PRONOUCE: “aid + an” or “aid + on”
DESCRIPTION: A diminutive form of the name Aed meaning “fire” and would imply “born of fire.” It became a popular name in honour of St. Aidan of Iona (c. 630 AD) who founded a famous monastery on the island of Lindisfarne which he used as a base to evangalize the North of England. In art Aidan is usually represented as a stag, a reference to the legend that he saved a deer that was being hunted by making it invisible.
PRONOUCE: “eng + iss”
DESCRIPTION: From aon “excellent” and gus “strength, vigor.” Aengus was the god of love and of youth. His words were as sweet as honey, attracting bees and birds. He fell deeply in love with a beautiful girl he saw in a dream and passed through many trials, including turning himself into a swan, to win her love. The poet William Butler Yeats immortalised his search in “The Song of Wandering Aengus:” I went out to the hazel wood, Because a fire was in my head, And cut and peeled a hazel wand, And hooked a berry to a thread; And when white moths were on the wing, And moth-like stars were flickering out, I dropped the berry in a stream, And caught a little silver trout.
PRONOUCE: “all + bay”
DESCRIPTION: From an old Irish word meaning “white,” the 6th century St. Ailbe was associated with the monastery at Emly in County Tipperary. The local people requested that he bless a river that had no fish. St. Ailbe did and that very day the river was filled with an abundance of fish. The people built five churches in St. Ailbe’s honor at the best fishing spots along the river. Ailbe may be used for a boy or a girl.
PRONOUCE: “all + yill”
DESCRIPTION: From the Irish ailleacht “beauty.” Ailill was the young husband of Queen Maebh, chosen by her because he was “a man without meaness, fear or jealosy, a match for my own greatness.” His argument with Maebh over who had the greater herd of cattle led to The Cattle Raid of Cooley (read the legend), one of the greatest epic tales in Irish mythology.
DESCRIPTION: From rua “red” and would make an appropriate name for a red-headed child.
PRONOUCE: “are + dawn”
DESCRIPTION: From ardanach meaning “high aspiration.” Ardan was one of the sons of Usna who helped Deirdre escape to Scotland so that she would not be forced to marry King Conchobhar MacNessa.
DESCRIPTION: In Ireland a seperate name from Arthur it comes from an ancient word for “a bear,” used in the sense of “outstanding warrior” or “champion.” A pagan High King of Ireland, Art’s rule was so honest that two angels hovered over him in battle.
DESCRIPTION: The name of one of the twelve apostles, it is the Irish form of the Hebrew name Bartholemew “Son of Talmai.” Bartley is also a derivation of the name Parthalon who was the leader of the first people to occupy Ireland after the Biblical flood, about 2,800 BC, and who, according to legend, brought agriculture to their new homeland. As such it is not really an Irish name although it was in relatively common usage in times past, particularly in the west of Ireland. The present Prime Minister of Ireland is Batholomew Ahern, although he is more commonly known as “Bertie.”
PRONOUCE: “bray + dawn”
DESCRIPTION: Comes from the word bradan meaning “a salmon” in Irish and the bradan feasa, the “Salmon of Knowledge” (read the legend) is central to the tales of Fionn MacCool (read the legend).
PRONOUCE: “bren + dawn”
DESCRIPTION: There are at least seventeen saints who bear the name but St. Breandan the Navigator is probably the best known. Tradition has it that he was born in County Kerry, set sail in a small boat with a group of monks in the early 6th century, visited an island inhabited by birdmen, rode on the back of a whale and was the first European to set foot on the shores of the Americas, nearly a thousand years before Columbus. In the 1970s Tim Severin recreated St. Breandan’s voyage across the Atlantic Ocean in a flimsy, hide-covered rowboat known as a “curragh.” St. Breandan is venerated in Ireland as the patron saint of seafarers and travellers.
