Caitrìona, Ùna and Mhàiri

(213 Posts)
dunkydunker Tue 15-Nov-11 00:58:49

What do you think?

I want something Scottish but not very very obvious (DH is very very far away from Scottish)

dunkydunker Tue 15-Nov-11 01:01:05

By obvious I meant names like Shona and Angus and Donald.

lizziebennet Tue 15-Nov-11 10:03:17

You don't say if you're in Scotland, but if not, I think Mairi would be more practical than Mhairi as many non-Scots would mispronounce the 'Mh'. Una is lovely, also Elspeth is not too popular and very pretty. Not sure which names are obviously Scottish and which aren't, but personally I would steer clear of the accents if you are trying not to over-Scotify.

AitchTwoOh Tue 15-Nov-11 10:05:10

Mhairi means Mairi, as in 'come here, mairi!" the m is lenited with the h to make it softer, but it's not the name, it's a (iirc) vocative case.

lizziebennet Tue 15-Nov-11 10:15:34

Ok Aitch I have no idea what you're talking about there, but what I meant is that Mhairi is pronounced Vari as far as I know.

AitchTwoOh Tue 15-Nov-11 10:22:28

it is pronounced vari, but vari isn't a name. it's the vocative case of mari. so 'come here vari' but 'mari went down the street'. mari changes to vari under certain circumstances but doesn't exist on its own.

lizziebennet Tue 15-Nov-11 10:23:15

Oh dear

AitchTwoOh Tue 15-Nov-11 10:24:34

(i know. anyone spelling it mhairi basically marks themselves out as A Bit Of A Numpty grin)

macsaid Tue 15-Nov-11 10:26:52

The correct stand alone name is Màiri which is the noun in the nominative case. The form of Gaelic nouns changes depending on how they are used and when you are addressing Mairi by name you then use the noun in the vocative case, i.e. A Mhàiri.

The point is that Mhàiri used as a stand alone name is incorrect although people do it and even change it to Varri/Varry/Vari although there is no letter 'v' in the Gaelic language!

lizziebennet Tue 15-Nov-11 10:48:54

But the OP isn't necessarily going to be speaking in Gaelic to her/about her DD, so you could view Mhairi as an accepted adaptation of a name which is Gaelic in origin. Kind of like Shona, no?

macsaid Tue 15-Nov-11 11:02:09

Well lizziebennet if you agree that it is 'an accepted adaptation' ok. Personally,I do not really find it acceptable, I find it wrong... sorry

macsaid Tue 15-Nov-11 11:04:36

Also, Shona is different as it is an anglisisation of Seonag which is already pronounced Shonnag in its stand alone nominative form

OhBuggerandArse Tue 15-Nov-11 11:09:45

What macsaid said. And Aitch.

(Perhaps not the moment to point out that Hamish is also definitely wrong, by the same token?)

lizziebennet Tue 15-Nov-11 11:12:33

I just think you are being a bit harsh with the whole 'wrong' thing. Plus there is a difference between a Scottish name and a Gaelic one, and the OP has requested Scottish names.

OhBuggerandArse Tue 15-Nov-11 11:21:37

It's not harsh, it's factually correct. And all the names OP suggested are Gaelic ones.

lizziebennet Tue 15-Nov-11 11:30:42

Ultimately a name is just a collection of letters, so a name can't be wrong, it can just be a deviation from the accepted norm. I have certainly met plenty of people called Mhairi, so therefore the name must be relatively widespread.

The OP may have given those examples, but she asked for Scottish names, not a lesson on Gaelic grammar. Also, I believe that, according to you all, Mhairi is not a Gaelic name, so I guess not all the examples she gave were Gaelic.

chipmonkey Tue 15-Nov-11 11:32:52

I'm not scottish, I'm Irish and I was wondering about the Mhairi as it's wrong in Irish too! It would irritate me.
Like Caitlin, it's not Katelynn, it's Kathleen.

OhBuggerandArse Tue 15-Nov-11 11:35:08

There are plenty of people called Mhairi, yes. It's still wrong. They have wrong names. Some of them even know they're wrong because they pronounce it with an 'M' rather than a 'V' sound, but they can't change the spelling because that's the one they were given. Imagine being saddled with a name that was a mistake? Wouldn't do it to my kid. And MAiri is, perfectly sensibly, a Gaelic name - Mhairi is a mistakenly spelled hypercorrection, but that doesn't stop it being Gaelic.

AlpinePony Tue 15-Nov-11 11:39:22

Wrong for you gaelic speakers, "right" for the Moray valley it would appear. wink Incidentally, just to throw a spanner in the works, my family have always pronounced it with an M.

midnightexpress Tue 15-Nov-11 11:41:31

Gaelic pedants! Fabulous. grin

chipmonkey Tue 15-Nov-11 11:42:58

Pedantry is not restricted to the Home Counties, you know!wink

lizziebennet Tue 15-Nov-11 11:44:18

But the point is that it's in no way 'wrong' in English and there's nothing to suggest that the OP evens speaks Gaelic - given what you've said it seems like she doesn't. sure, it doesn't work in Gaelic, but is perfectly sensible in English, which is the medium we're presuming she'll be using, so what's the problem?

lizziebennet Tue 15-Nov-11 11:45:24


chipmonkey Tue 15-Nov-11 11:49:07

There is no "Mh" in English so it's not correct either.

OhBuggerandArse Tue 15-Nov-11 11:50:02

I just can't fathom why anybody choosing any sort of name wouldn't want to try and get it right! I mean, if she was proposing to call the kid Chathy, or Bhetty, or Khirsty, you'd see how weird it was - no different to that.

lizziebennet Tue 15-Nov-11 11:54:14

Now Kirsty - that's a nice choice for the OP - Scottish but not too Scottish. (Subtle attempt there to get the thread back on track)

OhBuggerandArse Tue 15-Nov-11 11:59:18

Or Ciorstaidh, if you want the Gaelic spelling...


AitchTwoOh Tue 15-Nov-11 12:03:07

i'm not sure caitriona is right either, now that i come to look at it. although i could be wrong.

