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It was very hard to choose just ten Irish boys’ names, as there are so many commonly used Irish names for boys in Australia, especially if you include Irish surnames. It’s not surprising when you consider our strong Irish heritage, and because the Irish were here from the beginning of European settlement, they were never marginalised as happened in other countries.
Famous Australians with Irish heritage include bushranger Ned Kelly, Peter Lalor who led the Eureka Rebellion, actor Erroll Flynn, artist Sidney Nolan, rock singer Doc Neeson, philanthropist Daisy Bates, and our greatest prime minister, Ben Chifley. Those alive today include Governor-General Peter Cosgrove, Nicole Kidman, Kylie Minogue, surfer Mick Fanning, Socceroo Lucas Neill, author Tom Keneally, and former prime ministers Paul Keating and Kevin Rudd.
A reminder I haven’t included any names with fadas (accent marks), as they aren’t permitted in all states and territories.
Anglicised form of Aodhán, a pet form of Aodh or Áed, meaning “fire” in Old Irish; there are many characters from Irish mythology named Aodh. St Aidan of Lindisfarne was an Irish-born monk known as the Apostle of Northumbria; he was famous for converting people by simply walking from village to village, politely chatting with people and introducing them to Christian beliefs by helping them in their daily lives. The name Aidan first ranked in the 1970s at #533, and by the 1980s was already #177. Aidan joined the Top 100 in 1993 at #92, and peaked in 2008 at #51. Currently Aidan is #99 in Victoria and #102 in the Australian Capital Territory. The Aiden spelling is more popular: this first charted in the 1980s at #368, joined the Top 100 in 1997 at #62 and peaked in 2009 at #35. Currently Aiden is #41 nationally, #45 in New South Wales, #45 in Victoria, #65 in Queensland, #47 in Western Australia, and #39 in the Australian Capital Territory. Even combining spellings, Aidan/Aiden is only #51 nationally. This doesn’t seem as if Aidan is very popular, yet it still has a reputation as an “overused” name because of the massive trend for sound-alike names, such as Hayden, Brayden, Caden, Jayden, Zayden etc. Aidan is #50 in Ireland and #43 in Northern Ireland.
In Irish mythology, Cian was a god and father of the hero Lugh of the Long Hand. According to folk tales, Cian possessed a magical cow which produced a superabundance of milk. During a quest to recover his cow after she had been stolen, he seduced a princess who had been locked up in a tower (it was the princess’ father who had stolen the cow). The tale sounds very much like the Greek myth of Danae, and the princess was imprisoned for the same reason – a prophecy said that the princess’ father would be killed by his grandson. Lugh the Longhand was born from this union, and eventually the prophecy was fulfilled when Lugh killed his grandfather in revenge for locking his mother in a tower. The name Cian means “long, enduring, far, distant” in Gaelic, and is pronounced KEE-in. It is often anglicised to Kian, which is in the 400s in Victoria. Cian is #15 in Ireland.
Variant of Conor, Anglicised form of the Gaelic name Conchobhar, meaning “lover of hounds”. There have been several real life Irish kings with this name, including a High King, and also the legendary Conchobhar mac Nessa, who was unsuccessfully married to both Queen Medb and Deirdre, but had many other wives. The name is the basis for the Irish surname O’Connor, meaning “grandson of Conchobhar”, and the Clan O’Conchubhair is a royal Irish dynasty whose lineage has provided one hundred kings of Connacht, and two High Kings of Ireland: some members of the noble O’Conor family of Ireland are the living descendants of the last High King of Ireland. Connor is a truly royal name, which must have an influence on its use. The name Connor has charted since the 1980s, debuting at #418. It joined the Top 100 in 1994 at #83, and peaked at #21 in 2003. Currently it is #43 nationally, #74 in New South Wales, #61 in Victoria, #33 in Queensland, #31 in Western Australia, #40 in Tasmania, and #69 in the Australian Capital Territory. Connor is #97 in Northern Ireland; Conor is #5 in Ireland and #17 in Northern Ireland.
Variant of Dara, derived from from the Gaelic for “oak grove”. The oak was sacred to the Celts, and the word druid is directly related to the word for oak. The city of Derry in Northern Ireland has the same meaning. Darragh can also be an Anglicisation of the Old Irish name Dáire, meaning “fertile, fruitful, virile, sexually aroused”, but also “agitated, raging, violent, tumultuous”. It’s a very explicit meaning in regard to masculine sexuality, suggesting a sort of bestial lust. The Darini were an ancient peoples from Northern Ireland, and it would seem that Dáire was their ancestor or ancestral god. Several Irish noble families and Scottish clans claim descent from the Darini, as do the current British royal family. There are many kings and heroes from Irish legend named Dáire, but folklorists believe they are ultimately versions of the same mythological figure, who may have been a god of the battlefield. Darragh can be pronounced DAH-ruh, or DA-ra, and may seem like an updated Darren to Australians. Darragh is #20 in Ireland and #30 in Northern Ireland; Dara is #86 in Ireland, and Dáire is #88 in Northern Ireland.
