DESCRIPTION: Often refers to a person who is a native Irish speaker or a person who is from Ireland. Medieval legend holds that Gael was the name of the hero from whom the Irish race took its name.
Gormlaith, Gormla, Gormley
PRONOUCE: “gorm + lee”
DESCRIPTION: Anglicized as Barbara. May come from gorm “illustrious” or “splendid” and flaith “queen, princess.” Lady Gormlaith, a legendary beauty, was queen of the Danes in Ireland as wife of Olaf, The Viking leader of Dublin; later she was wife of Malachy II, king of Ulster and finally married Brian Boru (read the legend), king of Munster and later king of all Ireland. Her three sons, Sitric, Murdach and Donough continued to rule Ireland after The Battle of Clontarf where Brian Boru died in 1014.
PRONOUCE: “graw + nya”
DESCRIPTION: From gran “grain, corn.” Grainne in ancient Ireland was the patron of the harvest. In later legends Grainne was the name of the beautiful daughter of a High King of Ireland, Cormac Mac Art. She had been promised in marriage to the king Fionn Mac Cool (read the legend). When Grainne saw him at the wedding banquet she realised Fionn was too old for her and put a “geis,” a love spell on Fionn’s nephew, Diarmuid. They ran away together but Fionn’s pursuit prevented them from spending two consecutive nights in the same place. Megalithic sites throughout Ireland are still traditionally referred to as “the bed of Grainne and Diarmuid” (read the legend).
PRONOUCE: “graw + nya + wail”
DESCRIPTION: Described as “one of the most remarkable women in Irish history” Granuaile or Grainne Ni Mhaille (ang. as Grace O’Malley) was a renowned sea captain who led a band of 200 sea-raiders from the coast of Galway in the sixteenth century. Twice widowed, twice imprisoned, fighting her enemies both Irish and English for her rights, condemned for piracy, and finally pardoned in London by Queen Elizabeth herself, her fame was celebrated in verse and song and in James Joyce’s “Finnegan’s Wake.” She is often seen as a poetic symbol for Ireland.
PRONOUCE: “ee + da”
DESCRIPTION: Meaning “thirst” as in “thirst for goodness or knowledge.” St. Ide and St. Brigid are considered the most influential woman saints of early Irish Christianity. Associated with education, Ide founded a monastery in Killeedy in County Limerick where a holy well is dedicated to her. In an earlier legend she was the foster-mother of the infant Jesus.
PRONOUCE: “i + o + na”
DESCRIPTION: St. Colmcille founded his monastery on Iona, the island between Ireland and Scotland in 563 AD and thus the name is associated with “blessed.”
Kaitlin, Kaitlyn, Kaytlin
PRONOUCE: “kate + linn”
DESCRIPTION: These are recent spellings of the name Caitlin.
Keela or Kyla
PRONOUCE: “kee + la” “kie + la”
DESCRIPTION: The word cadhla means beautiful and implies “a beauty that only poetry can capture.”
DESCRIPTION: ciar means “dark” and probably implies “dark hair and brown eyes.” County Kerry means “the land of the descendant of Ciar” who was the love-child of the High King Fergus Mac Roth and the legendary Queen Maebh.
PRONOUCE: “key + na”
DESCRIPTION: From cion “love, affection, esteem.”
PRONOUCE: “may + v”
DESCRIPTION: From an old Irish name Madb, “the cause of great joy” or “she who intoxicates.” The great warrior queen of Connacht and embodiment of sovereignity she stars in Ireland’s greatest epic “The Cattle Raid of Cooley” (read the legend). She left king Conchobhar Mac Nessa for Ailill because “you are a man without meaness, fear or jealousy, a match for my own greatness.” But the couple quarrelled over who had the most possessions. Maebh’s bull had defected to Ailill’s herd and so she bought Daire’s brown bull. When Daire went back on the deal she went to war with Cuchulainn (read the legend) and the province of Ulster to recover the bull.
PRONOUCE: “my + ra”
DESCRIPTION: The name that was used in Ireland for Our Lady was Muire and interestingly, her name was so honored that it was rarely used as a first name until the end of the fifteenth century. Then Maire became acceptable as a given name but the spelling Muire was reserved for the Blessed Mother.
Mairead or Muiread
PRONOUCE: “mawr + aid”
“mur + aid”
DESCRIPTION: The Irish form of Margaret, it became popular around the fourteenth century.
PRONOUCE: “mail + issa”
DESCRIPTION: maol + Iosa “follower of Jesus.” A name first used by clerics as early as the tenth century. It is used for boys and girls.
PRONOUCE: “meer + a”
DESCRIPTION: The Irish word mara means “sea.”
DESCRIPTION: Muadhnat “little noble one” is one possible source of the name. The Normans brought Monique, “giver of advice,” or it could refer to Madonna, “lady” as in the Mona Lisa.
PRONOUCE: “mur + in”
DESCRIPTION: Means “sea white, sea fair.” The very appropriate name of the 6th century mermaid caught by a fisherman in Lough Neagh. He brought her to St. Comghall who baptized her which transformed her into a woman.
PRONOUCE: “mur + el”
DESCRIPTION: muirgheal “bright as the sea.” The Irish form of the name Muriel.
PRONOUCE: “mir + ne”
DESCRIPTION: muirne means “high-spirited, festive.” Muirne loved Conall who was from an opposing tribe. Her father, a druid, opposed the match and had Conall killed but not before Muirne had conceived a son, who grew up to be the legendary warrior Fionn Mac Cool(read the legend) and who later avenged the death of his father.
PRONOUCE: “nee + la”
DESCRIPTION: Meaning “female champion” it is the feminine form of Niall.
DESCRIPTION: Nessa was the mother of Conchobhar (Conor) Mac Nessa, king of Ulster. A powerful and beautiful woman, ambitious for her son, she tricked her second husband, Fergus, into giving up his kingdom to his stepson, Conchobhar (Conor), for a year, but Conchobhar (Conor) ruled so wisely and so well that the people chose him to be their permanent king.
PRONOUCE: “nee + iv” or “neev”
DESCRIPTION: niamh “radiance, lustre, brightness.” The daughter of the sea god Manannan she was known as “Niamh of the Golden Hair,” a beautiful princess riding on a white horse. She fell in love with Fionn’s son Oisin (read the legend of Niamh and Oisin) and lived with him in Tir-na-nOg (“Land of the Young”) (read the legend) where 300 years passed in what seemed like three weeks. In 2003 it was the eleventh most popular baby girl’s name in Ireland.
DESCRIPTION: Popular names that are considered to be abbreviated forms of Fionnoula. (See Fionnuala above).
PRONOUCE: “null + ig”
DESCRIPTION: Used for both male and female it is the Irish word for Christmas, as in Noel or Noelle.
Nora, Norah, Noreen
DESCRIPTION: A classic Irish name, it could be a shortened form of Eleanor meaning “torch” or could be from the Latin Honora meaning “honor, reputation” and became so popular in Ireland in the Middle Ages that many people assumed it was Irish. Noreen is the diminutive of Nora and means “little honourable one.”