20 Gaelic Name Meanings:
Top Names to Share Their Irish Side!

Gaelic name meanings are derived from the Celtic language of Cornwall, Scotland, the Isle of Man, Wales, Ireland, Patagonia and the Cape Brenton Islands.  Specifically these beautiful meanings derive from the Gaelic languages of Ireland and Scotland, making them an important factor in Irish heritage.

Irish Expressions:  Gaelic Name Meanings. Image of wall mural of Finn McCool. Photo credit nosey27, Flickr.com.

There are two distinct types of Gaelic languages that have influenced traditional Irish names. One originated in the Scottish highlands.  Scottish Gaelic has various forms similar to regional accents in the United States. The other language is the most beautiful of them all - the Irish Gaelic language. There are also various type of accents based on the locale.

While someone from Scotland and Ireland could probably understand one another if they both speak their native tongue slowly, the spelling and pronunciation of some names is quite different.  Since this site is about Irish expressions and Irish history, we'll focus on Irish Gaelic name meanings.  In particular: Irish baby names based in the Gaelic language.

10 Gaelic Name Meanings for Boys

Let's start with 10 Irish first names for boys, in no particular order, all of which have ties to the Irish Gaelic languages.

1.  Aidan

This beautiful name for Irish baby boys is derived from the Irish name "Áedán," meaning "little fire." People who shared this name include the famous Irish monk Aidan of Lindisfarne who played a significant role in the Christianization of Northumbria, England.  Another famous Aidan (actually Aiden) is my son Aiden Grady, who plays basketball for the University of Maine in the remote town of Fort Kent (USA).  Sorry, couldn't resist.

2:  Art

In Ireland, Art isn’t just a nickname for Arthur; it’s a given name with Gaelic origins that stands alone.  It comes from the ancient Gaelic word for bear, which many have interpreted to mean a champion or magnificent warrior, not necessarily a bear, the animal.  Art was a Pagan Irish King that lived 166 A.D. The legend of two angels hovering over High King Art in battle because of his honesty enhanced his reputation as an honest man.

3. Cormac

An alternative spelling for Cormac is "Cormack" or "Cormick."  This name comes for the ancient Gaelic word “corbmach” that means the "son of a charioteer." Cormac Mac Art means Cormac, the son of Art, the High King. In Celtic mythology, Cormac was famous for his wisdom and generosity. He loved beautiful surroundings. He had a golden cup that would break if three lies were told.  Three truths would make it whole again. As with most legends, the mystical cup disappeared after he died, but his perfect name survived.

4. Cian

This lovely Gaelic baby boy name is derived from the Irish word "cian," meaning "ancient" or "enduring." A famous bearer of this name is Cian Mac Maelmuaid - A mythological figure who was associated with the early history of Ireland, twice the king of Munster and the father of the hero Lugh, the cunning warrior.

5.  Connor

Originating from the Irish name "Conchobhar," meaning "lover of hounds" or "lover of wolves," Connor is one of the more popular Irish baby boy names.  "Notable figure: Conchobar mac Nessa - A prominent figure in Irish mythology and the king of Ulster during the legendary events of the Ulster Cycle. 

6.  Dillon

This is the Irish common name for Dylan and is one of the most popular traditional names with Gaelic origins for baby boys. Some believe it came from the word in the Irish language for someone that was loyal, while others believe it came from the word “dealan” that means a lightening flash.  While it’s a common Welch surname (Bob Dylan) and one of the more recognizable Irish surnames, it’s also one of the more popular Irish Gaelic boy names.

7. Eoin

The Irish form of John, meaning "God is gracious."  Pronounced like the English name Owen.  Often spelled "Eoghan." A famous figure from Irish history who bore the name Eoin is Eoin MacNeill.  He was an Irish scholar and politician who was one of the key figures in the fight for Irish independence.

8. Fin

Or Fionn, both pronounced /Fin/.  This name means fair-haired.”  The most famous bearer of the name is Fionn Mac Cool, the leader of the mythological band of warriors the Fianna. Everyone knew of Fionn and his wisdom, bravery, generosity and extremely good looks. He acquired much of his wisdom from accidentally eating the Salmon of Knowledge.  And his name became one of the cool'est (get it?) and most popular names with Gaelic origins.

Irish Expressions: Gaelic Name Meanings.  Image of Liam Neeson courtesy of Bigstock.

9. Liam

Meaning "resolute protection," "helmet of will," or "strong-willed warrior."  Famous people bearing the name include Liam Cosgrave, an Irish politician who served as the Prime Minister of Ireland from 1973 to 1977.  And, of course, Liam Neeson, the famous Irish movie star, known for his roles in big-screen productions such as Star Wars and Shindler's List.

