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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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: 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.”
DESCRIPTION: It is really a shortened version of Fionnuala (see Fionnuala above) and in Ireland it is more widely used than Fionnuala. Meaning “fair shouldered, exceptionally lovely,” the name has been in existence since the 13th century.