LOVE the hamish thing, absolutely love it. but then that's the sort of obtuse ultra-scottishness that tickles me. grin

thing is about names on MN, you post because you want the straight dope. plenty of people don't know about the Mhairi thing, and imo it's worth learning about as personally i'd rather know before calling my child after a grammatical construct. and of course it won't be wrong all the time... you would at least have the comfort of knowing that every time you gave them into trouble you would be in the right. wink

suzikettles Tue 15-Nov-11 12:03:11

Kirsty, Elspeth, Elsie, Fiona, Isla, Heather, Rhona, Morna.

I'm sure some of these will be Wrong though wink

AitchTwoOh Tue 15-Nov-11 12:04:55

i wonder if rhona is? haven't come across it. whereas mhairi is gaidhlig 101.

suzikettles Tue 15-Nov-11 12:05:31

Wasn't there a thread once about someone who wanted to call their son Seamus James?

Which had me muttering James James Morrison Morrison Weatherby George DuPre...

suzikettles Tue 15-Nov-11 12:07:25

I had a friend called Rona, but I think she was named after the island. Whereas Rhona pretty common in the 1970s.

Piffle Tue 15-Nov-11 12:09:19

I have a Finbar Seamus ;)
Thank god he was not a girl or DH wanted Gobnait

lizziebennet Tue 15-Nov-11 12:09:42

I admit, I didn't know about the Mhairi/Mairi thing and I did find it interesting.

I know someone called Iain that's just Wrong

YaMaYaMa Tue 15-Nov-11 12:11:56

Just use Angus or Shona grin

Poor OP, you only asked about a few names and got a right old roastinghistory lesson from the pedants.

Personally I like Catriona - pronounced Katrina. Although I do know some scottish people who pronounce it cat ree ona. And I think it depends where you are from in Scotland whether names are pronounced a certain way.

How about Mairead? I know someone with that name and she is lovely.

AitchTwoOh Tue 15-Nov-11 12:17:12

see, if you pronounce that properly it sounds a bit like Myre-itch, which is imo not too lovely. grin

AitchTwoOh Tue 15-Nov-11 12:17:52

oh if there's an island called rona btw i'd say that would mean rhona is a vocative.

well thank god there are some ignorant people naming their children Mhairi and Mairaed/Mairead and liking it.

OhBuggerandArse Tue 15-Nov-11 12:21:04

Oh Aitch, no! Broad vowel at the end, so it is 'ut' (dammit, why can't I do a schwa on this keyboard!) not 'itch'. And you were doing so well at the pedantry!

AitchTwoOh Tue 15-Nov-11 12:24:21

oh GOOD. grin i am so pleased to have that cleared up. i know a woman of that name and i can't ask her to tell me her name again (gaels are funny about that ime) so was going by how others pronounce it. i myself call her Mye-mumble in the hopes of fudging it.

so it's My-rut? (still not nice, btw).

AitchTwoOh Tue 15-Nov-11 12:25:00

if you are a weegie you probably know her too, ohbugger...

sospanfach Tue 15-Nov-11 12:27:41

chipmonkey, it's not an English name....there's no accent in English either, but that doesn't mean you can't spell it with one...confused

Towndon Tue 15-Nov-11 12:27:42

I think Caitrìona, Ùna and Mhàiri are all very obviously Scottish.

thousandDenier Tue 15-Nov-11 12:27:44

I did wonder about Mairead. The one I know pronounces it Ma-Raid with the emphasis on the second syllable. Is that wrong?

AitchTwoOh Tue 15-Nov-11 12:31:10

that's what i'd thought it should be, thousand, but i'm now wondering if that's more irish?

OhBuggerandArse Tue 15-Nov-11 12:31:18

That's the Irish pronunciation, more or less.

AitchTwoOh Tue 15-Nov-11 12:31:34

(prior to meeting actual gaels, i mean)

picnicbasketcase Tue 15-Nov-11 12:37:47

I've only ever known one Mairead, and it was pronounced MY-rud. No idea if that's tecnically right, but that's how she told people to say it confused

macsaid Tue 15-Nov-11 12:39:18

JaxTellerIsMyFriend...maybe the op does not see us as pedants but as people giving useful information and advice. Maybe she will appreciate not having someone running around playgrounds with given names which are just wrong.
Personally I always TRY to spell correctly and use languages in general correctly and I think that applies to most people.
If in doubt I would always ask advice from someone more informed which was, presumably, OP's intention.

maybe she does Mac, maybe she will come back and say "Actually, changed my mind, going to call baby Annabel" smile This Scottish/gaelic malarky is just too tiring.

I am rather narked today, so not in the mood for proper discussion. Think I will away and do some baking. sad

OhBuggerandArse Tue 15-Nov-11 12:50:31

What about Lorna? That is Scottish but not too Scottish, and I can't think of any spelling/pronunciation issues.

Listzilla Tue 15-Nov-11 13:01:20

I'm an Irish Caitríona, and yes, techinically that's the correct spelling. Leathan le leathan, caol le caol and all that : )

As Gaeilge, i and e are 'skinny' vowels and a, o and u are 'broad' vowels; vowels on each side of a consonant must be of the same type, so the 'Catríona' spelling is impossible as you need the first 'i' as a buffer between the 'a' and the 'í'.

This thread is fun : )

AitchTwoOh Tue 15-Nov-11 13:05:40

oh yeeeeeeeeees. and yet i know proper hardcore gaels who spell it cat. i'd have thought she'd have changed it... weird.

macsaid Tue 15-Nov-11 13:20:40

to solve the Rona/Rhona question and as a matter of general interest, Gaelic names which begin with a vowel or the letters L, N and R do not change from the stand alone form (nominative case).
So when addressing Isabel, Eilidh, Una, Anna, Rhona/Rona, Niall, Alistair etc do not add an h after the first letter.

Enough grammar (or pedantry) from me for today

AitchTwoOh Tue 15-Nov-11 13:23:09

ack. i knew that too. wonder where the Rhona came from, then? how would it change the sound? or would it not?

AitchTwoOh Tue 15-Nov-11 13:24:17

i LOVE this thread btw, and think we should re-instate the MN Gaidhlig class.

mopsytop Tue 15-Nov-11 13:27:11

The fadas are the wrong way around in the title, it's Caitríona, Úna and Mháiri ...

