Irish spellings for names

(60 Posts)
SeanChailleach Fri 19-Feb-21 14:50:38

All these Irish spellings make me wonder, if you use an Irish spelling for your child's name, do you speak Irish? If not, do you hope to learn, and would you have your child learn?
Ar an lámh eile, má tá Gaeilge agat, agus thug tú ainm de Bhéarla, nó de theanga eile do do pháiste, cén fáth?
(Otoh, if you have Irish but gave your child a name from English or from some other language, why?)

OP’s posts: |
wonderpants Fri 19-Feb-21 14:53:03

No, my children have Irish middle names (Irish dad/ UK mum, born and live in UK). The understand the meaning of their names but not pushed them to learn Gaelic.

DoodleLovin Fri 19-Feb-21 14:54:55

We live in Ireland and have a Liam and hopefully an Aoife soon! Gaelic is compulsory so yes they will learn it. Personally, I don’t speak it.

HaggisBurger Fri 19-Feb-21 15:01:26

I don't speak Irish (well beyond very basic school (NI) Irish). Nor do I have any particular desire to learn. (In an ideal world I would of course love to be fluent in my native language). But I consider Irish names spelled correctly as part of my cultural heritage and that of my children even though they were born outside of Ireland. I don't think you can talk about the "Irish spelling" of an Irish name. It's just "the spelling" though others may wish to use an anglecised spelling for lots of reasons.

Interestingly, anecdotally I think more of my friends that stayed in Ireland chose classic English names for their kids. Those of us abroad often went with Irish and some more unusual Irish names. Maybe we feel the need to prove our identity and give that cultural link than those still in Ireland.

Bainne Fri 19-Feb-21 15:01:29

DS was born in London, but has an unusual Irish name. As Eanáir 2020 amach, táimíd ar ais in Eireann, and tá sé ag foghlaim Gaeilge agus ag baint taitneamh as. Níl ach Gaeilge scoile again -- agus rinne mé an Ardteist i 1990 -- ach is maith liom Gaeilge a labhairt, agus tá mé an-sásta go bhfuil DS ag foghlaim é.

Bainne Fri 19-Feb-21 15:02:06

I don't think you can talk about the "Irish spelling" of an Irish name. It's just "the spelling" though others may wish to use an anglecised spelling for lots of reasons.

Yes, exactly.

Anoisagusaris Fri 19-Feb-21 15:03:15

I have school level Irish, don’t use it except to help the kids with homework. So don’t feel it necessary to only have Irish names.
Child 1 has an English version of a name that exists in Irish but is pronounced differently than in English. English version is a common name in Ireland traditionally. Family reasons for choosing it.
Child 2 has an English name, also used in Poland. Family reasons for choosing it.
Child 3 has an Irish name that is the same in English. No reason for choosing it

HaggisBurger Fri 19-Feb-21 15:04:34

ps; also love hearing about non-Irish people using Irish names too smile

MindyStClaire Fri 19-Feb-21 15:18:00

I'm from ROI living in NI, had good Irish leaving school but couldn't speak it now. Understanding is ok - I understand the posts on this thread but wouldn't want to be reading anything heavy. DH is from NI and identifies as Irish, he doesn't really speak any Irish at all (hopeless at all languages). DD1 has an Irish name, spelled in the Irish way. DD2 doesn't have an Irish name, we picked DD1's because we like it rather than because it's Irish iykwim.

Agree about Irish spellings just being the spellings of the names, and about Irish names being part of our cultural identity and history even for those of us who don't speak Irish.

RubysArms Fri 19-Feb-21 16:02:34

I get a bit irked when Irish people on here insist that an anglicised Irish name isn't a real Irish name. Killian for example will elicit 'there's no K in the Irish alphabet!'. True, but it's a very exclusionary way of defining what's Irish. Especially since most Irish people are very far from being fluent in the language themselves. Do they tut at people called Kelly and think 'your surname should be O'Ceallaigh'?

I'm one of those people who commits the sin of suggesting that maybe a rarer spelling of an Irish name or an entirely rare Irish name (Lasairfhíona for example) might be burdensome to a child being brought up outside of Ireland. I'm not saying don't do it, I'm just saying it's okay not to do it. You're not betraying the sons of Róisín by calling your kid Killian.

SeanChailleach Fri 19-Feb-21 16:21:29

My daughter has a friend Caoimhe who is not at all Irish. They also know Saoirse, Naoise, Úna and Méadhbh who all have Irish parents but say they don't speak the language.
I speak Irish fluently, although I grew up mainly in England, and DH grew up in Wales, but we have DD a slightly unusual English name that has three different pronunciations (as we found out after naming her). No-one can say or spell her name as she does, so she uses a nickname.

OP’s posts: |
RubysArms Fri 19-Feb-21 16:31:22

I would say Caoimhe is a funny name to give a child without any Irish heritage but then I suppose the same could have been said of Siobháin 40 or so years ago when that name became suddenly became really mainstream in the UK.

Not sure why Siobháin took off actually. There must have been a TV character.

RubysArms Fri 19-Feb-21 16:32:16

Although I think they usually spell it Siobhan.

