Irish Names

An Irish name is pretty easy to spot. Often an Irish last name will have an “O” before it, like O’Toole, O’Keefe, O’Brien, and so on. The same thing often happens with “Mc”, as in McGrady, McCarthy, or McLouglin. This is no coincidence.

There was a time when people didn’t have or need last names. As the population of Ireland expanded, the clans of people needed a way to identify themselves. As time went by, there might be two Naoise’s in an area, and so the last name was created as a way of telling people with the same name apart. The “Mc” as in “McLouglin” literally means “Son of Loughlin”. McCarthy means “son of Carthy”. In the same way, the “O” means “Grandson of”. So “O’Connor” means “Grandson of Connor” and “O’Brien” means “Grandson of Brien”.

Until about the 1200’s, most names were in the Gaelic language. After the English influence, however, many names became translated into English. Seamus (pronounced SHAY-mus) for example, was translated to James. Patrick, a very common Irish name comes from the original Gaelic name “Padraig”, “Padraic”, or “Paraic”.

Here are some of the most common names in Ireland, along with their Gaelic translation, and the meaning of the name.

Conor – Concobhar – ‘Hound Lover’

Sean – Seán – ‘God has favored’

Jack – Séan – ‘God has favored’

James – Séamus – From the Name “Jacob”

Adam – Adhamh – ‘Red Earth’

Michael – Micheál – ‘who is like God’

David – Dáivi – ‘Loved one’

Aaron – Áron – High Mountain’

Daniel – Dainéal – God is my judge’

Luke – Lúcás – ‘of Luciana’

Anna – Aine – ‘Radiant, brilliant’

Catherine – Caera – ‘pure’

Elaine – Eibhlin – ‘pleasant’

Melissa – Maolisa – ‘follower of Jesus’

Sheila – Sile – ‘pure and musical’

Aidan – Aedan – ‘fire’

Arthur – Art – ‘champion’

Kenneth – Canice – ‘attractive person’

Charles – Cathal – ‘strong warrior’

Conor – Cochobhar – ‘lover of hounds’

David – Dahey – ‘swiftness, nimbleness’

Declan – Deaglan – ‘full of goodness;

Dylan – Dillon – ‘A flash of lightning’

Donald – Donal – ‘ruler of the world’

Edmond – Eamon – ‘guardian of riches’

Owen – Eoghan – ‘born of the yew tree’

Gerald – Gearoid – brave with a  spear’

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