Celtic Name Meanings: They Hold Clues About Our Irish Culture and Heritage!

Parents expecting children often look to Celtic name meanings as a way to express their Irish side.  The Celtic languages are spoken in a number of countries and can sound quite different from one region to the next.

Celtic Name Meanings - Baby Boy with Bubbles

This produces an interesting array of possible spellings for Celtic names.  We will describe some of these below.

Celtic Name Meanings for Boys

As with many names, Celtic name meanings often originate in stories of historical figures or mythical beings. For example:

Celtic Name Meanings:  Aengus

Written in old Irish, the spelling of the name would be Óengus.

Some believe Aengus was the god of love, and this story comes to life through his relationship with Caer Ibormeith, the daughter of Prince Ethal Anbuail.

She was literally the girl of his dreams.  Aengus saw Caer in a dream and immediately fell in love.

After searching for a year, with the help of his parents and others, he found her, only to find she was under a spell. 

Every other Samhain, a celebration from October 31 to November 1, she and 149 other girls would turn into swans and remain that way until the next Samhain when they would live as a human for a year. 

Aengus was told he could marry her if he could pick her out from the group of 150 swans. He did. 

Upon doing so, he changed himself into a swan and they flew off together singing beautiful songs that lulled the listeners to sleep for three days and three nights.

Niall

This boy’s name means 'cloud' when spelled Néall but when spelled Niall, it might mean 'champion' too.

Niall Glundub mac Aedo was an Irish King in the 10th century known for his bravery, and Niall of the Nine Hostages, another earlier Irish king.

The Scottish and more modern version of the name is Neal.

Rory

Famous rulers and noble warriors often endow us with memorable Celtic names.

In this case, Rory O’Conor, the last king of Ireland who ruled from 1166 to 1170, was probably the most notable man to have Rory as his moniker.

Rory is the Anglicized form of the name Ruari which means “Red King,” “Red-haired King,” or “red color hair of foxes—king.”

Another famous Irishman with the name Rory was Rory O’Moore, one of the four principal organizers of the Irish rebellion.

Torrey

While Tori Spelling may be the most famous female Tori, the name Torrey is all boy and all Irish.  It either means 'someone from the craggy hills' or 'the victor.' We like the second meaning better!


Celtic Name Meanings - Cute Baby Girl

Celtic Name Meanings for Girls

Again we see Celtic name meanings originating in historical figures and mythical beings!

Celtic Name Meanings:  Bridget

The noun “brigh” means strength, virtue, power and vigor. The name Bridget may come from that word.

Another possible meaning is “exalted one.” Bridget may originate from the name of the Celtic goddess Brigid who was the daughter of Dagda, ruler of the gods.  Brigid was goddess of agriculture, healing, poetry and fire.

The primary reason for the name's popularity in Irish culture is the fame of Saint Brigid of Kildare.

She was born a slave of a druid. Her father was a Pagan chief and her mother a Christian Pict who was baptized by St. Patrick.

St. Brigid performed many miracles throughout her life and was a crossover between the ancient pagan ways and Christianity.

Cody

You can use the name Cody for a boy or a girl. Sometimes it’s spelled Codie, Codey, Kody or Codell as another form.

It came from the surname, O Cuidighthigh, meaning a helpful person.

Another meaning of the name Cody came from the surname Mac Oda meaning the son of Odo. Odo means one who is wealthy.

One reason for the popularity of the name in America was that it was the last name of the infamous Buffalo Bill.

Kelsey

This name is attributed to Ireland but it is not Gaelic Irish since the Irish alphabet contains no K.

The original Irish spelling was probably with a “Ce” rather than “Ke.” The name has many different derivations and Kelsey can be a male or female name.

As with many names, this one has more than one possible meaning; the word has been used to represent both "beautiful island," and "fierce warrior."

It’s rather like the Xena of Irish girl’s names. It also may be a derivation of the two words Ceol and sige meaning victorious ship.

Caitlin

Caitlin is another form of the name Catherine, Cathleen or the Anglicized name Kathleen. In fact, there are over 25 ways to spell Caitlin.

The name itself means 'pure.' There have been many famous women named Caitlin throughout history, for example Caitlin R Kierman, author of dark fantasy and science fiction novels.

Another famous person from the Emerald Isle named Caitlin was Caitlin O’Riordan, the singer. Additionally, Caitlin Matthews co-authored the Encyclopedia of Celtic Myth and Legend.

Shannon

Shannon is a river in Southwest Ireland but it’s also one of the popular Celtic names for both boys and girls.

It’s definitely from old Irish and may have come from the surname Shannon.

It means “old or ancient.” It also may mean “ancient wise one.” Shannon is the goddess of the river Shannon in Ireland.

Interesting!  What's Next?

We have found that people often connect with each other by sharing the meanings of their names (especially the Irish kind!)

In fact, I have a poster on my wall that shows my Irish family crest, along with the background and history of my last name (Grady).

It also shows famous people over the years who have shared my name.

If you would like to do a free search of your family name, check out our dedicated page at House of Names.

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It is probably obvious - at Irish Expressions, we love Irish traditions!  Expressing ourselves through Irish-themed activities gives us a deeper sense of connection with Ireland, wherever in the world we happen to be!

Over the years, we have created many free, downloadable Irish games, puzzles, recipes, songbooks, travel guides, party plans, and much, much more.

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At Irish Expressions, our goal is simple: to provide you with a unique Irish experience, on demand, wherever you are in the world.

If you have already enjoyed our section on Irish trivia and traditions, you have probably been exposed to many of the most entertaining ways to express your personal Irish side!

Will that entice you to visit Ireland - or to return if you have already been?  We hope so!  

But even if that is not possible, you can still enjoy the magic of Ireland in these pages.  Check out the links at the top of this website for simple instructions on how to sing Irish songs, use Irish words, enjoy Irish food, and much more!

Your Personal Irish Expression

One way to share your love of Ireland is by displaying your family coat of arms (family crest).  A very personal symbol of the stories and accomplishments of your ancestors can adorn clothing, kitchenware, wall art, personal accessories and so much more. 

Want to have a look?  Our friends at House of Names can help! 

Tap the button below and see your family crest for free!

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A Note from Bruce

If you would like to see more from Irish Expressions, you can find us on Facebook and Pinterest. You can also communicate with us using our contact form here. 

And of course you can always reach out to me directly at bruce@irish-expressions.com

However you choose to connect, we would love to hear from you!  Meanwhile, thanks for visiting!  I hope that we will meet someday, in person or online, and you can tell me about your own connection to the Emerald Isle.

Until then, best wishes -

Bruce Grady, and the team at Irish-Expressions.com


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