Unusual Irish Name: Breifne

Here’s an Irish name you might not know about: Breifne.

Just like Tara, Breifne is an old Irish place name. The medieval kingdom of Bréifne was where the ancestors of today’s O’Reilly and O’Rourke families lived. The kingdom later split into West Bréifne and East Bréifne, which eventually became County Leitrim and County Cavan (roughly).

The etymology of Breifne is uncertain, but that hasn’t stopped people with Irish roots from using it as a personal name, either in its original form or spelled various other ways. So far I’ve seen records for people named Breffne, Breffney, Breffni, Breffnie, Breffny, Brefney, Brefni, and Brefnie.

Some famous examples:

  • Brefni O’Rorke (1889–1946), Irish actor.
  • Breifne O’Brien, called “Ireland’s Bernie Madoff”
  • Breifne O’Reilly, Irish ambassador to Switzerland

And some not-so-famous examples:

Most of the historical usage I’ve seen is masculine, but I think modern Americans would be more likely to view it as feminine. Like an Irish answer to Daphne. :)

Do you like this name? Would you ever be tempted to use it?

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