You don’t have to be Irish—or Welsh, Scottish, or Breton—to appreciate these whimsical, courageous, and descriptive names of Celtic origin.
A diminutive of the Irish tadhg, which means "poet" or "philosopher," Teagan is a surname that has been a favorite for girls in the past decade but is growing more popular with boys.
Variants: Tegan, Taegan
Similar sounding surnames: Reagan ("descendant of the king" or "little king"), Regan, Keegan ("small and fiery" or "small flame"), Keagan, Keaghan. (We predict Teagan will surpass these names soon!)
Keira, derived from cian, meaning "dark-haired" or "black," first became popular in 2000 before leaping over 800 places to its #109 and #128 in 2006 and 2007. The feminine form of Keiran, Kieran, and Kyran became wildly popular with the rise of British actress, Keira Knightley.
Variants: Keara, Keera, Kiera, Kira, Ceara, Ciara
Other names meaning "dark" and "dark-haired:" Kerry, Kerrigan, and Donovan
The Rock of Cashel (shown here), also known as St. Patrick's Rock, Fairy Hill, Castle of the Kings, and Carraig Phadraig in Ireland, is located in County Tipperary in Munster. According to legend, St. Patrick came to Cashel in 432 AD to baptize King Aengus. A place name meaning "castle" or "stone fort," Cashel also sports an American nickname that's right on the money—Cash!—in these hard economic times.
Variants: Cashlin, Caislin, ,Caiseal
Other sightseeing names inspired by Cashel: Tipperary, derived from the river Ara; Cormac, a sandstone chapel built by Cormac MacCarthy, King of Munster, in 1127; Kearney, a castle-turned-hotel; Bolton, as in Bolton Library, which houses a collection of antiquarian texts and manuscripts
Pronunciation:" KATE-luhn," "KOYT-hleen"
Few names have inspired more creative spellings than Caitlin, the Irish variation of Catherine, which means "pure and innocent." At #230 in 2007, Caitlin has hatched Kaitlyn (#44), Katelyn (#75), Caitlyn (#213), Katelynn (#283), and Kaitlin (#421), and Kaitlynn (#499) along with Kaelyn (#337), Kailyn (#488), Cailyn (#974), and Katlynn (#980).
Runner-up in the lots-'o-versions-name game?
Brianna at #22 which may be spelled as Briana (#120), Breanna (#138), Bryanna (#448), and Breana (#903). By comparison, Bryan (#78) slightly surpasses Brian (#81).
Other Br- names: Brenna, Bria, Brody, Brodrick, Brendan, Brendon, Braedon, Bradan, Brennan, and Brennen
Connor hails from the Gaelic Conchobar and means "wolf lover" or "lover of hounds." In Irish mythology, Conchobar mac Nessa was a king of Ulster and grandfather to the great warrior and hero, Cúchulainn.
Variants: Conner, Conor, Konner
Other Celtic mythological figures: Deirdre, the sorrowful and broken-hearted princess whose beauty led to tragedy and war; Fergus, a warrior prince whose strength and vigor was considered a masculine ideal
Pronunciation: "Ash-leeng", "ASH-lin", "Esh-leeng"
Aislinn, the Gaelic word for "dream" or "vision," can take as many forms as it can pronunciations, among them Ashling, and Aisling. Aisling is a genre of Irish poetry in which the island of Ireland is personified as a sky-woman, or woman in the sky.
Variants: Aislin, Isleen, Ashling, Aisling
American counterparts: Ashlyn, Ashlynn, Ashlynne, Ashlinn
Compact, striking, and drawn from the Gaelic surname, O'Cuinn, Quinn represents "wisdom and intelligence." It's also a short form of Quincy, Quintin, and Quinton.
Other Q names that are not Gaelic: Quentin, Quenton, Quintus
Other Gaelic monosyllabic names: Finn, Sean, Maeve, Shea, Pol
A surname and a nature name—for the red-berry producing tree, shown here—Rowan means "little red-haired one." An Anglicized form of Ruadhan ("red"), Rowan can be used for both boys and girls.
Variants: Roan, >Rohan, Rowen, Rowin, Rowyn
Other names that'll have you seeing red: Rory ("red "), Flynn ("son of a red-haired man"), Clancy ("red"), Flannery ("red-haired"), Reid ("redhead"), and Roy ("red" or "red-haired")
Meaning "brave" and "courageous," Riley first became popular as a given name for boys but began establishing itself as a girl's name in 1990. The surname, which is derived from Ó Raghallaigh and O'Reilly in Ireland, is also an English place name meaning "rye field" or "rye clearing." Currently ranked # 52 for girls and #109 for boys, the total number of female Rileys has outnumbered the total of male Rileys since 2002.
