The other day I saw Colm Meaney walking down Lower Baggot Street in Dublin. My friend and I looked at each other and said, “That’s Collum Meaney.” Had I seen the actor last year in Austin I would have called him Cohlm, with a long O and the L sliding directly into a short M. I think I would have been wrong. I work with a guy named Colm, pronounced Collum. Like the Irish pronunciation of film, fillum.

I would have thought that generations of trendy US parents had already poached all the Irish names, but turns out there are tons I’d never heard before, and frequently mispronounce when I see them in print. Many of them reflect Irish pronunciation, like “mh” and “bh” having a V sound. That’s probably why we don’t see these more. No one wants their daughter being taunted with “Grainy, Grainy, has no brainy.” I’ve listed some new names we’ve encountered below.

Girls

Grainne graw + nya patron of the harvest in Irish Mythology
Caithriona ka- + rin + a Irish form of Catherine
Mairead mawr + aid Irish form of Margaret
Niamh neev Daughter of Sea God in Irish Mythology
Orlaith or + la Princess in Irish Mythology
Roisin ro + sheen little rose; represents Ireland in traditional Gaelic poetry
Aoife ee + fa Female warrior in Irish Mythology
Aisling ash + ling From aislinge which means vision or dream
Siobhan shiv + awn Irish form of Joan, meaning “God is gracious”
Sile she + la Sheila; Irish form of the Latin name Cecilia

Boys

Padraig paw + drig Irish form of Patrick
Eoin oh + an Irish form of John
Colm col + lum Signifies the dove, a symbol of peace
Diarmuid deer + mid Irish version of Jeremiah, Jeremy
Ciaran kee + rawn From Saint Kieran

It took me a while to learn how to pronounce the surname of one of my co-workers, O’Cinneide. O Cah-nay’-dah. I want to call him O Canada, but I don’t think anyone gets it, so I’ve settled on O’Cyanide.

My apologies for not figuring out how to make the accents for many of these names. I spent all my blogging patience trying to make the tables display correctly. Remind me to hard code the table next time.

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