OhBuggerandArse Tue 15-Nov-11 13:32:37

They're not fadas, they're stràcs. And that's the way round they go.

mopsytop Tue 15-Nov-11 13:33:17

Oh! in Irish they go the way I just wrote. I thought was the same in Scots Gaelic blush

mopsytop Tue 15-Nov-11 13:34:06

Should check perhaps before I state things as fact!!!

OhBuggerandArse Tue 15-Nov-11 13:35:35

'S alright! SG used to have the acute accents as well - they got lost in a spelling reform. Some people still miss (& defiantly use) them.

OhBuggerandArse Tue 15-Nov-11 13:44:30

And oops, sràc not stràc.

thousandDenier Tue 15-Nov-11 13:47:05

<takes notes>

this is Good Stuff.

DP is Irish / Scottish and has a yearning for a "hardcore" Gaelic name for forthcoming DS2. I'm all for it but seeing as I'm English and we live in the heart of Bumpkinshire this could get interesting..

macsaid Tue 15-Nov-11 13:58:23

with the new Gaelic orthographic conventions the only remaining accent is the grave as shown here on the a - à

suzikettles Tue 15-Nov-11 14:13:56

Lorna isn't a Scottish name as such (actually, I don't know how watertight the theory that R.D Blackmore made it up is).

It sounds Scottish though, and is certainly v popular in Scotland (around women of my age anyway, the ones who weren't called Rhona or Claire), which is probably good enough.

mathanxiety Tue 15-Nov-11 16:48:20

Celtic Fringe - Unite!!

Does Gaidhlig not follow the rule that Irish does for the vocative case where a name starts with a vowel?
'A hÁine' for instance is how you would call Áine to her dinner in Irish.

I love Eilidh but I have probably been murdering the pronunciation. And Marsaili too. Of the names in the OP, I like Una best.

Mairéad in Irish and in Ireland would be pronounced Mah-RAID for the most part (depends a bit on regional accent). The D is often a bit softer than the English D, more like a French D.

macsaid Tue 15-Nov-11 17:33:49

From experience the name Mairead is pronounced Myratt in Scottish Gaelic and MA-raid in Irish. That is what I have always heard.

HereKittyKitty Tue 15-Nov-11 19:05:51

Wow, didn't know the whole Mhairi thing was wrong...


I know of someone who has just named their baby Vhairi. Which if I understand correctly, is the wrong spelling, of the wrong pronunciation, of Mairi (with squiggly Gaelic lines)

<waits for a Gaelic pedant to advise me that Vhairi is the preferred spelling and that I'm a moron>

Bunbaker Tue 15-Nov-11 19:13:04

I like all the names.

Can I just say, as an ignorant Sassenach, that I would pronounce the names;

I now know that Catriona is pronouced Katrina, but I don't know how many oher people would.

Was I right with the other two?

Bunbaker Tue 15-Nov-11 19:14:22

Just another point
How irritated would you be if people spelt the names correctly but missed off the accents? I don't even know how to get them from my keyboard.

OhBuggerandArse Tue 15-Nov-11 19:17:34

Vhairi is double-extra wrong!

Una is Oona, Mairi is Maarie with the stress on the first syllable. Um, that doesn't look very clear, and I'm having trouble thinking of things that rhyme with it. Maybe Bari in Italy?

JennyPiccolo Tue 15-Nov-11 19:20:08

gutted at all this mhairi-bashing tbh.

Bunbaker Tue 15-Nov-11 19:20:24

Thanks. I wasn't trying to be provocative or rude, but I am not familiar with Gaelic pronunciations. Also I was thinking of Una Stubbs and her name is pronounced Yewna.

I still like the names though.

OhBuggerandArse Tue 15-Nov-11 19:25:26

Why do you think it's bashing? Not being narky, genuinely interested smile.

JennyPiccolo Tue 15-Nov-11 19:30:30

saying that it's a wrong name, that anyone spelling it that way is a numpty, etc.

plenty of names are different from their precise origins for one reason or another. i don't know how you can be wrong for being called something, or using a given spelling.

JennyPiccolo Tue 15-Nov-11 19:32:14

also, if a name has two pronunciations in one language, but not in another, surely it makes sense to be called by the vocative because that's how you will be addressed?

AitchTwoOh Tue 15-Nov-11 19:34:51

technically i said anyone spelling it that way 'marks themselves out as a bit of a numpty'. i meant any parent spelling it that way, of course, not the child, it wasn't their decision. but i did like the example of Bhetty or Khirsty for comparison.

i have a friend who is a Mairi... she has spent her entire life being informed that really she should have an 'h' in there... think of this as a blow on her behalf. grin

macsaid Tue 15-Nov-11 19:48:42

Aitch, a'Bhetty and a'Khirsty would be correct if you were directly addressing the person in Gaelic. Amusing anecdote re your friend Mairi!

Jenny, I certainly did not intend any bashing - I merely think it is preferable to use language as accurately as possible and I personally would be pretty embarassed if I used a name from another language or culture and later discovered that it was wrong. I would always do what the OP did and seek advice.
You will not be addressed in the Gaelic vocative spelling/pronunciation if being addressed in English,
e.g. 1. Here is Mairi (nominative).
e.g. 2. Mairi, come here quickly (vocative).
Grammar works out differently in different languages.
You do not use Gaelic grammar rules for English, unless they ever happen to be the same coincidentally.

AitchTwoOh Tue 15-Nov-11 19:50:51

oh yes re Bhetty, but the point is surely that it would look ridiculous to use it as their main name?

macsaid Tue 15-Nov-11 19:54:02

ah yes aitch, get you, totally ridiculous!

JennyPiccolo Tue 15-Nov-11 19:54:53

yeah, yeah, you're all dead to me now. sniff.

JennyPiccolo Tue 15-Nov-11 19:56:33

incidentally, what to we think to Cairistiona?

RedHotPokers Tue 15-Nov-11 20:03:26

My cousin Catriona pronounces it 'Ca- tree -uh-nuh', not Catreena, or Catreeohnah IYSWIM. Is this wrong?

JennyPiccolo Tue 15-Nov-11 20:05:35

i think it's Ca-tree-yun-nyuh. Who knows but.

AitchTwoOh Tue 15-Nov-11 20:06:04

the red-hot gael i know of pronounces it the same... but i am still confused by the spelling thing. is caitriona right?

Towndon Tue 15-Nov-11 20:06:19

Cairistiona - how's it pronounced?

