth, his manner snappy and upbeat and very dashing. I’ve met two in Boston within the last year, so it is starting to catch on in here in heavily Celtic MA. He’s actually my preferred R-n name, of the ones you listed, Roman’s too ‘Roman” and severe for me and Roan’s too horsey for my liking. But Ronan’s snazzy and cool! He gets a huge :thumbsup: from me!