Variants: Rylee, Ryleigh, Rylie, Ryley, Rileigh, Rilee, Reilly, Reilley, Rhyley, Rhylee
Other Celtic surnames ending with the popular –ee sound: Bailey, Mackenzie, Mckenzie, Makenzie, Kennedy, Keeley, Keely, Delaney, and Tierney
Pronunciation: "KAM-run"; "SHAN-uhn"
Among unisex names, Cameron, a Highland clan name meaning "crooked nose," is more favored for boys (ranked at #50), than girls (#308). Shannon, on the other hand, is more popular with girls. A place name meaning "wise river," the Shannon River is the longest river in Ireland.
Variants of Cameron and Shannon: Kameron, Camron, Kamron, Camryn, Kamryn, Shannen, Shannyn, Shannan, Shanen, Shanon, Shanan, Shanyn
Other names that are right –on: Devon, Rhiannon, and Donovon
Finn is the Anglicized form of Fionn, meaning "fair" or "white." In Irish mythology, Finn MacCool (or Fionn mac Cumhaill) is known as the legendary warrior and hunter who formed the Giant's Causeway and the Isle of Man. Although often used as a nickname, Finn debuted on the US popularity chart as an independent name in its own right in 2000. Finn can also denote an inhabitant or citizen of Finland.
Variations: Fin, Fyn, Fynn
Other names sporting the nickname Finn: Finley, Finnegan, Finnian, Finlay, Phineas, Phinnaeus
Pronunciation: "TEAR-in," "TA-rin," "TAR-in"
This is an invented name spun off Tara, an Irish place name meaning "hill." The Hill of Tara was known as the seat of kings and the site of ancient monuments and royal rituals in Ireland. Margaret Mitchell named the O'Hara family plantation in Gone with the Wind Tara, after the original Hill of Tara. Movie star Tyrone Power named one of his daughters, Taryn.
Variants: Taren, >Tarin, Tarren, Tarryn, Taran
Among the assorted meanings attributed to Taryn: tender and innocent (Scottish), hill (Irish), thunder (Norse), young (Sanskrit), and land (Latin). Tara is also the name of a female Buddha and a Hindu goddess.
After Ryan ("little king") and Logan ("from the hollow"), the third most popular Celtic name in the US is Aiden. This fast-rising name meaning "little, fiery" has had many transformations over the years. In early medieval Ireland, it was known as Áedán (shared by at least two Celtic saints), before becoming Aodhán in the late Middle Ages. The Anglicized and traditional Aidan followed, until the chart-climbing Aiden emerged in 1995 at #935—it's currently ranked at #27.
Variants: Aidan, Ayden, Aden, Adan, Aydan, Aedan
Other similar-sounding flames on the popularity charts: Jaden, Jaiden, Caden, Kaden, Kaiden, Caiden, Braydon, Braiden, Haiden, and Raiden.
Sometimes trends can be born in the middle of a name, and not at the beginning or end. The girl's name Nyla looks fresh and modern with its –yl in the middle but is actually related to the names Niall, which is derived from niadh meaning "champion," and Neal, from neall or "cloud." An Irish dynasty was founded by Niall of the Nine Hostages. Nyla also means "winner" in Arabic.
(Dylan, a Welsh name which means "of the sea," has similar mid-name style. In Welsh mythology, Dylan was a god of the sea.)
Other winning N names: Nuala, a short form of Finola and Fionnghuala meaning "white shoulders," Neve, which is derived from Niamh (pronounced "Nehm"), Nia, and Noirin (pronounced "Noreen"). The surname Nolan is reaching new heights as a boy's name, thanks to baseball great, Nolan Ryan. It achieved its highest ranking at #133 in 2007, and means "noble and renowned."
In Ireland, place names are fairly consistent, using descriptive elements such as "derry" for oak, dubh or duff for "black," lin for "pool," ben for mountain, and
kil for "church." Thus Dublin means "dark pool" and Kildare means "church of the oak." Donegal means "fortress of the foreigners."
The name Ireland comes from the Celtic goddess, Ériu (or Éire), and the Germanic or Old Norse word,
Other Celtic place names: Camden, which means "from the winding valley," and Glenn, which means "valley." Sullivan, a surname meaning "dark-eyes" or "little black-eyed one," is also a common place name in the United States.