AitchTwoOh Tue 15-Nov-11 20:07:05

jenny... are you really a Vhairi? wink

JennyPiccolo Tue 15-Nov-11 20:13:02

don't even look at me!


KenDoddsDadsDog Tue 15-Nov-11 20:15:50

My sister is a Catriona (Cat-ree-ona) and one of my friends is a Catriona (Katrina)

Hassled Tue 15-Nov-11 20:15:51

This is all fascinating. I spent 6 years of my childhood learning Irish, and have a very Scottish (Gaelic) name, but never knew there was a difference between fadas and sràcs. Had never even noticed that sràcs point the other way.

flybynight Tue 15-Nov-11 20:20:30

Marsali, Flora, and Nanze are lovely. Or that old island favourite - the father's name with -ina tacked on the end. I know a Johnina, a Kennethina and a Murdina.

AitchTwoOh Tue 15-Nov-11 20:37:37

oh yes, dh's family has a davidina and a kenina in the mix. not even islanders, just lazy bastards. grin

seriously pmsl at 'don't even look at me'. grin

macsaid Tue 15-Nov-11 20:39:26

How do you pronounce Nanze flyb? Have never come across it at all. Is it for a boy or a girl?

AitchTwoOh Tue 15-Nov-11 20:44:51

is it like nanzie? i knew one of them in glasgow. cute name for an old broad with red lippie, i always thought.

flybynight Tue 15-Nov-11 20:45:20

Its a girls name - a pet form of Agnes. My aunt, who was christened Agnes, has been called nothing else all her life. The e at the end is silent - imagine Nance as in Nancy, but make it a z sound.

crystalglasses Tue 15-Nov-11 20:46:34

What about Maire? Is it the same as Mairi or Mhairi?

JennyPiccolo Tue 15-Nov-11 20:50:28

is a maire not a cuddy?

macsaid Tue 15-Nov-11 20:52:28

thanks for that flyb, do you think it is within your family only? it is pretty cute.

crystal, the Maire I went to school with was of Irish origin and her name was pronounced Maura. Don't know if that is widespread?

AberdeenAngusina Tue 15-Nov-11 20:56:01

I knew an old lady named after both grandfathers - Hectorina Andrewina. And there were two Marshallinas in my family (nns Marsha and Lina).

Anna is a failsafe Gaelic name - spelled the same in both Gaelic and English, and not much difference in pronunciation.

AitchTwoOh Tue 15-Nov-11 20:56:23

nanzie is a weegie diminuitive of agnes, it's all coming back to me now...

AitchTwoOh Tue 15-Nov-11 20:58:27

HAH! you wanna give ulpan a try, mate. they are sticklers for pronouncing anna as if your tongue is trying to make a break for it through your teeth. grin

fluffystabby Tue 15-Nov-11 21:05:36

What about Senga then?

I know a Senga......

<shit stirs>

GretaGarble Tue 15-Nov-11 21:11:44

About Isabel and other names with vowels - it's a long time since I spoke Irish but I seem to remember the the vocative is a hIsabel.

Libra Tue 15-Nov-11 21:15:24

I was about to say Senga!

Lots of Vhairis in my classes at university - and isn't there one on Radio Scotland?


AitchTwoOh Tue 15-Nov-11 21:16:42

ishbel... which i think is actually iseaball or something equally gael-bonkers.

Libra Tue 15-Nov-11 21:19:21

Iona? Erin?

AberdeenAngusina Tue 15-Nov-11 21:23:47

Aitch - I sort of pull my tongue back pronouncing Anna - sort of relaxed tongue for English and tense tongue for Gaelic. I'm trying to get my tongue to make a break for it through my teeth, but Anna isn't what's coming out.

AberdeenAngusina Tue 15-Nov-11 21:25:10

And now DS has come through to see if I've taken a funny turn...

What about Mairi Sine? - knew one at University. Known as "Cherry"

AitchTwoOh Tue 15-Nov-11 21:28:55


OhBuggerandArse Tue 15-Nov-11 21:29:13

Back on the 'is it mean to say it's wrong' thing. Sorry if this goes on a bit.

There are all sorts of reasons why those mis-spellings come about - I suppose it's possible that some of the original Mhairis and Vairis happened because people had a memory of the way in which the name was often used in the vocative when speaking Gaelic, probably within their own families, but because they'd lost the language didn't have enough Gaelic themselves to understand the grammatical significance of the shift in pronunciation & spelling.

Don't underestimate literary influences, either - big spikes in the incidence of Hamish, for instance, in the late 1820s which I bet is due to Walter Scott; and there are funny spikes in the occurrence of Mhairi which I bet also have something to do with literary fashions, some really awful pseudo-Celtic stuff among them.

There's hyper-correction too, of course - people knowing that Gaelic seems to have a lot of extra h's, and sticking them in for good measure. Stella MacCartney's husband Alasdhair is a good example of that.

But I'm not sure it's always that benign - we have to remember that all this takes place in the context of a 300 year old official campaign to stamp Gaelic out, prevent it from being spoken, disenfranchise people who did, and denigrate and remove their cultural heritage. In that context saying things like 'oh it doesn't matter how you spell/pronounce it you can choose whatever you like' smacks to me of the kind of dismissive - in fact downright hostile - attitude towards that value of that culture, language and heritage that allowed those anti-Gaelic policies to hold sway for so long. Fits easily into a colonialist view-point - 'we can take it and do what we like with it because we're basically superior to them'.

That's a message that's easily internalised, and absorbed by people who should be able to see themselves as owning that cultural heritage - particularly when they've had the linguistic tools that would enable them to resist it taken away from them - so many Scottish and other families do end up continuing 'wrong' spellings and usage, because they don't have the language, or the political awareness, or the impetus, to do things differently. Or because their granny spelt it that way and they loved them, which I don't discount.

I suppose why this spelling business exercises me to the degree it does is that it seems a relatively simple way to give a little respect to a culture and a language, and to try and understand it better - we're all richer for that, surely?

AitchTwoOh Tue 15-Nov-11 21:39:24

stirring stuff, ohbugger, and very true.

macsaid Tue 15-Nov-11 21:44:15

Very well expressed ohbugger especially the bit about giving respect to a culture and language. By doing so you also show respect to the individuals whose heritage is that culture and language and who, believe me, continued to be treated with hostility during their enforced exiles in the central belt of Scotland as recently as 30 years ago.

