American Baby Magazine
Irish Baby Names: A Golden Trend
By Lexi Walters
Love Saint Patrick’s Day? One of these Irish monikers may be right for your baby!
Is it just pure luck that Irish baby names are a smash hit right now? Whether or not they can trace their heritage back to the Emerald Isle, thousands of American parents are giving their children Irish monikers.
Celebrities, too, struck gold with Irish names in 2004: Musician Lou Rawls, actress Tracey Gold, and skater Scott Hamilton all named their sons Aiden (with various spellings). In fact, of the top 1,000 names in the country in 2003, Aiden was the 39th most popular, according to the Social Security Administration. Perhaps that’s because Aiden means "fire" in Celtic.
Other currently popular Irish boys’ names are Ryan, Aidan, Liam, Ciaran (pronounced "keer-in"), Declan, Casey, Evan, Brady, Corey, Brendan, Colin, Riley, and Conor, according to babynamesofireland.com — which thankfully has an Irish name pronunciation guide — and the Social Security Administration. Sean (61st most popular), Shane (150th), Kevin (31st), Cole (70th), and Brian (58th) also topped the charts.
Popular Irish girls’ names include Siobhan (pronounced "shiv-awn," the name of WNBA star Rebecca Lobo’s daughter), Aisling, Tara, Deirdre, Bailey, Maureen, Mackenzie (the 2005 newborn of Harry Potter mastermind J.K. Rowling), Kaitlyn, and Eileen.
Strangely, Colleen and Megan — which many Americans assume to be traditional Irish names — dropped in rank this year. Perhaps parents realized that "Colleen" in Irish Gaelic, translates directly to "girl." ("This is our daughter, Girl."). And Megan? Megan’s actually Greek, not Irish.
No Irish blood in you? No bother — consider some of these traditionally Irish naming conventions:
Oldest son named after the father’s father
Second son named after the mother’s father
Third son named after the father
Fourth son named after the father’s oldest brother
Oldest daughter named after the mother’s mother
Second daughter named after the father’s mother
Third daughter named after the mother
Fourth daughter named after the mother’s oldest sister
Maryland Family Magazine
Irish baby boom – Gaelic standards are the name of the game
By MARY T. ROBBINS
If you attended Catholic school growing up, chances are you were surrounded by many Marys, plenty of Patricks, several Seans and a multitude of Michaels.
Irish names are returning to their Gaelic roots and traditional spellings. Move over Mary. Here comes Moira.
Irish baby name Web sites abound, including www.babynamesofireland.com, created by Martin Sheerin, formerly of County Tyrone and now residing in Manhattan.
Sheerin, who launched the Web site on St. Patrick’s Day last year, said he decided to combine his interest in baby names and his love for his home country in one Internet location. “It was a good way to bring things that I was interested in together.”
The site receives about 1,400 visitors a day, he said.
“I found that people are very interested in Irish baby names,” he said, from his New York City apartment. “People are very interested, and they’re using the Internet to research this topic.” He acknowledged that there are numerous books available to help new parents choose an Irish name for their newborn, “But it struck me that the books are good, but they don’t help you with pronunciation,” he said.
On babynamesofireland.com, none other than Frank McCourt himself — best-selling author of “Angela’s Ashes” — provides audio clips to help parents not only choose an Irish baby name but figure out how the heck to pronounce it.
“Some of the names on that site, I wouldn’t call my child, but there is a certain entertainment value to them,” he said.
The site also ranks the most popular Irish boys and girls names on any given day, according to a poll of its users.
“Liam is at the top of the list a lot and I think it’s because of Liam Neeson,” Sheerin said, referring to the actor. As for girls names, Aisling (ASHling) and Siobhan (shivAWN) seem to be the most popular.
As for why Irish names are popular these days, Sheerin attributes the trend to McCourt, whose memoir about growing up in impoverished Limerick captured the hearts of many.
“Frank McCourt’s books created a lot of interest in Ireland,” he said.
