Irish Girl Names – Meanings and origins of Irish names for girls
DESCRIPTION: eithne means “kernel of a nut or seed” but it may also be related to Aidan meaning “little fire.” There are at least nine St. Eithnes. One 6th century St. Eithne was the mother of St. Columba. Before the birth of her son an angel appeared to her displaying a beautifully colored cloak covered with wonderful flowers. When she reached for the cloak it rose into the air, and spreading out, floated over land and sea until it seemed to rest upon the hills of a distant land. This vision foretold that her little son was to travel over the seas and there win great distinction and honour.
PRONOUCE: “ee + mer”
DESCRIPTION: Eimear possessed the “Six Gifts of Womanhood” – “beauty, a gentle voice, sweet words, wisdom, needlework and chastity!” She was bethrothed to the warrior Cuchulainn (read the legend) when they were children and they loved each other very deeply. But Cuchulainn had “a wandering eye” and Eimear endured this, realizing “everything new is fair,” but when he made love to Fand, wife of the sea god Manannan, Eimear confronted the lovers. After seeing the strength of Fand’s love she offered to withdraw. Touched by this display of unselfishness, Fand left Cuchulainn and returned to the sea. When Cuchulainn died Eimear spoke movingly and lovingly at his graveside.
DESCRIPTION: ean means “bird” and suggests “birdlike” or “freedom of spirit.” St. Enda was a sixth-century monk associated with the Aran Islands off the west coast of Ireland. The name is used for boys and girls.
PRONOUCE: “e + tane”
DESCRIPTION: From et meaning “jealousy.” Etain surpassed all other women of her time in beauty and gentleness and thus was an object of jealousy herself. When the fairy king Midir fell in love with her his wife, Fuamnach, transformed Etain into a scarlet fly that was blown over the ocean for seven years. When she was finally able to return to Ireland she fell into a glass of wine which was drunk by a woman who longed for a child. In this way Etain was reborn and she later married a High King of Ireland.
PRONOUCE: “fee + ina”
DESCRIPTION: Fionn Mac Cool’s (read the legend) warrior band were known as the Fianna (read the legend). In early Ireland women had equal rights and while the warriors were usually men there is a strong tradition of Celtic women fighting alongside the men, dating as far back as Roman times.
PRONOUCE: “fid + el + ma”
DESCRIPTION: Meaning “beauty” or “constant.” The name goes back to ancient times and has been held by six saints. One Fidelma, a daughter of the High King Conchobhar Mac Nessa, was known as Fidelma Nichrothach “Fidelma The Nine-Times-Beautiful,” and a warrior of note herself.
PRONOUCE: “fee + ona”
DESCRIPTION: fionn meaning “fair, white, beautiful” it is the feminine form of Fionn. Of Scottish origin it is quite a popular name in Ireland.
PRONOUCE: “finn + ula”
DESCRIPTION: The name comes from fionn + ghuala “fair shouldered.” The chieftan King Lir and his wife Aobh had a daughter Fionnoula and three sons Aedh, Conn and Fiachra. When Aodh died Lir’s new wife Aoife was so jealous of her husband’s love for his children that she cast a spell on them and turned them into swans and condemned them to spend 300 years on Lake Daravarragh, 300 years on the Sea of Moyle and 300 years on Innis Glora. However, if they heard a Christian bell in Ireland they would become people again. One morning they were awakened by the sound of a Mass bell. St. Patrick had arrived. The children were brought to him and he baptised them and they have lived on in Irish mythology as the “Children of Lir” (read the legend).
DESCRIPTION: Often refers to a person who is a native Irish speaker or a person who is from Ireland. Medieval legend holds that Gael was the name of the hero from whom the Irish race took its name.
Gormlaith. Gormla, Gormley
PRONOUCE: “gorm + lee”
DESCRIPTION: Anglicized as Barbara. May come from gorm “illustrious” or “splendid” and flaith “queen, princess.” Lady Gormlaith, a legendary beauty, was queen of the Danes in Ireland as wife of Olaf, The Viking leader of Dublin; later she was wife of Malachy II, king of Ulster and finally married Brian Boru (read the legend), king of Munster and later king of all Ireland. Her three sons, Sitric, Murdach and Donough continued to rule Ireland after The Battle of Clontarf where Brian Boru died in 1014.
PRONOUCE: “graw + nya”
DESCRIPTION: From gran “grain, corn.” Grainne in ancient Ireland was the patron of the harvest. In later legends Grainne was the name of the beautiful daughter of a High King of Ireland, Cormac Mac Art. She had been promised in marriage to the king Fionn Mac Cool (read the legend). When Grainne saw him at the wedding banquet she realised Fionn was too old for her and put a “geis,” a love spell on Fionn’s nephew, Diarmuid. They ran away together but Fionn’s pursuit prevented them from spending two consecutive nights in the same place. Megalithic sites throughout Ireland are still traditionally referred to as “the bed of Grainne and Diarmuid” (read the legend).
PRONOUCE: “graw + nya + wail”
DESCRIPTION: Described as “one of the most remarkable women in Irish history” Granuaile or Grainne Ni Mhaille (ang. as Grace O’Malley) was a renowned sea captain who led a band of 200 sea-raiders from the coast of Galway in the sixteenth century. Twice widowed, twice imprisoned, fighting her enemies both Irish and English for her rights, condemned for piracy, and finally pardoned in London by Queen Elizabeth herself, her fame was celebrated in verse and song and in James Joyce’s “Finnegan’s Wake.” She is often seen as a poetic symbol for Ireland.
PRONOUCE: “ee + da”
DESCRIPTION: Meaning “thirst” as in “thirst for goodness or knowledge.” St. Ide and St. Brigid are considered the most influential woman saints of early Irish Christianity. Associated with education, Ide founded a monastery in Killeedy in County Limerick where a holy well is dedicated to her. In an earlier legend she was the foster-mother of the infant Jesus.
PRONOUCE: “i + o + na”
DESCRIPTION: St. Colmcille founded his monastery on Iona, the island between Ireland and Scotland in 563 AD and thus the name is associated with “blessed.”
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