PRONOUCE: “bree + an”
(pron. “bry + an”)
DESCRIPTION: From brigh “high, noble, strong.” This is one of the most widespread Irish names ever, in honour of the most revered High King of Ireland, Brian Boru (read the legend) who defeated an army of invading Vikings at the Battle of Clontarf in 1014 but died of wounds he received in the battle. Kincora – a poem by James Clarence Mangan (translated).
PRONOUCE: “kav + an”
DESCRIPTION: In Irish cabhan means “grassy hill” or “hollow” and is the name of the Ulster county Cavan.
PRONOUCE: “can + iss” or “ko + in + ock”
DESCRIPTION: coinneach “attractive person,” “pleasant person.” A sixth-century Irish missionary St. Canice founded churches in Ireland, Scotland and Wales. As Coinneach he gave his name to the town of Kilkenny, Cill Coinneach “Coinneach’s Church.”
Carney, Cearney , Kearney , Cearnaigh
DESCRIPTION: From cearnach “victorious” and implies “victorious champion.”
DESCRIPTION: From carraig “a rock.”
PRONOUCE: “ka + hal”
DESCRIPTION: cath “battle” and all “mighty” and signifies “a great warrior.” On his way home from a visit to Rome (c. 666 AD) St. Cathal was asked to fill the vacant see of Taranto in southern Italy and served as it”s prelate until his death. Known as St. Cathaldus, he is still venerated in the area and a fresh water stream in the bay is known as “l’annello di san Cathaldo,” “the ring of St. Cathaldus,” as it marks the place where he is believed to have stilled a storm by throwing his ring into the water. He was the patron saint of the Italian army during WWI. One of the most common names in Ireland in the Middle Ages, it is popular again in Ireland.
PRONOUCE: “kar + ul”
DESCRIPTION: From the Irish word cearbhall and means “fierce in battle.”
PRONOUCE: “key + in”
DESCRIPTION: From cian “ancient, enduring.” In legend Cian Mac Mael Muad was the son-in-law of Brian Boru (read the legend) who led the armies from the province of Munster to victory over the invading Vikings at the Battle of Clontarf in 1014, a battle in which both he and Brian were killed. Cian was the eighth most popular Irish boys name in Ireland in 2003.
PRONOUCE: “keer + awn” or “keer + in”
DESCRIPTION: ciar “dark” and the diminutive -in it means “little dark one.” Popular for over 1500 years, at least 26 saints have borne the name. The most notable, St. Ciaran of Clonmacnoise (c. 530 AD), was the son of a carpenter who studied with St. Enda for seven years and went on to establish a monastery at Clonmacnoise, on the banks of the River Shannon in County Westmeath. It became a major spiritual and educational center and despite being plundered by the Vikings and the English, remained a major religious center until the 1550s.
PRONOUCE: “kil + e + an”
DESCRIPTION: cille means “associated with the church.” One St. Cillian left Ireland in about 650 AD with eleven companions and carried out his missionary work in the Rhine region of Germany where he became Bishop of Wurzburg after converting the local lord, Duke Gosbert of Wurzburg, to Christianity. Later Duke Gosbert married Geilana, his brother’s widow and Cillian declared the marriage invalid. While Gosbert was away on a military expedition, Geilana had Cillian beheaded when she found that Gosbert was going to leave her because their marriage was forbidden by the Church. The city of Wurzburg still celebrates a festival of mystery plays each year, known as Killianfest.
DESCRIPTION: cliareach “minstrel, scholar.” A surname now used as a given name.
DESCRIPTION: Derived from the Irish word cluain meaning “a green plain or pasture” or may mean “an intriguing rogue” – does “blarney” come into it?
PRONOUCE: “koh + lin”
DESCRIPTION: From coll “chieftan” and the diminutive -in and would mean “little chieftan.”