Irish baby names have changed over the years, Sheerin added. Growing up he was surrounded by Patricks, Johns, Michaels and Seans, Patricias, Maureens and Colleens. “All these names like Oisin (oSHEEN) and Conor — you never saw them when I was a kid.
In Ireland, he said, more and more new parents are going back to the traditional names. “You don’t see new parents in Ireland calling their babies Rory or Brendan or Conor.”
“More traditional names seem to be very fashionable in Ireland now,” he said. In America, however, parents are opting for the more unusual Gaelic roots.
Choosing Irish names for their children was important to Darlene and Damien Kerr of Frederick, formerly of Reisterstown. Damien Kerr was born in Belfast and the couple wanted to choose a name to reflect the family’s heritage. On their first trip to Ireland, they bought an Irish name book.
“For each child, we spent hours pouring over it,” Darlene Kerr recalled. Soairse (SEARsha), which means freedom, was a top runner, she said. But the couple thought it was a bit “flower child” to name a child “freedom.”
They opted for Brennan for their first born, which means little prince. Their second child, Grace, was named for the lead singer in the Celtic band Connemara, which the couple saw at an Irish festival once. Their third child was named Cliodhna (KLEEna), meaning princess of the sea. She goes by Clio.
“Her unique name matches her unique personality,” Darlene Kerr said.
Denise and Sean Culkin of Silver Spring are the parents of Michael, 5, and 3-year-old twins, Sean and Rory. Michael and Sean were named after the elder Sean and his brother, but “Rory is just an Irish name I loved, and to me it sounds ‘scrappy,’” said Denise Culkin.
“He is still smaller than both brothers, but will undoubtedly end up in more scrapes and battles than they. He’s also my best cuddler. Just like the Irish, he’s a lover and a fighter! I think he’s earned his name,” she added.
Peter and Julia Fitzgerald of Baltimore also wanted an Irish name when their first child, Darragh (DIErah) Francis, was born on September 26, 2003. Darragh means oak tree. “We just liked it,” said Peter, a native of Ireland.
Andrea and Edward Murphy of Poolesville are the proud parents of Eamon, 2, and 7-month-old Liam. Eamon, meaning blessed protector, was a name Andrea Murphy loved since she saw Eamon Coghlan, a long-distance runner, on television years ago.
“It is also the Irish version of Edmund, and my husband is the fourth Edward in his family, so we thought it was a good twist,” she said. Liam was a name she liked “and knew how to pronounce.” The family also has Emily, 8, and Rebecca, 5 — none of the Irish girls names really struck them, Andrea Murphy said.
Lynn Grasso and John Ducey named their now 3-year-old daughter Niamh (Neev), which means saint in Gaelic. It was a name chosen after a waitress at a restaurant in Ireland where the couple ate when Grasso was six months pregnant.
“Our waitress was amazing and we asked the manager her name, and it was Niamh. We loved it and said if the baby was a girl, we’re definitely naming her Niamh,” Grasso said. “We decided to keep the Gaelic spelling for authenticity.”
Terry Leary of Baltimore said her family was also looking to honor her husband’s Irish heritage when they were considering names for their daughter. Brenna Rose Leary was born on March 1, 1996. They originally thought the name meant raven-haired, but have since learned that meaning is closer to “raving something-or-other,” Leary said, “And believe me, she comes close to that some days!”
Bucks County Courier Times
More baby names springing from pot o’ gold
By SARAH LARSON
Everyone might be Irish today, but for many wee ones, Irishness stays with them year-round, thanks to their names.
Irish names for children in the United States are rising in popularity higher than a leprechaun’s leap. From Aidan and Liam to Maeve and Fiona, once-unusual Irish names are heading toward the top of the U.S. Social Security database, which collects data on names given to babies born each year in this country.
Some of the growth is driven by people of Irish descent honoring their heritage, says Dr. Cleveland Kent Evans, a psychology professor at Nebraska’s Bellevue University who has studied this country’s naming habits for more than 30 years.