Both the older Irish and Anglicised form of Fionn, meaning “blond, fair, white, bright”. Its most famous namesake is the mythical warrior and giant Find mac Cumail, transcribed in English as Finn McCool. Finn was a nickname – his real name was Deimne, meaning “sureness, certainty”, and gained his nickname after his hair turned prematurely white. Finn was brought up by a warrior woman who trained him in war and hunting, then he studied under a poet and druid. One day Finn was cooking a mystical salmon for his master which would give him all the knowledge in the world: he burned his thumb in the process, and instinctively put his thumb in his mouth to cool it, swallowing a piece of salmon skin. This gave Finn the wisdom of the salmon, and whenever he needed to draw on its power, he needed only to suck his thumb. Finn’s followers were called the Fianna, and it is from them the Fenian Brotherhood gained their name. According to legend, Finn is sleeping in a cave beneath Ireland, and will one day awake to defend Ireland in her hour of greatest need. Finn first charted in the 1990s at #287, and by 1997 was already in the Top 100 at #88. Currently it is #62 nationally, #68 in New South Wales, #60 in Victoria, #76 in Queensland, #40 in Western Australia, and #30 in the Australian Capital Territory. This is a handsome popular name that has helped drive the popularity of names such as Flynn and Finlay. Finn in #38 in Ireland and #56 in Northern Ireland; Fionn is #27 in Ireland and #70 in Northern Ireland.
Anglicised form of Lorcán, derived from the Irish Gaelic word for “fierce”. There have two been ancient Irish kings named Lorcán, and a medieval saint Lorcán Ua Tuathail whose name is Anglicised to Lawrence O’Toole. St. Lorcán was of royal blood, and became Archbishop of Dublin. He played a prominent role in the religious reform of the 12th century, spearheading a movement of spiritual renewal while bringing the church in Ireland closer to Rome. He was admired by both members of the church and the secular community for his many acts of charity to the poor – much needed at the time due to a severe famine. This is a cool Irish name which could be an alternative to names as Lachlan, Liam, or Declan. Lorcán is #67 in Northern Ireland.
Anglicised form of Máel Sechlainn, meaning “follower of St. Seachnall”. St. Seachnall is an obscure 5th century Irish bishop who seems to have been of Italian origin; his name may be an Irish form of the Latin name Secundus, meaning “second (born)”, as he is also known as St. Secundius. The modern spelling of Malachy has been influenced by the Hebrew name Malachi, meaning “my messenger”, and therefore understood as “my angel”. However, Malachy is pronounced MAL-uh-kee, not MAL-uh-kie. There have two medieval High Kings of Ireland named Malachy, and also a St. Malachy, who was the first native-born Irish saint to be canonised. The saint’s name is an Anglicisation of Máel Máedóc, meaning “follower of St. Madoc”; Madoc was a 7th century Irish monk, and his name may come from the Welsh for “fortunate”. Malachy is an attractive name in occasional use, and AFL footballer Liam Picken has a young son named Malachy.
Believed to mean “deer friend”. In Irish mythology, Oscar was the son of the warrior Oisin (“young deer”) and the fairy queen Niamh; he was the grandson of Finn McCool, and one of his warriors. Oscar was killed by a member of the increasingly corrupt Fianna, and upon his death, Finn wept for the first time in his life. The name Oscar was popularised in the 18th century by the poems of James McPherson; Napoleon was a great admirer of McPherson and gave his godson Oscar as one of his middle names. Later Napoleon’s godson became Oscar I of Sweden, and the name Oscar became traditional in Scandinavia. The Irish writer Oscar Wilde may have received his name because his mother collected Irish folk tales, but perhaps also because his father had travelled in Sweden, where he received honours from King Carl XV – Carl had a son named Oscar, born two years before Oscar Wilde, and sadly the little prince died just months before Oscar Wilde’s birth. Oscar was #103 for the 1900s, and sank before leaving the charts in the 1940s. It returned in the 1970s at #478, joined the Top 100 in 1998 at #98, and the Top 50 in 2004 at #47. Currently Oscar is #24 nationally, #27 in New South Wales, #20 in Victoria, #39 in Queensland, #34 in Western Australia, #19 in Tasmania, and #20 in the Australian Capital Territory. This tough, masculine yet snuggly retro name is more popular than it has ever been. Oscar is #61 in Ireland and #64 in Northern Ireland.
Anglicised form of Rónán. Irish and Scottish legend tells of selkies, who swim in the sea as seals, but can shed their sealskin and become human on land. Male selkies were handsome and seductive; female selkies were said to make excellent wives, but could never forget their true home, and would gaze longingly out to sea – selkie tales are nearly always romantic tragedies. The children born of selkie women were called ronans, or “little seals”. The lovely film The Secret of Roan Inish, set in Ireland, is about the selkie legend, and an Irish animated movie is due to come out this year on the same topic. St. Ronan was an educated Irish bishop who sought exile in Brittany and a peaceful life as a hermit. A magical fairytale name that sounds smooth and handsome, Ronan could replace popular Ryan; it will remind many of Irish singer Ronan Keating from The X-Factor. Ronan is #52 in Ireland and #40 in Northern Ireland.
Anglicised form of the Irish Gaelic name Ruaidhrí or Ruairí. The name means “red king”, referring to fox-coloured hair. There have been many Irish kings named Ruaidhrí, including Ruaidrí Ua Conchobair, the last High King of Ireland before the Norman invasion. Rory has charted since the 1950s, debuting at #289; after a bumpy start (when it sank to #420 in the 1960s) it began climbing steadily, and peaked in the late 2000s at #125. Currently it’s in the mid 100s, and this is a rare example of a modern classic which has never become popular. Not only underused, Rory is cute but with a “tough boy” vibe, and could be an alternative to popular Riley, or fashionable Remy. Rory is #42 in Ireland and #44 in Northern Ireland; Ruairí is #81 in Ireland and #74 in Northern Ireland.
(Picture of a Harbour Seal or Common Seal from the Belfast Telegraph)