Irish baby names are lovely, and with St. Patrick's Day approaching, it's easy to get in the spirit. But what if you want something unique (in the U.S., at least), beyond the popular Aidan, Liam and Riley?
Plenty of undiscovered Irish baby names are still ripe for import. The baby names here are all widely used in contemporary Ireland, are accessible in terms of spelling and pronunciation, yet are virtually unknown in the U.S.
Top unusual Irish baby names
Brona — Brona, or its Irish version Bronagh, a girls’ name that means sorrow, can be considered unique in the U.S. The name of an ancient mystic, Brona is popular in Ireland and is also heard on television’s "Penny Dreadful," which could broadcast its appeal.
Cahir — Cahir, pronounced quite logically ka-heer, has not been listed in the top 1000 names for U.S. boys in the past century, nor has its Irish form Cathair. It means “battle man.”
Cliona — The appeal of this ancient name increases dramatically when you learn that it’s pronounced as the rhythmic CLEE-uh-na and does NOT rhyme with Fiona. Meaning “shapely,” Cliona was used for no girls in the U.S. in 2016.
Conal — There were 26 boys in the U.S. named Conall and another 26 named Connell, but none called Conal. Meaning “strong as a wolf,” this name is prominent in Irish history and can make a great substitute for Conor.
Dara, Darach, Darragh, Daire — All these names are pronounced Dara and all are popular for boys in Ireland. Darragh is a Top 50 boys’ name in Ireland. The name means “oak tree.”
Dervla — This ancient and still well-used Irish name, which means “daughter of the poet,” has not appeared in the top 1,000 list for U.S. girls in the past century. The Irish spelling is Dearbhla — and not surprisingly, that wasn’t used either.
Donnacha — This popular boys’ name in Ireland is pronounced dunn-ah-ka, and means “brown-haired warrior.”
Emer — Emer was a legendary wife who possessed the six gifts of womanhood, according to Irish mythology: beauty, voice, speech, wisdom, chastity, and needlework. Used by Yeats, Emer — pronounced ee-mer — is widely used in modern Ireland. In the U.S., plenty of girls are called Emery or Emerson but none are named Emer.
Fia — Fia and its Irish version Fiadh are among the fastest-rising girls’ names in Ireland yet are virtually unknown in the U.S. It means “wild deer” but might also be a short form for Sofia.
Fintan — Fintan has a great meaning, or rather two great meanings — white fire or white bull — and a worthy ancient namesake: the legendary Fintan is said to be the only Irishman to survive the biblical flood. A perfect long form for the stylish Finn, Fintan is rarely used in the U.S.
Lorcan — Despite its use in "Harry Potter" and its status as the name of the patron saint of Dublin, Lorcan was given to only 15 baby boys in the U.S. in 2014. Meaning “little and fierce,” it’s the perfect successor to Logan.
Nuala — Girls’ name Nuala is a short form of Fionnuala, which means “white shoulders,” and is frequently used on its own.
Oran — Both Oran and its Irish version Odhran are in the Top 100 names for boys in Ireland, yet Oran was given to only 28 boys in the U.S. in 2015 and the more difficult Odhran to none. The name means “pale little green one.”
Orla — This accessible name that means “golden princess” was as popular in medieval Ireland as it is today. Associated with the famed high king Brian Boru, it’s in the Irish Top 100 but is far more rare in the U.S.
Piran or Pieran — This Irish name is unusual in both the U.S. and Ireland. Meaning prayer, Piran is the name of the patron saint of miners and of Cornwall.
Senan — Pronounced she-NAWN, Senan is one of the hottest boys’ names in Ireland, now standing among the Top 100. In the U.S., it's rarely used but makes a perfect alternative for Sean. Meaning “old and wise,” Senan was the name of an ancient founder of monasteries.
Ultan — It’s no surprise, given that this name means “man from Ulster,” that it’s most popular in Northern Ireland. While 18 saints were named Ultan, no babies in the U.S. were given the name in 2014.
Editor's note: This story was first published on March 9, 2017.