Colm, Colum , Colmcille , Columb , Columba
DESCRIPTION: A Gaelic form of the Latin columba meaning “dove.” St. Columba of Iona or Colmcille colm + cille or “dove of the church” was a prince of the O’Neill clan, a great poet and scholar. When Columba copied a book belonging to a monastery the abbott claimed it. Columba refused. His royal relatives got involved and a battle ensued. The High King decided in the abbott’s favor “To every cow it’s calf, to every book it’s little book” and Columba was exiled to Iona – the closest place from which he could not see Ireland. His monks created “The Book of Kells” and he himself may have illuminated some of the manuscripts. Born in 521 AD, by the age of 25 he has founded 27 monasteries and 40 churches in Ireland, before setting up a monastery on the island of Iona, and from there he christianised Scotland and northern England.
DESCRIPTION: From the same root as Colm, it means “little dove” and has developed into a seperate name from Colm and there are said to be 350 saints of the name. St. Colman of Kilmacduagh, lived as a recluse until his meeting with the king of Connacht. As the king was sitting down to dinner on an Easter Sunday the feast was miracously whipped from in front of his eyes and when he and his servants followed it they found Colman, weak after his Lenten fast, devouring the food.
PRONOUCE: “kun + al”
DESCRIPTION: Means friendship or could be from con “a hound,” as applied to a swift-footed warrior, and all “great, mighty.” In legend Conall Cearnach (“Conall the Victorious”), one of the mightiest warrior heros in the Red Branch Knights, the forerunners of the Knights of the Round Table, avenged the death of his foster brother Cuchulainn (read the legend). It was also believed that he was in the Holy Land when Christ was crucified. Every nation on earth was reputedly represented and Conall Cearnach was Ireland’s representative and it is further believed that he was one of the people who put their shoulders to the rock that covered the entrance to Christ’s tomb and rolled it back on that first Easter morning.
DESCRIPTION: An old name from con “a hound” or “swift-footed warrior” and in the form conan means “little warrior.” Conan Maol (“Bald Conan”) was one of the warrior-band, the Fianna (read the legend).
PRONOUCE: “con + r”
DESCRIPTION: Means “lover of hounds.” Conchobhar MacNessa was the king of Ulster and, according to legend, was born on the same day as Christ. Conchobhar, an uncle of Cuchulainn (read the legend), loved Deirdre and wished to marry her. But she fled with his nephew Naoise and his brothers. Conchobhar gave chase and althought he promised to forgive them, he killed Naoise and her abductors. In the battle a sling-shot lodged in his brain which doctors could not remove and on hearing of the crucifixion of Christ he over-exerted himself in his rage and the sling-shot fell out and he died. In 2003 it was the fourth most popular baby name for boys in Ireland.
Conlaoch, Conleth , Connla , Conla
DESCRIPTION: From conn “chief” + laoch “hero” meaning “highest chief.” One of the earliest holders of the name was the son of Cuchulainn (read the legend) and Aoife and in mythology “Conlaoch’s Well” was the source of great inspiration and knowledge, for “The Salmon of Knowledge” (read the legend) swam in its waters. The salmon had eaten the magical nuts that fell from the nine hazel trees that grew above the well so whosoever ate the salmon received its great powers.
Cormac, Cormack , Cormick
DESCRIPTION: From old Irish corbmac “son of the charioteer.” Cormac Mac Airt was probably the most famous of the ancient kings of Ireland. As the ruler of Tara, the seat of the high kings of Ireland, for forty years (probably 227-266 AD), he was famous for his wise, true and generous judgments. Cormac owned the wonderful gold cup given to him by the sea-god Manannan Mac Lir. If three lies were spoken over it, it would break in three; three truths made it whole again. Cormac used this cup during his kingship to distinguish falsehood from truth and when he died, the cup vanished. It was a very popular name in early Ireland and is still used today.
DESCRIPTION: cron “brown, sallow, dark-skinned.” The seventh-century St. Cronan built a monastery in a very remote area of his native County Tipperary but travellers lost their way trying to find the hospitable Cronan. Saddened by this he built a new monastery closer to the roadside which became the modern town of Roscrea. He was known for his generosity to the poor and to travellers.