Irish Spellings in America

When I was growing up, having an Irish name in America likely meant that your parents had named you Ryan or Kaitlyn.  If you had a “Gaelic” spelling, your name was probably Caitlin or Sean.  I still remember how surprised I was when I heard there was an Aine (pr. Awn-yuh) at my high school. 

St. Patrick’s Day is fairly important to me.  Tomorrow will be the first anniversary of this blog, but more importantly: I’m Irish-American!  Several branches of my family emigrated to America between the 17 and 19th centuries.  Some were Catholic, but others were (a little strangely) Protestant.  The last branch to arrive in the U.S. were native Irish-speakers…something you probably don’t hear too often.  With them in mind, I’ve decided observe St. Patty’s on my site by tracking down and posting as many non-Anglicized Irish spellings as I could find within in the 2015 data.  Irish spellings of English names…totally okay!  I’ll point those out as they come along.

One final note before starting: I’ve tried to include the accents, even though the SSA doesn’t count them. 


Aibhlinn – 18 girls in 2015.  A user-submitted comment to Behind the Name suggests this is an Irish form of Aveline.  Either way, it’s very similar to Eibhlín (see below).

Ailís – 12 girls.  Form of Alice.

Áine – 44 girls.

Aisling – 48.  Variant Aislinn (said like Ashlynn) entered the top 1000 in 2015 with 280 uses.  Another spelling, Aislin, was used 55 times in 2015.

Aoife – 98 girls.

Brighid – 9 girls.  Form of Bridget

Cailín – 50 girls.  Note: I don’t think this is actually a name in Ireland, but Colleen is the Anglicized spelling of this.  It means “girl.”

Caitlín – 473 girls, .  Meant to be pronounced more like Katleen than Katelyn.

Caitríona – 11 girls.  Think Katrina.

Caoimhe – 11 girls.  Pronounced like Keeva.

Ciara – 370 girls, #756.

Clíona – 5 girls.

Clodagh – 5 girls.

Deirdre – 27 girls.

Eibhlín – 8 girls.  Eileen is an English-version, although Eibhlín can also be said more like “Evleen.”

Eilís – 6 girls girls.  Usually a form of Elizabeth

Fíona – 1484 girls, #219. 

Fionnuala – 7 girls.  Fenella is probably my favorite English spelling!     


“Maev,” J.C. Leyendecker, 1911.

Maebh – 6 girls.  My mother told me once that I’d have been named Maeve if I were born in the 80s. 

Máire – 10 girls.  Form of Mary

Mairéad – 24 girls.  Irish form of Margaret

Máirín – 12 girls.  Maureen is the Anglicized form.

Muireann – 5 girls.

Niamh – 35 girls.  Rhymes with Eve!

Nuala – 9 girls.  I’ve actually met one. 

Órla – 30 girls.

Ríona – 33 girls.

Roísín – 27.  Diminutive of Rós, making Roísín the Irish equivalent of “Rosie.”

Saoirse – 158 girls.  Pronounced like “Seer-sha,” I think most are named after actress Saoirse Ronan.

Sinéad – 10 girls.  Form of Jane

Siobhán – 56 girls.  Nancy at Nancy’s Baby Names just wrote a piece on the American familiarity with Siobhan.  Check it out!

Sorcha – 7 girls.

Úna – 45 girls.


Aédán – 166 boys.     

Aengus – 9 boys.

Aodhán – 12 boys.

Art – 20 boys. 

Artúr – 24 boys.

Bradán – 13 boys.  You probably know this name through one of its other spellings – Braden and Brayden.

Bran – 12 boys.

Brian – 2200 boys, #188.

Cathal – 5 boys.

Cathán – 5 boys.

Cian – 153.  Keane is an Anglicized form.

Ciarán – 73.  Kieran is the English spelling, though I still prefer Ciarán.  It makes me think of Ciaran Hinds (especially his role as Julius Caesar in HBO’s Rome).

Cillian – 121.  Pronounced with a hard ‘c,’ like Killian.

Colm – 13 boys.  I met one once, and made the mistake of pronouncing it phonetically.  It’s closer to Colum. 

Colmán – 16 boys.

Conall – 38 boys.

Conán – 58 boys.

Conor – 621 boys, #477.

Cormac – 175 boys.  This always reminds me of Cormac McLaggen from Harry Potter!

Dara – 9 boys, 64 girls.

Deaglán – 50 boys.  Declan is Deaglán‘s Anglicized form.

Donn – 5 boys.  

Éamonn – 35 boys.  Irish form of Edmund

Eoghan – 28 boys.  Equivalent of Owen

Eoin – 57 boys.  Form of John.

Faolán – 8 boys. 

Fergus – 21 boys.

Finn – 1881 boys, #209.  Finn is actually considered an older spelling than Fionn


Finn MacCool, as depicted by Stephen Reid in 1910

Finnian – 164 boys. 