Nowadays, in part thanks to the Gaelic schools and the Gaelic TV channels, as well as the more enlightened and inclusive attitudes which generally prevail in our society towards minority groups, the Gaelic speaking people of the Highlands and Islands are rarely ridiculed as they once were for their language, their accents, their general demeanour and perhaps their natural good manners and courteous ways.

JennyPiccolo Tue 15-Nov-11 21:44:43

Well, most mis-spellings and variations of names came from a time when literacy wasn't great. Researching my own family tree, ive found different spellings by the same person, of their own name in census forms, marriage certificates and stuff like that. so if that can change within a lifetime, accepted spellings can change between generations.

Another point, is it bad for the promotion of the Gaelic language, for Gaelic names (even wrong ones) to be popular? I think a lot of non-Gaelic speakers see it as a tribute to their heritage to give a child a Gaelic name. Yes, it would be a greater tribute to learn and speak Gaelic, but these things will not happen overnight.

AitchTwoOh Tue 15-Nov-11 21:49:55

they are happening, though, jenny, slowly but surely...
i do find the gaels a completely completely forrin culture, i must say. i do my best but i am far too weegie (as in gobshitey) to ever be well-liked i think.

JennyPiccolo Tue 15-Nov-11 21:57:15

i know they are, Gaelic is much more popular now even from when i was a wean.
Yeah, im a weegie, wide as the clyde as well.

Don't really want to out myself (probably will) but my brother speaks and teaches a lowland Gaelic dialect (there are very few speakers of it) which apparently makes allowances for the glottal stop and other weegie nuances. Maybe he fibs to his pals about his sister's wrong name, who knows.

JennyPiccolo Tue 15-Nov-11 21:59:13

p.s. I am aware that my name is a different one in Gaelic. I'm not really sure how to articulate how i reconcile this in my head. I just think lots of things get warped over time, and using the pretty-sounding vocative of a name isn't really the worst thing you could inflict on your wean.

AitchTwoOh Tue 15-Nov-11 21:59:58

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

OhBuggerandArse Tue 15-Nov-11 22:01:20

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

dunkydunker Tue 15-Nov-11 22:02:21

I know about the whole Mhàiri thing (and no not a gaelic speaker) but it was my Granny's name. And I don't really expect the gaelic grammar to be a big thing in sourthern england.

AitchTwoOh Tue 15-Nov-11 22:02:53

oooohnoooo are we talking about the same person? metal bands? i am thinking of someone with sideys. are you thinking of a long-haired chap?

AitchTwoOh Tue 15-Nov-11 22:03:26

but did you read ohbugger's post, dunky?

McQueasy Tue 15-Nov-11 22:05:13

What about caera/Ciara Niamh Eilidh or Afton??

JennyPiccolo Tue 15-Nov-11 22:13:32

i feel ive said too much! Dont mind being outed on here but not in real life, iyswim.

OhBuggerandArse Tue 15-Nov-11 22:19:26

Understood - all suggestions withdrawn and forgotten!

AitchTwoOh Tue 15-Nov-11 22:21:00

can get them deleted if you like?

macsaid Tue 15-Nov-11 22:26:00

A lowland Gaelic dialect? Interesting, I don't think I have ever heard of this. Does it have a name?
Is it more influenced by Irish than Scottish Gaelic?
Is it confined to a particular geographical area or a specific population sector/group?
Does it have names for boys and girls?

Hope you don't mind all these questions.

dunkydunker Tue 15-Nov-11 22:26:14

Aitch I did - and I knew some of it (in my memory of school lessons at least) But that doesn't really change the fact that it was my Granny's name

macsaid Tue 15-Nov-11 22:29:16

dunkydunker, re the spelling, you should read ohbugger's post of 21:29:13! please!
Then you will understand why we have discussed this all day long!

AberdeenAngusina Tue 15-Nov-11 22:30:40

The other problem with Gaelic names, historically, is that people had to use the English form on birth/marriage/death certificates and census returns. So a baby was known as Sine, and on her birth cert, her parents translated it as Janet. But when she got married, she couldn't remember how it was translated before, so it's translated as Jessie on her marriage cert.

I've an ancestress whose name appears variously as Louisa, Lucy and once as Elizabeth. Any guesses, oh you clever Gaelic speakers, as to which Gaelic name she was actually known as? I've no idea.

My (Irish) name is pronounced differently to the way it is spelt and causes me no end of trouble with people who see my name written down before meeting me or on my name badge at work. It is a complete pain in the arse and I wish my parents had chosen my second name instead.

However, that said, we gave our DC Irish names.

dunkydunker Tue 15-Nov-11 22:32:03

I have read it I do understand - take it up with my Great grandparents, because it still doesnt alter the fact it was my Granny's name.

JennyPiccolo Tue 15-Nov-11 22:33:08

no, it's okay, aitch. im sure you guys understand the need for refuge on mn sometimes. And i've enjoyed debating about it. and im pretty sure yous are thinking of one of his mates and not him. grin

macsaid- i think it's just called lallans. i dont think it's more irish, no, just maybe with more scots words? i might be wrong. it was spoken in campsie type area. I think the boys and girls names are the same as in standardised Gaelic.

AitchTwoOh Tue 15-Nov-11 22:35:29

the chap i am thinking of calls it lallans, yep.

macsaid Tue 15-Nov-11 22:38:24

thanks for that, have heard of lallans, off to google it and might learn some!

AitchTwoOh Tue 15-Nov-11 22:38:36

no, it doesn't alter the fact that it was your granny's name, of course, but it might have made you pause in responding that 'the gaelic grammar thing won't be a big thing in southern england', ie responding in precisely the dismissive manner she outlined in her post.

anyway, mistake or no, Mhairi is very very obviously scottish, so as per your OP is probably out.

suzikettles Tue 15-Nov-11 22:45:16

AberdeenAngusina - I'd make a guess at Ealasaid, which (I think) translates into English as Elizabeth, but I guess could sound sort of like Lucy or Louisa?

JennyPiccolo Tue 15-Nov-11 22:45:31

aren't there other vocative names? Isn't Hamish one?

