100 years after Ireland declared its independence, Saoirse ("liberty") entered the top 1000 in the United States. With a recent poll indicating that more than 10% of US citizens have Irish heritage, it’s no surprise that Irish names have become American favorites.
Looking for similar choices to celebrate your roots? These fifteen feminine picks combine beautiful meanings and lilting melodies, honoring history but looking towards the future. While most are listed in their Gaelic spellings, I've included Anglicized versions and pronunciation guides as well. Erin go bragh!
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Saoirse (Seer-sha). This inspiring name owes its American popularity to Irish actress Saoirse Ronan, but it’s already a favorite in Ireland. Saoirse ("liberty") embodies the spirit of the 1920’s Irish Revolution, and continues as a bright and beautiful choice today.
Mairead (Mah-rayd). This elegant and unexpected form of Margaret could work well as an honorific or heritage choice in the US. Historical namesakes range from saints to musicians to a Nobel Peace Prize winner, so your own little Mairead will be in good company.
Aisling (Ashlin/Ashlyn). The Anglicized spellings are already established picks in the States, but this name’s history merits another look at the original spelling. An aisling is a poetic genre in Irish literature, and the word itself means “dream” or “vision”; with such a beautiful origin, sweet Aisling maintains its ethereal air.
Niamh (Neve). Simple yet stunning, Niamh comes from the name of a goddess in Gaelic lore. It’s use in the United States has been increasing since the mid-1990’s, but it’s never been given to more than 74 girls in one year. If you’re looking for a name with both style and substance, Niamh is the choice for you.
Siobhan (She-vawn). An Irish feminine form of John, this confident choice ranked briefly in the 1980’s thanks to actress Siobhan McKenna. However, this name isn’t just a flash in the pan - charming Siobhan has adorned all types of women since the Middle Ages, from queens to athletes to writers.
Bronagh (Brona). The name of a sixth-century saint, lovely Bronagh comes from a word meaning “sorrow.” But this pretty choice has a more upbeat sound than its origin implies, and could work especially well as an alternative to 80’s Brandy or 90’s Briana.
Aine (Anya). Ranking in the top 100 in Ireland, Aine is an energetic name with a fantastic background - it’s the name of the Irish goddess of midsummer and a Celtic fairy queen. Aine comes from the word for “radiance,” and its happy vibe certainly lives up to its etymology.
Finola (from Fionnuala). Chic and feminine, Finola is ripe for import across the pond. It comes from a figure in Irish lore who was transformed into a swan, and the origin phrase means “white shoulders” (not related to the perfume). Next to today’s favorites Finn and Fiona, Finola would fit right in.
Aoife (Ee-fa). Slightly softer in sound than Eva, Aoife is currently at #13 in Ireland and #8 in Northern Ireland. Why the notoriety? Aoife was a warrior woman in Irish mythology, and the name comes from the Gaelic word for “beauty.” While pronunciation may be difficult in the States, this brilliant choice is worth considering.
Oona (from Oonagh). Game of Thrones actress Oona Chaplin (granddaughter of Charlie Chaplin and great-granddaughter of Eugene O’Neill) brought this sumptuous name into American homes over the past few years. With pizzazz and individuality, Oona’s image has evolved from an Irish legend into a modern starlet.
Tuilelaith (Talulla). Not to be confused with the Choctaw name Tallulah, Tuilelaith is an old Irish name with the meaning of “princess of abundance.” Today, the Talulla(h) spelling is popular, with a melody and vitality that’s hard to beat.
Caoimhe (Keeva). Attractive and friendly, Caoimhe has been popular in Ireland since the early 2000’s. It’s derived from the same roots as Kevin, and could work well as a familial honor name. Though its spelling is daunting, Caoimhe has a sound that fits in well with modern choices like Eva or or Keira.
Orlaith (Orla). With the luxurious meaning of “golden princess,” Orlaith was indeed used by multiple Irish royals throughout history. Today, Orla is the more popular pick, and could make a great alternative to Aria or Lola. In the United States, it’s been slowly rising in popularity since the early 2000’s - but was only given to 30 little girls last year.
Brighid. The Celtic goddess of healing, poetry, and smithcraft, Brighid was also the name of an early Christian saint (controversy remains over the true origin of Brighid). The name Bridget peaked in popularity in the US in the 1970’s, but going back to this original form bypasses the dated quality and embraces Brighid’s strength and lore.
Roisin (Rosheen). An adorable diminutive meaning “little rose,” Roisin is a pleasant pick with an appealing sound. The use of the name is partly inspired by the Irish political song “Róisín Dubh,” which has been covered by multiple Irish artists. If you like Rose or Rosalie but want a name that's less common, why not Roisin?
Nicknames are pet forms taken from given names…right? That's the way it's always worked, at least. But more and more, parents are turning that traditional relationship on its head. Today, thousands of babies are being named after their nicknames.
Here's how it works. You love the name Link, as in the YouTube stars Rhett & Link or the hero of the "Legend of Zelda" games. You love it, but you worry there's just not enough of it. Does it sound too much like a nickname? Shouldn't there be a longer full name to write on the birth certificate?
Lincoln is the obvious formal version, but hold on: the spelling doesn't match. Wouldn't the nickname for Lincoln be Linc? OK, then, how about "Linkin," like the band Linkin Park? Problem solved! Sure enough, last year 226 American boys received the name Linkin or another similar K spelling.
