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Spelling of an Irish name

135 replies

HRSC · 21/05/2023 10:54

I am due to have my first baby (girl) in August. My husband is Irish and I am British and we live in Portugal (which is where I grew up and where the majority of my family lives).

We have decided to give the baby an Irish name and now we are discussing the spelling of the name. The name we’ve chosen in Niamh which is easy to say in Portuguese but is going to be minefield for anyone to try and read (or spell!).

Do we stick with the traditional Irish spelling and she has an issue whenever anyone tries to read or spell her name or do we go for a different spelling which can be read much more easily by non English speaking people? (Like Neve or Nieve etc)

We are not likely to ever move to Ireland, most likely we will stay in Portugal so this will be something that she will have to deal with for her whole life.

What are your opinions on this? My husband and I can’t decide.

*I have a name that Portuguese people struggle to read and it is a pain when I’m booking a restaurant or at at doctors appointments etc so I often just give my middle name which is more translatable when booking restaurants etc)

OP posts:
IggyAce · 21/05/2023 10:56

I’d go with Neve, the couple I know in England use that spelling.

Luredbyapomegranate · 21/05/2023 10:59

I would probably call her something that works in Portugal and use Niamh as a middle name.

She’s going to be spelling Neve anyway as people won’t recognise it.

DuchessOfSausage · 21/05/2023 10:59

Stick to the irish spelling or pick another name

Blogdog · 21/05/2023 11:03

As an Irish person I normally flinch when I see misspelled versions of Irish names however in your situation I can see why not using the correct spelling makes sense. However I think you might be using an anglicised spelling in a country where it would not be taken as such. My Portuguese isn’t great but doesn’t Neve mean ‘snow’ in Portuguese and is pronounced ‘Nev-ah’? Be careful you’re not swapping one problem for another.

ColadhSamh · 21/05/2023 11:10

DuchessOfSausage · 21/05/2023 10:59

Stick to the irish spelling or pick another name

Agree, otherwise it is not a traditional Irish name. Spelling in Neve or Nieve and calling it an Irish name is wrong as there is no v in the Irish alphabet. Spell it that way if you choose but then it is not Irish.

Other cultures don't change spellings, pronunciations etc to accommodate those who might have problems, why Irish?

queenofthebongo · 21/05/2023 11:11

Niamh is a beautiful name and should be spelt correctly. Don't change it. People learn pretty quickly, it's not hard.

briansgardenshed · 21/05/2023 11:15

Other cultures most definitely do change spellings to be easier for their new adopted culture, (especially surnames).

PuppyMonkey · 21/05/2023 11:19

TBH I’m not sure about Neve - I think people would mispronounce it Nev to rhyme with Bev.

Would you not consider an easier name. Eg Eve?

DuchessOfSausage · 21/05/2023 11:24

Do they, @briansgardenshed ? Do you mean names from languages that don't use the latin alphabet?

If OP used Neve, that would be changing an irish spelling of a name to a spelling that in Portuguese is the word for snow and not pronounced Nee'v.

Derrymum123 · 21/05/2023 11:24

Niamh with this spelling. People will soon learn how to spell and say it correctly.

HRSC · 21/05/2023 11:24

Thanks for your reply!

In Portuguese, snow is ‘neve’ but pronounced with a short ‘e’ and you don’t pronounce the last ‘e’. Although I see what your saying about reading it… For it to be fully pronounceable in Portuguese it would have to be Nive (which I don’t really like...!)

To be honest I prefer the traditional spelling but just woke up in the middle of the night thinking about this. So I thought I’d see what other people’s opinions are and as we’re not sharing the name with our friends and family this seems a good place to gauge opinions !

OP posts:
ColadhSamh · 21/05/2023 11:27

Was referring to forename. It is all too regular a topic here with reference to Irish forenames haven't seen it in relation to other cultures. Must have missed them 😀

NuffSaidSam · 21/05/2023 11:32

I'd stick with the traditional spelling and either use it as middle name or give her a Portuguese middle name so that she has the option to use that if Niamh becomes too much of a hassle when she's older.

It'll be your problem for at least the first five years of her life anyway because you'll be making her doctors appointments and restaurant reservations, so you can guage the reaction and switch to her middle name if it's a nightmare.

I think partly it depends on personality. I think some people like having a name that's a talking point and enjoy explaining their family heritage etc. Other people can't be bothered with the attention/fuss it causes and just want a name that isn't going to attract attention. She might love it, she might hate it.

She might choose to be Nive down the line.

Expo23 · 21/05/2023 11:37

Just spell it Niamh. My Irish name is said and spelt wrong 95% of the time. It never bothers me. I understand it is difficult if you don't know that name. Every so often someone gets it right and that makes me smile and they often tell me how they know the name.
For reservations I tend to make them under the name of someone else in the party for ease, or use my surname when appropriate.
I preempt people with the pronunciation and spelling and just leave them to it if it's a coffee order or something inconsequential. I like seeing my 'temporary' name on the Starbucks cup.
There are ways round it for your daughter if people get it wrong. It can teach her early on about self advocacy too.

anothername2d · 21/05/2023 11:39

Spell it correctly and she can just explain. Lovely name 😃

DuchessOfSausage · 21/05/2023 11:39

@ColadhSamh , Welsh names get the 'Pronounce it the anglicised way' a lot on here, whereas Irish names get the 'Spell it the anglicized way'. I find both to be culturally insensitive.

CurlewKate · 21/05/2023 11:40

"TBH I’m not sure about Neve - I think people would mispronounce it Nev to rhyme with Bev."

Why would they not pronounce it Neve to rhyme with Eve?

DuchessOfSausage · 21/05/2023 11:41

@CurlewKate , because they are portuguese.

LadyMargaretDevereux · 21/05/2023 11:41

I vote for traditional spelling. If you like it because of Irish heritage, then the spelling matters!

CurlewKate · 21/05/2023 11:43

I wish people wouldn't say "people will soon learn." Yes they will. That group of people. But there's then the next group. And the next. And the next. For the rest of her life.

BobsYerAunty · 21/05/2023 11:45

The beauty is in the spelling as well as the sound of the name. It’s such a lovely Irish name. I personally wouldn’t butcher it with a made up spelling.

Beautiful3 · 21/05/2023 11:45

Honestly I always think it's wrong to change the spellings. It turns it from a traditional name, to something else. However i know of one mum who changed her daughter's name spelling, because everyone got her French name wrong. It really got her down. She changed it to something English people would phonetically pronounce correctly. But the grandparents were arms about it, saying it's bastardising their name name.

fireflyloo · 21/05/2023 11:45

Traditional. The beauty of Irish names is their spellings. I hate it when they are anglicised.

StephanieSuperpowers · 21/05/2023 11:49

It's not really clear why Portuguese people would find an anglicised version of anything more intuitive than the original version? They aren't secret English speakers?

sanityisamyth · 21/05/2023 11:50

Niamh is absolutely fine. Don't butcher a traditional name by spelling it Neve because some people are ignorant or lazy.

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