KristinaM Tue 15-Nov-11 22:50:22

With due respect to all you Gaels, the Op asked for a Scottish name, not a Gaelic one. Doesnt this include scots names or names in the English language more commonly used in Scotland, and not just Gaelic names?

OP- by " very very obvious" do you mean names which are difficult for English speakers to spell or pronounce or ones that are very popular?

AitchTwoOh Tue 15-Nov-11 22:51:59

the three names she used as her examples were irish or scots gaelic, kristina.

JennyPiccolo Tue 15-Nov-11 22:53:09

the OP suggested gaelic names to begin with, no?

dunkydunker Tue 15-Nov-11 22:54:19

Kristina Ones that are very popular I suppose

KristinaM Tue 15-Nov-11 22:56:27

I know, but she did ask for scottish names . Soem people are confused about the difference between the two

AFAIK lallans is scots as spoken in the lowlands, like doric in the NE. But im no expert

KristinaM Tue 15-Nov-11 22:58:42

And before someone asks, i do know it should be Christina but it was taken already

AitchTwoOh Tue 15-Nov-11 23:00:29

depends where you come from, isn't Kristina an eastern euro spelling?

OhBuggerandArse Tue 15-Nov-11 23:01:15

Not if you're Polish.

What about Flora?

AitchTwoOh Tue 15-Nov-11 23:02:28

flora's nice. quite london-trendy at the moment, i know a few floras.

JennyPiccolo Tue 15-Nov-11 23:03:33

ok, so

Catriona (due a comeback, i think)
Una (old lady ish, i think)
Wrong Mhairi (might change my name to)
Ailean (alien)
Cairistiona (<3<3<3)
Eilidh (more common but still nice)
Beatha (i like)
Alba (<3<3<3)
Jeannie (poor wee)

macsaid Tue 15-Nov-11 23:03:58

Kristina I think Gaelic names are a subset of Scottish names and the OP did lead by suggesting 3 very Gaelic sounding names which has clearly influenced the train of thought here today.

KristinaM Tue 15-Nov-11 23:04:43

Well IME catriona and mhairi and very popular just now, and to a lesser extent so is Una. Whereas Shona, Angus and donald are a bit out of fashion.

Wht dont you check out the registrar generals lists of baby n ames for the last few years?

BTW i am using the commonly used english spellimgs of these names because i am an english speaker. I am not ignoring or disagreeing with the very interestimg comments made on this thread about showing respect for the gaelic language

mathanxiety Tue 15-Nov-11 23:05:53

How about the Irish Lasairfhíona? (Laz-uh-REE-na) It has a Scottishy ring to it with the -ína ending. Imo.

'Mairéad' would have to have the emphasis on the last syllable with the fada.

OhBugger, were you on the SORCHA thread? Everything you said would have been so appropriate there too.

I would say you can't have Scottish name suggestions without including Gaelic names, KristinaM.

JennyPiccolo Tue 15-Nov-11 23:06:16

mhairi isnt popular at all, there were only 6 in scotland last year. Dont think there were any donalds though. (i really like it! am i weird?)

mathanxiety Tue 15-Nov-11 23:07:19

I like Donald. Don is nice too imo.

KristinaM Tue 15-Nov-11 23:08:05
KristinaM Tue 15-Nov-11 23:09:08

I agree math. Scottish names would include , but not be limited to, gaelic names

AitchTwoOh Tue 15-Nov-11 23:10:47

mhairi isn't popular round here at all, pronounced mari or vari. nor are catriona or una afaia.

eilidh is, but then it is a downright lovely name so it's hardly surprising. lots of island names floating around as well, skye, iona, harris etc.

macsaid Tue 15-Nov-11 23:10:58

Effie (Oighrig)
Catherine (and every variation of - Catriona, Kay)
I'm stuck already, must be getting late

AitchTwoOh Tue 15-Nov-11 23:12:10

so what are your suggestions, then, Kristina?

euphemia? grin

mustdash Tue 15-Nov-11 23:12:52

So, completely ignoring all above, because it's all very serious.

DD1 is Katriona. We love, it, and she's widely known as Katie. Never come across another Katriona with a K, but no one has ever said it's wrong. grin

KristinaM Tue 15-Nov-11 23:13:09

I have a relative called Adamina......

AitchTwoOh Tue 15-Nov-11 23:13:28

explain oighrig to me... how is that pronounced? and did we come to a conclusion re the spelling of cat/caitriona?

JennyPiccolo Tue 15-Nov-11 23:15:13

12 mhairis
24 catrionas
3 unas

none of those seem dead popular just now.

How about Skye? that's quite pretty.

KristinaM Tue 15-Nov-11 23:15:15

409 baby Islas born last year, so you are right about islands ( ish)

JennyPiccolo Tue 15-Nov-11 23:17:07

there are 4 bajillion spellings of niamh.

What about Mirren?

JennyPiccolo Tue 15-Nov-11 23:18:49

oh! There's a Maggie May on this list! We have a winner!

macsaid Tue 15-Nov-11 23:22:52

aitch, Oighrig is two syllables, the second one is easy: 'rig'

the first one is I suppose a bit like 'oeil' the French for eye and remember the last L in oeil is not pronounced.

You would find this name very easy if you heard it? Have you never heard it?

KristinaM Tue 15-Nov-11 23:26:09

Isnt mirrin a japanese food flavouring?

Im intrigued by Alexandreau-Le -Prince.....

KristinaM Tue 15-Nov-11 23:29:01

Oh ive got one, Brooke-lynn

JennyPiccolo Tue 15-Nov-11 23:34:26

haha, just had this conversation with DP, about Maggie May:

-there's a wee girl out there named after a pub round the corner, guess what her name is?
-i dunno?
- it's super scottish. double barrelled.
-eh, Babbity Bowster?

macsaid Tue 15-Nov-11 23:39:31

ha ha Jenny, amusing indeed, this has been a great thread

KristinaM Tue 15-Nov-11 23:42:44

LOL at jenny

AitchTwoOh Tue 15-Nov-11 23:43:13

i realise now that i have. i do like mirren, but have seen muirreann i think, or something similar.

tabulahrasa Tue 15-Nov-11 23:46:41

Ooh I thought it was just me...

I have to fight the urge to tell people called mhairi that it's not a name blush

OP, if you like it and it's got a sentmental reason behind it as well, use it, it's a pretty sound and no-one will say it's not really a name, to your face anyway, lol

it's more of a real name than some you cone across.

