Irish Baby Names

The Odd Spellings Are Charming.

Today, a lot of the trendiest babies receive Irish names. Even those born far from the Emerald Shores are adopting these lovely names that sound like something out of fairy tales. Besides, the odd spellings are charming. A pronunciation key is necessary for most of them as the Gaelic spellings, to untrained eyes, sound nothing like the way they are spelled.

Names Like Colleen Are Being Moved Aside 

It's interesting to note that the trend seems to be flowering in Ireland as well, since there were only 27 names in 1901 in Ireland, but in 2005, there were 180 names. While at one time, that meant a lot of Michaels and Marys, today it means names like Aiden, meaning 'fire', for boys, and Siobhan pronounced: ShiVAWN, for girls. Names like Colleen are being moved aside for more interesting sounding names.

In Irish families, the first son is named after the paternal grandfather, the second son after the maternal grandfather, the third son after the father, and the fourth son after the oldest paternal uncle. The girls follow a similar pattern. The oldest daughter is named after the maternal grandmother, the second daughter after the paternal grandmother, the third daughter after the mother, and the fourth daughter after the oldest maternal aunt.

The Irish were the first non-Protestant group to express ethnic pride and there was a tendency to reach back to their roots to give their children names that express those beginnings. However, like most immigrant groups to America, the first generations tried to give their children American sounding names so as to help them fit in. Later generations, often starting with the third generation tend to return to the use of ethnic names. For the Irish, this happened in the 1940s. Having been away from their heritage, however, they'd lost knowledge of authentic Irish names and many used Irish words, for instance, Colleen, which means, 'girl'. Women named Colleen with Irish roots, who go to Ireland to explore their family history, are often met with laughter. The Irish natives want to know: Who names their child, 'girl?' Shannon, once a popular girl's name, was a name stolen from a river, and was also never an authentic Irish girl's name.

This trend of using Irish names is reflected in the Social Security names database. Some examples are the name Aidan, which went from 816th on the most popular list in 1991 to 63rd in 2002. Alanna has become the 484th most popular name, while Maeve broke onto the top 1000 in 1997 and by 2002 was at 706.

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