Bobojangles Fri 19-Feb-21 16:34:04

I don't think you can talk about the "Irish spelling" of an Irish name. It's just "the spelling" though others may wish to use an anglecised spelling for lots of reasons.

This. Some anglecised spellings are more popular/well recognised than the Irish spelling in Ireland and I don't have much of a problem with these, but using an alternative spelling just because the traditional spelling is too 'hard" doesn't sit right. Really don't like ones like "Neve" or "Kira"

SeanChailleach Fri 19-Feb-21 16:38:13


I would say Caoimhe is a funny name to give a child without any Irish heritage but then I suppose the same could have been said of Siobháin 40 or so years ago when that name became suddenly became really mainstream in the UK.

Not sure why Siobháin took off actually. There must have been a TV character.

LOL it was a member of the pop group Bananarama! In 1987 I was teaching a group of ten year olds who adored her, insisted on calling her See-ob-han and refused to believe it was Shivaun.

OP’s posts: |
RubysArms Fri 19-Feb-21 16:45:57

Oh yes! Siobhan Fahy, of course grin

She always seemed very cool so I can see why her unusual name must have seemed cool to people too.

Bainne Fri 19-Feb-21 16:46:32

I know an English Siobhan (no fada) in her 40s who both mis-spells it and mispronounces it. I worked with her in a former job, and had to doublecheck emails as I have other Siobháns in my life (incouding a sister), and my autocorrect inserted fadas in the correct place, although that wasn't, strictly speaking, her name.

And I really struggled with her mispronunciation (Chiffonne) -- but again, the name she had been given by her parents was 'Siobhan' pronounced 'Chiffonne.' I had to think of her in my head as having a completely different name.

I mean, it's not quite 'Yvonne' pronounced 'Wye-VONN-y' or 'Guy' pronounced 'Gooey', but every time I went into her office past her nameplate I had to say 'Chiffonne, Chiffonne' to myself so as not to address her as 'Siobhán.'

LizzieAnt Fri 19-Feb-21 16:47:50

RubyArms I think I'm one of the people on here who'd say 'there's no k in the Irish alphabet' grin
Just to say that I'm doing it in a spirit of helpfulness, rather than one of criticism. Taking your example of Killian...I think it's useful for parents to know the history/background of a name before making their decision. So then if they choose to use Killian/Kilian rather than the original Cillian - because they believe it might be easier outside Ireland, or just because they prefer it - they're doing it from a place of (a wee bit more) knowledge.They're more equipped to make an informed choice and make the best decision for their family. I have to admit, though, that I'm with Bobojangles in that I have a lot more time for established anglicisations than I do for 'makey-uppy' spellings.

From a personal point of view, I tend to prefer Irish spellings rather than the anglicised alternative, but then it's easy for me, living in Ireland as I do. I'm also a big fan of the Irish language. Only one of my children has an Irish first name though (the others have Irish middle names) because I like other names too smile.

MysteriousMonkey Fri 19-Feb-21 16:48:20

Not Irish and no connection but one of my children has an Irish name with an Irish spelling just because I liked the name. People get used to the spelling eventually. I could have anglicised it but didn't see the point.

SeanChailleach Fri 19-Feb-21 16:54:54

@HaggisBurger I think that's a good point. My DD has my unmistakably Irish surname, so the Irish identity is already there. I spell it in English - it's one that does people's head in when written in Irish.
On a practical points, when my mum was researching her family history, she was confounded by English names where she was expecting another language. Eventually she found a document with a bunch of names in the language she was expecting.

OP’s posts: |
RubysArms Fri 19-Feb-21 17:01:51

All good points @LizzieAnt. smile I don't like the makey-uppy spelling of Neve for Niamh because to my ear Niamh is a two syllable word, but I think maybe English people don't hear that quiet second syllable? I like Irish spellings too but I'm not a purist. I know a Conor whose name is spelt Conchobar and I just think 'why bother?'. Conor is legit enough for me!

And on the flip side I'm not a massive fan of Irishifying English names. Like Nansí for Nancy or Maillí for Molly. Feels a bit twee to me.

ILoveStickers Fri 19-Feb-21 17:03:45

I have a daughter with an Irish name. She has two Irish great-grandparents, so in a way it's quite distant. But there's lots of Irish names among her grandparents, aunties and uncles, so her name fits in well.

The names in the family are all Irish spellings, but among the better-known ones in England.

Anyway, I'm not Irish at all and I don't speak Irish. But I think they're great names, and I would only want to spell them the Irish way, I think. (I did specify that we'd be using relatively short names, though, to make any future spelling-out a bit quicker...)

RubysArms Fri 19-Feb-21 17:04:13

@Bainne fabric names should be more widely used. As well as your colleague Chiffone I also like Georgette and Satine! They sound like a very glamorous trio. grin

Chunkymenrock Fri 19-Feb-21 17:05:42

My daughter has an unusual Irish name. We loved the name. That's why we chose it.We are not Irish.

LizzieAnt Fri 19-Feb-21 17:37:37

I don't like Irishifying names either @RubysArms.
If I met a Conchobar I'd assume it was pronounced differently to Conor, so yes, definitely confusing. Can I add Chenille as a fabric name? grin

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