RobynLou Tue 15-Nov-11 23:49:05

my sister is catriona pronounced cu-tree-un-a (sort of)
I though that was a highlands way of saying it and ca-tri-oh-na is the lowlands way.
but I know very little about it other than my sister spent years trying to get people to pronounce her name before giving up and just being 'cat'

mathanxiety Wed 16-Nov-11 15:17:50

Muireann is Irish, pronounced Mwir-inn. It's used as an equivalent of Marian but I don't think that's correct, etymologically, as the Irish -eann suffix usually indicates the English -ness suffix. (As in Doireann, Soireann; darkness, brightness)

Cu-tree-uh-na is the Irish pronunciation of Caitríona too, Tabularasa.

There is only one correct spelling of Niamh.

AitchTwoOh Wed 16-Nov-11 20:16:32


so having received a lecture in broad with broad, slender with slender further down the page, i ask again Is Catriona Correct?

RonnieBirtles Wed 16-Nov-11 20:46:41

What the heck is wrong with Mairead? <awaits response from Gaelic pedants>

Muireann is a fabulous name, btw!

Irish Gaelic pedants, please settle something else for me.

Oisin (sorry, can't do fada on my keyboard). I have known two Oisins in RL who pronounce it Oh-sheen. However, a friend from Donegal recently told me it is Osh-een (or sort of Uh-sheen in her accent) and that Oh-sheen is definitely wrong. Puzzled, as the two Oisins I know are both very definitely Irish (and I am a plastic paddy second generation Irish).

DigOfTheStump Thu 17-Nov-11 08:12:57

mirren or mirrin are lovely

DigOfTheStump Thu 17-Nov-11 08:19:52

And I also love Donald

JennyPiccolo Thu 17-Nov-11 09:23:13

Not so nice for a girl though.

AitchTwoOh Thu 17-Nov-11 12:11:39


DigOfTheStump Thu 17-Nov-11 13:47:14


CurrySpice Thu 17-Nov-11 13:59:27

Oh my goodness this is the most interesting thread I've read in ages grin even though I don't speak a word of gaelic - although I do have an Isobel

What has really piqued my curiosity is the idea of a spelling reform...what the heck?! How would that work? Are you allowed to resist? That is an idea totally alien to an English speaker although my Dutch DP has told me about changing spellings in Dutch but I don't know if that was part of a wholeslae reform!

I LOVE this kind of thing!!

CurrySpice Thu 17-Nov-11 13:59:51


midnightexpress Thu 17-Nov-11 14:33:22

Aksherly OP, I think what you should do is what proper old highlanders did and just turn a boy's name into a girl's name. My grandad's neighbours were three ancient siblings called (I won't attempt the Gaelic versions) Red Duncan, Black Duncan and...Duncina (hard 'c'). grin The local graveyards there are stuffed with Williaminas, Alexandras and the like. One suspects their parents were perhaps just a little bit hoping for a boy...

mollschambers Thu 17-Nov-11 14:47:33

Not hoping for a boy, just named after men. I have two uncles with the same name - they were named after different people.... I have an Aunt (by marriage) called Archina. Bless her. Hasn't lived in Scotland for forty years either....

I'm from the most Gaelic of Gaelic places. Every Catriona I know pronounces it Katreena (or Kuh-tree-una if they are a bit more teuchy). Cah-tree-ona is a bit weird to me tbh.

mathanxiety Thu 17-Nov-11 15:08:38

Your Donegal friend is right, RonnieBirtles. It is either Ush-een or Osh-een, depending on regional accent. It couldn't be Oh-sheen unless the O had a fada, which it doesn't normally though the two you know might have tacked fadas on.

Nothing wrong with Mairéad -- it normally has a fada on the E but sometimes people use a fada on the first A also, making the pronunciation Maw-raid instead of Mah-RAID.

An Irish 'Caitríona' would need to have the two Is there on either side of the consonants. If a slender vowel precedes a consonant then then the consonant must be followed by a slender vowel (I and E are slender).

Spelling reform in Irish was undertaken very successfully during the last century. The letter H was added in place of the dot over a consonant to indicate lenition (softening) of the consonant where grammar dictated a change in spelling and pronunciation. Many superfluous letters were cast aside in favour of more streamlined spellings although with the sound preserved -- I think this task is far easier when a language is only spoken by a minority and basically mostly taught in schools as opposed to one used daily by millions.

One example of spelling reform is the name Mairéad, which was reduced from Mairghréad via Maighréad to its current form. The old spelling Maighréad is recalled in the Máiréad form, as it would have been pronounced Maw-raid in some accents. Another example of spelling reform in action is the slimming down of Orfhlaith via Orlaith to Orla. The old spelling indicates the meaning better (flaith = princess) but the pronunciation is the same no matter how you spell it.

macsaid Thu 17-Nov-11 19:21:58

curryspice the spelling and orthographic changes seem to have originated with the old exam board (now the SQA) and go back as far as 1985 so not really new. It would not really have made sense to resist as it made things easier and more consistent for users of the language although some still comment on preferences for some aspects of the old system.

I agree moll, boys names were not chosen for reasons of compensation but rather to observe the tradition of the time which was to use the family names and could mean that in one family you might have small Donald, young Donald, red headed Donald etc.

Orla1 Thu 17-Nov-11 21:08:03

I imagine for the child it would be very irritating in later life when Irish and Scottish people constantly tell her that her name is "wrong". We are Irish and my child was born abroad so I wanted an Irish name with an easy spelling. I went with a very anglicized spelling of an Irish name, but a common one which I found acceptable. I couldn't quite bear to use a family name, Caoimhe, as Americans would have butchered it, and Kiva just isn't the same to me.

CurrySpice Thu 17-Nov-11 23:27:53

Thank you for answering my questions about spelling reform. Very very interesting. It has led me to read up on Dutch reform and how well accepted that is. Mostly it was done to "dutchify" foreign words which had entered the language and is only partially accepted in the Netherlands eg government uses reformed words, the media does not always.

Very confusing but very fascinating!

midnightexpress Sun 20-Nov-11 14:23:25

Thanks curry and mac - that's interesting. I suppose it also makes calling the DC in for tea nice and straigthforward.