You see the phenomenon with every fashionable nickname and one-syllable name. Parents start by choosing a short name, plan to call their kids by it, but insist on a longer given name—and the spelling has to match. The popularity of Finn has made hits of Finnley and Finnegan, with Finnian, Finneas and Finnick rising fast. Tyberius is an alternative to Tiberius because of the nickname Ty. 5,000 boys every year are named Jaxson, which hews as closely as possible to the traditional Jackson while clarifying that the nickname should be Jax. Then there are the many girls named Abbygail, Maddyson, and Lilyan.
It's perfectly logical, and not even a new phenomenon. Going back generations, you can find a steady smattering of boys named Nickolas to emphasize the (ahem) Nick-name. Current style, though, is pushing the trend to new heights. Parents are more willing to be inventive with names than ever before, and less inclined to confer just a nickname than ever before.
If you simply love the name Finneas or Maddyson, then by all means choose it. But if you're only tweaking the spelling because the name you really love is the nickname, consider this: have you ever had any trouble coping with Nick being short for Nicholas? Or with John not being short for anything at all? Short names don't have to be perfect chips off an old, long block.
Which brings us back to Link. For the record, the Link of "Rhett & Link" is short for Lincoln, with a C. Link of "Legend of Zelda" got his name from the idea that he would be a link between the past and the future. Choosing a name you love is more important than having a nickname and formal name that line up just right.
Want a celebrity baby name that will set the world abuzz with astonishment? Forget Dream and Zuma, the names you're looking for are…
When George and Amal Clooney chose those familiar, fashionable names for their newborn twins last month, popular opinion declared it a Hollywood miracle. A sampling of media reactions from around the globe:
Headline: "George and Amal Clooney don’t know they’re celebrities and picked normal names for their twins" (Digisnak)
"It's almost an outrage for celebrity babies to be given names that have already appeared on 'most popular' lists" (stuff)
"The Clooneys have cemented their distinctive reputation by doing something extraordinary. They have given their twins normal names….Wacky baby names in Hollywood are as common as juice bars on Sunset Strip, with most celebrities choosing names that sound like a cocktail or a haemorrhoid treatment." (TheTimes)
I myself received multiple inquiries from reporters about why these celebrities broke from the norm, and whether they could spark a new trend with this unprecedented normality. Unprecedented? That will come as a surprise to all the other famous parents who have named a child Ella or Alexander, like:
Ben Stiller and Christine Taylor
John Travolta and Kelly Preston
Keshia Knight Pulliam and Ed Hartwell
Mark Wahlberg and Rhea Durham
Naomi Watts and Liev Schreiber
Tom Ford and Richard Buckley
Warren Beatty and Annette Bening
The secret truth is, Hollywood is teeming with conventional baby names. In past tallies, I've found that celebrity parents choose top-1,000 names at about the same rate as the general public. Why, then, do we think of Hollywood as a baby-name funhouse, out of touch with "normal" naming?
One reason is that "normal" naming isn't what it used to be. All parents are naming more adventurously. Sure, Kim & Kanye named their kids North and Saint, but consider that last year 71 not-so-famous American babies were named Riot, 91 were named Zeppelin, 179 were named Denim, and 1,200 (yes, 1,200) were named Legend. We can hardly expect Hollywood types to be less creative than the general public.
Another factor is that familiar, traditional celebrity baby names just don't stick in our minds. "Weird" name choices become fodder for internet wits and water-cooler banter. They're rehashed year after year, whenever a new unconventional name is mentioned. At this point, I'd wager that more people can name one of musician Frank Zappa's kids (e.g. Moon Unit) than one of his songs. Meanwhile I dare you to name a single child of Zappa's musical contemporaries, like Roger Waters or Jerry Garcia. In short, we remember the memorable.
So our perception of celebrity baby names is skewed. I've written before about the rapidly changing realm of typical baby names across America. Today I'm going to tackle perceptions from the other direction, and reveal the shocking normality hiding in Hollywood. Below are 10 traditional, mainstream hit names and some of the famous parents who have chosen them, totaling 52 celebrity babies. Between these conventionally named A-listers and the 1,200 newborn Legends, we may see that the divide between Main Street and Hollywood Boulevard isn't as wide as it seems.
Ava: Reese Witherspoon and Ryan Phillippe, Hugh Jackman, Jeremy Renner, Josh Gad, Jason Priestley, Rachel Roy and Damon Dash
Charles/Charlie: Anna Paquin and Stephen Moyer, Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Brad Hall, Jodie Foster, Russell Crowe, Jeff Goldblum, Cynthia Nixon, Chris O'Donnell
Charlotte: Sarah Michelle Gellar and Freddie Prinze, Harry Connick Jr., Dylan McDermott, Amy Brenneman and Brad Silberling, Colin Hanks
Grace: Kevin Costner, Mark Wahlberg, Christy Turnlington and Ed Burns, Lynn Whitfield, Elisabeth Hasselback, Dave Matthews
Henry: Julia Roberts, Colin Farrell, Jack White, Rachel Weisz and Darren Aronofsky, Heidi Klum and Seal, Minnie Driver, Amanda Peet
Isabella: Matt Damon, Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman, Josh Gad, Justin Chambers
Jack: Chris Pratt and Anna Faris, Tom Brady and Bridget Moynahan, Meg Ryan and Dennis Quaid, Johnny Depp, Maya Rudolph and Paul Thomas Anderson, James Marsden
James: Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew Broderick, Colin Farrell, Ellie Kemper, Jamie King
Oliver: Ginnifer Goodwin and Josh Dallas, Julie Bowen, Fred Savage, Danny Elfman and Bridget Fonda
Samuel/Sam: Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner, Naomi Watts and Liev Schreiber, Jack Black, Andrew McCarthy