10.  Redmond

This is the Gaelic form of Raymond and is a popular choice for baby boys. It means "protector."  Probably one of the first and most famous folklore heroes to bear the name Redmond was Redmond O’Hanlon. He was the Irish version of Robin Hood who lost his land to the English.  He and his band of followers spent their time avenging the loss of the Irish lands and other wrongs inflicted on the peasants by the English. Redmond has since become one of the more popular Gaelic names for baby boys.

10 Gaelic Name Meanings for Girls

Here in no particular order are 10 common Irish girl names with Gaelic influences.

1. Aideen

You pronounce this beautiful name with Irish origins:  /ay-DEEN/.  It comes from the word for 'little fire' and is one of the most popular Irish names for baby girls. In Irish mythology, Aideen was married to the Grandson of Fionn Mac Cool - whose personal name was Oscar.  Their love was so strong that when he died in battle, she too died, but of a broken heart.

2. Aine

If you’re tempted to pronounce this beautiful Irish name "Ann," you’d be wrong. It has two syllables--- awn—ye. The Anglicized form of the Gaelic name meaning is Anna, Anya or Hannah. Aine means brilliance, radiance or great splendor. In the ancient legends, Aine was one of the many wives of Fionn Mac Cool.  Most people loved her and considered her warm-hearted and lucky in both love and money. No wonder hers became one of the more popular female Gaelic names for girls.

3. Aoife

The Anglicized form of the Irish girls name is either Ava or Eva. The name, as odd as it looks, is pronounced “ee—fa.” In Irish legend, Aoife was the Xena of Irish folk lore and considered the world’s greatest female warrior.  Another Aoife in the history of Ireland was Aoife Dearg, which means Aoife Red, probably because of red hair. St. Patrick arranged her marriage. In more 'recent' years, this name was at the top of the list of popularity in Ireland in 2002-2004.

4. Brid

A derivative of the Irish name "Brighid," meaning "exalted one" or "strength." Probably the most important historical figure bearing the name is St Brigid of Kildare.  She was one of Ireland's patron saints, known for her charitable work and founding the monastery of Kildare.  Also the subject of many stories in Irish mythology, such as transforming a tub of bathwater into wine.

5. Caireann

You also spell the name Cairenn or Ciaran. It is the Irish form of the name Karen and pronounced the same. It comes from the Gaelic words for small friend or tiny beloved one. One historical character to bear this name was Caireann Chasdubh (Chasdubh means with dark curly hair).  She was the mother of Niall the famous warrior of Niall of the Nine Hostages who gave rise to the Ui Neill dynasties and was one of the High Kings of Ireland.

6. Ciara

Another ancient Irish name, and the feminine form of Ciaran.  You pronounce this name as you would the Anglicized version Keera. It is one of the more unique Irish Gaelic baby names meaning "dark," which people believe refers to either dark hair or dark eyes. St. Ciara, who began the monastery at Kilkeary located in County Tipperary, was one of the most famous people named Ciara.

7. Grainne

This unique Irish girl's name with Gaelic influences is derived from the Irish word "gráinne" meaning "grain" or "love." A famous bearer of name was Gráinne Mhaol (Grace O'Malley) - a legendary pirate queen and chieftain from the west coast of Ireland.  O'Mally was famous for resisting English rule and playing a significant role in the political and maritime affairs of her time.

8. Muirne

The Anglicized form of this Gaelic name meaning is Myrna or Morna but you pronounce the name Mir—ne. It means someone who is festive or high-spirited. In legend, Muirne is the mother of Fionn Mac Cool.  His father was Conall whom Muirne’s druid father had killed after she married him, but not before they conceived Fionn.

9. Niamh

This Irish Gaelic girl's name comes from the Irish word "níamh" meaning "bright" or "radiant." A famous person named Niamh is Niamh Cusack (born 1959), an Irish actress who starred in productions such as "Heartbeat," "The Other Boleyn Girl," and "Hereafter." 

Irish Expressions:  Gaelic Name Meanings.  Image of Saoirse Ronan courtesy of Shutterstock.

10.  Saoirse

Pronounced /SUR shuh/ this lovely name literally IS the Irish word "saoirse" meaning "freedom."  The most obvious famous person with this name is probably Saoirse Ronan, an Irish actress who has received multiple Academy Award nominations for her performances in films such as "Atonement," "Brooklyn," and "Lady Bird." Interesting side note: Saorise's LAST name means 'little seal.'

Want to Feel More Connected to Ireland?  Here's How!

At Irish Expressions we believe everybody – well almost everybody! - has an "Irish side."  So how nice would it be to have access to a fun, free Irish experience, on demand, wherever in the world you happen to be?

Over the years we have compiled many free, downloadable resources including lyrics, recipes, games, jokes, blessings and much, much more.  

Would you like to receive them ALL for FREE?  Simply share your email for instant access!


* indicates required