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.


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


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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