'Donaaaaaaald!' and 5 children come a-runnin'.

Get0rf Mon 21-Nov-11 19:48:45

This is a great thread.

I think the winner of the best suggestion of a name in a MN baby names thread of all time would be jennypiccolo 's DH's suggestion of Babbity Bowster!

mumbrane Mon 21-Nov-11 21:22:16

Ah, Caoimhe. Pronounced Kweeva by some, Keeva by others. Why?

Also Saoirse, which strictly speaking is Seer-sha, but my southern Irish father and his family all pronounce it more like Sare-sha.

mathanxiety Tue 22-Nov-11 04:13:21

Depends on regional accent.
Kweeva is Munster Irish; Keeva is Connacht (and possibly Ulster too, but I'm not very familiar with the Ulster/Donegal accent).
Again, Seersha is Connacht (and possibly Ulster) and Sare-sha is Munster accent.

ScotFree Tue 22-Nov-11 14:06:43

Just for the record, my name is 'Seonaid' pronounced 'Shona' (which I believe isn't correct Gaelic). When I lived in Scotland, it was mostly fine (though it was pronounced 'shen-aid' at my graduation), but now I live in London it causes me such a lot of trouble (people can't spell it, people can't pronounce it, new people take ages to work out what you're called, etc.). I've called my son something very straightforward!

ljl30 Fri 24-Feb-12 09:20:15

I totally agree. Use the correct spelling & don't make up names. Loads of kids out their with a name & parents have added 'idh' on the end to make them sound Gaelic...either use a Gaelic name properly or don't bother!!

Rinkan Fri 24-Feb-12 10:47:57

Oh, love this thread. Born and bred in Scotland, a total language geek and self-confessed pedant. Had vaguely heard some people say that "you should pronounce Mhairi as "varry" and had no idea that it was wrong. And vv taken aback to learn that Hamish is also wrong!

My question is, if 'Mhairi" is the vocative of Mairi, of which name is Hamish the vocative?

v nostalgic to hear about the vocative case as last time was on high school Latin (my Latin teacher had a baby called Cairistiona! Think she was a bit of a Gael too). We used to translate vocative in English as "o slave" given that no equivalent spelling change in English, so I suppose that to call a child "Mhairi" is like calling her "o Mary"...

NapaCab Fri 24-Feb-12 18:09:07

Ooooh, a Gaelic pedants thread! Lovely... always popular in the baby names section

Hamish is the vocative of Seamus (Irish spelling, think Scots-Gaelic one is Seamas) i.e. James in English.

The M(h)airi thing is indeed annoying for Gaelic-speakers to read and I found it odd when I first met DH's cousin whose name is Mhairi. Why use 'Mhairi' as a proper name but not 'Hishbel' or 'Heonaigh' or 'Chaitriona'?? Possibly because the difference between 'm' and 'v' sounds is so strong? I think I actually came across the spelling Varry once - that's one to make a linguist's skin crawl...

Anyway, OP, if you haven't been scared off by the pedants then I love the names Ishbel and Eilidh, personally. They're Scottish but not obvious choices like Kirsty or Fiona.

Rinkan Sat 25-Feb-12 03:10:33

So is Hamish the Gaelic spelling of the vocative of Seamas?

Groovee Sat 25-Feb-12 03:31:11

Dh wanted Isla or Iona but I went for Eilidh. I couldn't get passed a friends dog being Isla and I had a key child called Iona. Catriona was a consideration. Friends have used Morven, Shona, Muirne. Most recently Ceitidh has appeared and I love the spelling of Katie like that.

Always wondered how Clodagh was pronounced.

Groovee Sat 25-Feb-12 03:31:34

I thought Hamish came from James

HardCheese Sat 25-Feb-12 07:09:26

Groovee, Clodagh in Ireland is pronounced to rhyme with 'soda', but with a softened 'd' sound like the 'th' in 'thou'.

Hamish (Gaelic) and Séamus (Irish) are both versions of James.

Heartbeep Sat 25-Feb-12 08:39:12

This is a great thread. I'm scottish but don't know Gaelic & find this discussion fascinating. So can someone elaborate on why Hamish is 'wrong'?

Groovee Sat 25-Feb-12 11:52:12

Thanks HardCheese

Saltire Sun 26-Feb-12 21:38:53

Getting back to Lallans, its common in the lowlands (i.e the best part) grin. It isn't like Gaelic, more Scots. If that makes sense.
I suppose, I like a lot of people, use it, or a form of it.

As for names. If it's any help I had a dentist called Vaila (after the island)

Summer123 Sun 26-Feb-12 22:21:32

I have a Catriona and a Shona - I love them both and the names are OK too I reckon. If I had a Mabel, I'd love her to bits too.

celtiethree Sun 26-Feb-12 22:57:10

For Hamish, the vocative case of Seumas is "a Sheumais" which is pronounced Hamish. So Hamish like Mhairi doesn't work.

Rinkan Mon 27-Feb-12 00:06:35

Thanks celtiethree. So how do you pronounce Seumas?

celtiethree Mon 27-Feb-12 21:44:53

Hi Rinkan, Shay - mas, though happy to be corrected by many on here who are more knowledgeable than me.

Thinkingof4 Wed 29-Feb-12 14:01:22

<whispers>. I have a Hamish! It's wrong?? sad
I knew it was a version of Seamus but didn't realise it wasn't actually a name.
My boys all have Scottish names but I think the other 2 are ok. Well assuming Lachlan is ok??!
I wish I understood Gaelic a bit more, it scares me a bit as I have no clue about how to pronounce names and some of them look ( and probably sound) lovely

Are there any sites that actually say the names out loud so you can hear how they sound?

celtiethree Wed 29-Feb-12 22:16:20

Hi Thinking, there isn't a site that say the names out loud for Scottish Gaelic but there is for Irish:

If you are interested in learning some Gaelic the BBC have some beginner lessons:

Lachlan - yes is OK. I have used a variation for one of my DS (which I'm sure would upset some Gaelic speakers!!!)

PS - I like Hamish.

Flickstar Thu 01-Mar-12 09:34:33

Una! Love this and was on my list of girls names

Thinkingof4 Thu 01-Mar-12 17:20:28

Thanks celtiethree I think hamish is a great (non) name too!
Ill have a look at the websites ta

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