"The Irish were the first large, non-Protestant group to get ethnic pride and start reaching back to find what they thought were real Irish names to give to their kids," said Evans. "That’s where we got all the Brians and Colleens. Now, we’re seeing later ethnic groups starting to do that. Many Italian families are starting to go back and find names, which is why we’re seeing a lot of girls named Gianna, Isabella and Sofia these days."
The Irish followed the same pattern many immigrant groups do, Evans said. The first few generations give their children "American" names to try to help them fit in. Often, though, the new immigrants don’t really know what "real" Americans name their children, so immigrants’ children end up with outdated names, he said.
"Many daughters of East-Asian immigrants in California are being named Linda, which is an old name," Evans said. "And the Koreans like Eunice. Nobody outside the Koreans names their daughters Eunice any more."
Third-, fourth- and fifth-generation families often shrug off "Americanized" names and start searching for their roots, Evans said. For the Irish, he said, that began around the 1940s.
To honor their heritage, many parents of Irish descent gave their children what they thought were Irish names. Problem was, they might have been Irish words, but not names for people. Take Colleen, for example.
"Colleen is the Irish Gaelic word for ‘girl.’ Nobody in Ireland names their daughters Colleen any more than Americans name their daughters ‘Girl,’ " Evans said. "And Shannon? It’s a river in Ireland. And all these Irish-Americans naming their daughters Megan, thinking it’s Irish because some baby book told them it was. It’s not. It’s Welsh. It’s never been used in Ireland."
Unbeknownst to her, Colleen Jackson was riding the crest of this wave.
Jackson, of Warrington, knew that her mother’s grandmother came from County Antrim in Northern Ireland on the north coast. In honor of that heritage, Jackson’s mother named her Colleen.
But when Jackson visited Ireland with her husband in 1996 – a gift for their 25th wedding anniversary – she was unprepared for the reaction to her name.
"They were astounded," Jackson said, laughing. "They told me it means ‘girl’ and couldn’t believe anyone would name their daughter that. I said, ‘I assure you, in America, a lot of girls are named Colleen.’ They said no one there is named Colleen. I was so surprised to hear that."
Jackson also chose traditional Irish names for her sons Brian, 28, and about to be married, and Kevin, 27. "I’m very partial to [the names], not just for the heritage of it," she said. "I just like the way they sound."
And that, said Evans, is what is driving most of the popularity of unusual Irish names today.
While Irish names that were long ago embraced by mainstream America – Patrick, Kevin, William, Tara, Molly, Erin – are less popular today, their Gaelic-sounding brothers and, to a lesser extent, sisters are rising stars. Why?
"It’s not just that they’re Irish," Evans said. "People like the way they sound. So many of the boys’ names that are popular now have that same factor that people like in presidential last names – they are at least two syllables and end in N."
The Social Security database seems to bear that out.
Aidan shot from the 816th most popular name in 1991 to 63rd most popular in 2002. Liam jumped from 624th in 1991 to 113th in 2002. Gavin rose from 315th in 1991 to 61st in 2002, while Kieran, who lingered at 978th in 1991, nearly halved that, to 554th in 2002. Declan jumped from 746th in 1998 – it hadn’t even cracked the top 1,000 before that – to 443rd in 2002.
Similar names not of Irish origin also are popular, Evans said, including Jayden, which rose from 881st in 1994 to 101st in 2002, and Caden from 970th in 1993 to 154th in 2002.
As for girls’ names, many Gaelic monikers have yet to catch on in the States. Siobhan has not even cracked the top 1,000 most popular names here. Neither have Sorcha, Aoife, Caoimhe or Saoirse.
Alanna, though, is hanging onto the chart at 484th. Maeve cracked the top 1,000 in 1997, and by 2002 had climbed to 706th.
Many parents, though, probably don’t want their children’s names to suffer the Brittany backlash – it was the third most popular girls’ name in the country in 1990, but has since fallen far and fast to 175th in 2002.
"Most people want something that is not too common," Evans said. "They’re hoping these names don’t become too popular." Check out www.babynamesofireland.com for information on Irish names, and www.ssa.gov/OACT/babynames for the Social Security database.