Fionn – 30 boys.

Lochlann – 20 boys.  

Lorcán – 7 boys.

Micheál – 266 boys, #840

Niall – 53 boys.

Oisín – 16 boys. 

Oscar – 2286, #181

Padráig – 28 boys.  Form of Patrick.

Rían – 123 boys, 88 girls

Rónán – 1024 boys, #335. 

Ruairí – 13 boys.  Rory is the most common English spelling. 

Ruari – 14 boys, 10 girls

Séamus – 218 boys, #946.  Irish form of James.

Seán – 1870, #211.  Form of John

Tadhg – 17 boys. 

Torin – 137 boys, 9 girls

Uilliam – 6 boys.  Form of William.

Thoughts?  Questions (especially about pronunciation)?  Additions or subtractions?  Let me know in the comments! 

I sourced the names from these two lists:

The numbers themselves come from the Social Security Administration.  Ranks from Behind the Name.


Rarely do I find modern names so much to my taste as I do Elowen!  Although she sounds Welsh, she’s actually Cornish and means “elm tree.”  Pronunciation-wise, the second syllable is supposed to be emphasized – i.e., Elle-OH-when.  However, most people (myself included) probably emphasize the first syllable (like ELLE-oh-when).  36 girls were named Elowen in 2015.


Cornish Elms

Cornish is a rare and endangered language, but don’t underestimate Elowen.  Another Cornish name, Jennifer, transitioned from utter obscurity at the dawn of the 20th century into the #1 American girls’ name by the 1970s.  That took several decades, but maybe Elowen will rise faster in the days of the internet. 

Usage is growing steadily on this spelling alone, but popularity for the alternative spelling Elowyn nearly tripled between 2014 and 2015, from 24 to 67 uses!  That Elowyn is more popular than Elowen is curious, but not completely out-of-the-blue when you consider that Americans tend to spell other (mostly Welsh) names ending in -wen instead with -wyn (i.e., Bronwen and Gwendolen usually become Bronwyn and Gwendolyn).  Another spelling, Ellowyn, registered 34 times last year.  There’s also Ella-influenced Ellawyn at 7 uses.  If you rank names by combined spellings (as some people do), that means 144 baby girls were called Elowen last year…an average of almost 3 per state.  There may be even more, if there were spellings too rare to show up in the extended data.  Either way, don’t be shocked to find one on the playground.

The most obvious nicknames for an Elowen are Ella and Ellie, but Winnie is arguably possible as well.  I can even see where a fan of Netflix’s Stranger Things might use this name to honor Eleven without calling their daughter a number. 

What do you think of ElowenDo you think she or Elowyn will enter the top 1000 at some point? 

Searching for Nallely

One of the great things about being a name blogger is not only educating my readers, but educating myself about names too.  Every so often I encounter names with which I am totally unfamiliar, like Nallely.  I came across this adorable appellation while drafting last week’s Below the Top 1000 post.  Nallely was given to 47 baby girls in the U.S. last year.

I made no immediate connections to any existing names.  On the surface, Nallely appeared as a standalone modern name.  I thought it had great nickname potential, producing Nellie, Ellie, and Ally.  For whatever reason, though, I didn’t look it up then and there.

That is, until I encountered Nallely again earlier this week.  A perusal of the extended data for earlier years indicated that this name first appeared stateside in 1978 with 5 uses.  For a name that appeared so modern, 1978 seemed really early for her to debut as a standalone (not saying that 1978 isn’t modern, but it’s the pre-Internet era).  So, then I searched for similar names.

Behind the Name doesn’t have a standard entry for Nallely, but a user-submitted definition says it’s a variant of Nayeli, which does have a regular entryNayeli is Zapotec (indigenous Mexican language/language group) and means “I love you.”    

Still, the definition for Nallely was user-submitted, and I had a hard time seeing the connection between that spelling and Nayeli.  I needed more evidence, and this is where the data was especially helpful.  Nayeli experienced a popularity spike and peak in 2001, apparently due to a character in a telenovela called Amigas y Rivales (translation: “Friends and Rivals”).  The show didn’t continue into 2002.  Nevertheless, between 2000 and 2001 the name jumped from #607 to #175. 

Now back to Nallely – the same year Nayeli spiked, Nallely made her first and only appearance in the top 1000, as did variant Nayely.  When I saw this, I finally realized I’d  forgotten about Spanish-language pronunciation.  A double-l is pronounced like a ‘y.’  When I first read “Nallely,” my brain responded “Nah-lel-lee” rather than “nah-yell-ee.”  There may be even more ways to say Nayeli depending on spelling or dialect.  At the end of the day, some of the greatest respect you can accord a person is to spell and say their name the way they do.

What do you think of NallelyNayeli?