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The Origin Of Irish Baby Names

Take a glance at a bookstore's baby names shelf, and you'll see that Irish baby names are a very popular category. But for many prospective parents, Irish names can be very confusing. Many different races have settled in Ireland over the centuries. Celts, Vikings, Normans, and English have all gone into the melting pot.

It was once believed that the first wave of Celtic settlers were a fair-haired race, while later settlers were of a darker complexion. However, recent evidence seems to contradict that idea. It is now believed that very ancient settlers to Ireland came across the sea from Gaul (modern France) and Spain, and were probably a dark-haired people.

The periodic arrival of newcomers to the Emerald Isle, each with slightly different appearances, has led to a tradition where Irish names describe physical characteristics. Whole groups of names revolve around such personal attributes. The name Ciara means `black' or `dark,' while `Finn' means `fair.' The name Breac means `freckled.'

The Irish people were very fond of creating names that reflected the world around them, especially the natural world. Names such as Anbhile (pronounced an-vile), meaning `great tree,' are common. Celtic sun-worship gave rise to a whole set of names based on sunlight and radiance. The girl's name Grian, for example, means `sun' or `sun goddess.' Other themes such as wildlife, warfare, and of course, magic and fairies, gave rise to beautiful and evocative names.

An unfortunate consequence of the periodic invasions of Ireland is that many Irish and Gaelic names have been transformed over the centuries, and, in some cases, the original meaning is lost to us. Some names that are considered classic Irish names did not originate in Ireland, but are Irish versions of names from other cultures. The name Sean, for example, is the Irish version of the name John. Then there are Irish names that have been given English `translations,' which really have nothing to do with the original name. The name Aoife, for example, means `radiant,' yet it is often translated as `Eve,' or `Eva.'

Around 1923, a priest named Patrick Woulfe wrote a book called `Irish Names For Children', which gave parents the resources to research and choose an Irish name. The book helped spark a renewal of interest in names from Ireland, and that interest has expanded and continued to the present day.

Today, parents looking for an Irish name might start by thinking about whether they want a Gaelic name or an Anglicized name. For example, Bairre is Gaelic, while the English version is Barry. The famous Irish name Kevin comes from the Gaelic Caoimhin. Invariably, the English version will sound less authentically `Irish,' but it will be easier to pronounce and to spell. That's an important consideration for a child. Some Irish names, such as Siobhan, (pronounced Shev-orn) work very well in the original Gaelic, and have become popular in that form.

Next, prospective parents will want to consult some name lists, and to learn about the origin and meanings of names they like. There are plenty of good resources available, especially websites and books. In the end, parents' personal choice is the best guide. For those who are looking for a name that evokes the charm and mystery of the Emerald Isle, the possibilities are almost endless.
About Author Neil Street :

Neil Street is co-publisher of Baby Names Garden, one of the Internet's leading resources for baby names. Visit us at <a href="" target="_blank"></a>

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Article Added on Sunday, July 8, 2007
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