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Popularity of the Baby Name Sinead

Posts that Mention the Name Sinead

The Revival of Irish Names in Ireland


I discovered the RTÉ Radio 1 documentary One Hundred Years of Names (2009) a long time ago. Finally I’ve had a chance to listen to the entire 40-minute program.

It’s pretty good — I like how it tells the story of how Irish names have been revived in Ireland.

Because, back in the late 1800s and early 1900s, Irish names were not being used in Ireland, at least not officially. I think this fact would surprise a lot of people. The vast majority of children were given non-Irish names (e.g., Katherine, Rose, John) though some did use the Irish versions of their names in everyday life.

Around the 1930s, a handful Irish names (e.g., Seán, Séamus) began gaining traction. This was thanks to the efforts of those trying to revive Irish such as Éamon de Valera, who later became president of Ireland. (Éamon’s wife, born in 1878, went by Sinéad but was officially a Jane.)

The use of Irish names increased, little by little, over the next few decades.

With the 1970s came a lot more name variety, thanks to Gerard Slevin’s 1974 revision of Rev. Patrick Woulfe’s 1923 book Irish Names for Children. An Irish genealogist interviewed in the documentary said this revision was “quite influential, it was probably the only book on bookshelves at that time on Irish names.”

Since the 1990s, both the popularity and the variety of Irish names in Ireland have continued to increased. The narrator of the documentary summed it up well when she said that, nowadays, “names like Deirdre, Róisín, Gráinne are so familiar, we’d nearly forget they’re revived names.”

Interesting stuff, no?

The documentary is worth a listen if you’re a fan of Irish names. Or if you simply want to hear some Irish name pronunciations, as a bunch of Irish names — Cian (kee-an), Aoife (ee-fa), Ciara (kee-ra), Caoimhe (kwee-va), Niamh (nee-av), Saoirse (sir-sha), Sadhbh (sive), Róisín (ro-sheen), Aoibhinn/Aoibheann (ee-veen), etc. — are mentioned about 10 minutes in.

If you listen, let me know how you like it!

Baby Name Needed – Irish-Italian Name Combo for Baby Girl

Elisa is expecting a baby girl and would like some input on names:

I’m Italian and the dad is Irish, so the last name will be Dillon. As for first name I would like a first pretty Irish name and a middle Italian name (with the Italian spelling), but no matter what I try it never sounds good.

Since I received Elisa’s e-mail, I’ve been experimenting with random combinations of Irish and Italian names…and mostly running into the same problem. I think I’ve found a few pairings that do sound nice, though.

Here’s the (very scientific!) process I ended up using. First I came up with ten distinctly Irish names that I thought sounded nice with Dillon:


Next I brainstormed for ten distinctly Italian names–not worrying about how they’d sound with Dillon or any of the Irish names:


And now, the great match-up! There are 100 possible combinations here…surely something will sound good, right? :)

Aoife [ee-fuh] paired with Francesca becomes a bit of a tongue-twister, and the vowel-sound at the end would blend with one at the start of Alessa, so those two middles won’t work. But I like Aoife Piera and Aoife Ginevra.

Brígh [bree] blends with Alessa, and pairing it with Francesca makes it sound like the word “brief.” But I like the assonance in Brigh Letizia, and I think Brigh Vittoria sounds nice as well.

Ciara [kee-ra; kee-ar-a] probably won’t work with Cinzia because of the confusing hard-C/soft-C thing. The combination Ciara Piera could be confusing as well. If we stick with the pronunciation KEE-ra, I think this one sounds good with Donatella, Francesa and Vincenza.

Grainne [grawn-ya] might not work with Ginevra (hard/soft) or Alessa (blending), but Grainne Rosella and Grainne Piera are nice.

Maeve [mayv] won’t work with F- or V-names. But if the V-sounds are spaced out a bit, as with Maeve Ginevra, I think the consonance sounds good. I also think one-syllable first names sound great with middles that start on a down-beat, as with Maeve Alessa.

Niamh [neev], like Maeve, would blend with F- or V-names. But I like it with Ginevra and Alessa (for the same reasons I like Maeve with Ginevra and Alessa) and with Letizia (for the same reason I like Brigh with Letizia).

Orlagh [or-la] wouldn’t sound right with Alessa, and with Donatella would give rise to the initials ODD. But I like Orlagh Rosella, and the matching or-sounds in Orlagh Vittoria. (That might be too sing-songy for others, though.)

Síle [shee-la] starts with an sh-sound that I think could sound nice near the ch-sounds in Francesca and Vincenza. I also like it with Cinzia and Piera.

Sínead [shi-nayd] I like with Alessa and Francesca. (I almost don’t like it with Dillon, though…nearly left this one off the list for that reason. Those dueling D-sounds could be a problem.)

Siobhan [shi-vawn] ends with some of the same sounds that Vincenza and Donatella begin with…I think that’s too much of an echo, but others might really like the effect. I think Siobhan Alessa and Siobhan Rosella sound good.

So there we have it. I think there are a few dozen good combinations in there–but I’d love to hear what you guys think.

Also, what other names would you throw into the mix?

P.S. I just noticed (about 5 minutes after publishing the post) that some of the combos above produce the initials MAD and SAD. Hm…that might not be so good. Then again…girls named Madison and Madeleine are often called “Mad” and “Maddie” for short, so MAD might not actually be a bad set of initials, depending on how you spin it.

Edit: Scroll down to the last comment to see which name Elisa chose!

How to Pronounce Popular Irish Names – Aoife, Cian, Niamh, Oisin

pronounce irish names

Most of the names popular in Ireland today — names like Jack, Sarah, Adam and Emma — are easy to pronounce. But others can be tricky for non-Irish-speakers to decipher. So, in honor of St. Patrick’s Day, here’s how to pronounce popular Irish names like Aoife, Cian, Niamh and Cillian.

Irish Girl Names:

  • Aoife is pronounced EE-fa.
  • Caoimhe is pronounced KEE-va or KWEE-va.*
  • Ciara is pronounced KEE-ar-a or KEE-ra.*
  • Maeve is pronounced MAYV.
  • Niamh is pronounced NEE-av or NEEV.
  • Saoirse is pronounced SEER-sha or SAIR-sha.
  • Sinead (Sinéad) is pronounced shi-NAYD.

Irish Boy Names:

  • Cian is pronounced KEE-an or KEEN.*
  • Cillian is pronounced KIL-ee-an.*
  • Daithi (Dáithí) is pronounced DAH-hee.
  • Eoin is pronounced O-in.
  • Oisin (Oisín) is pronounced UH-sheen or O-sheen.
  • Seamus (Séamus) is pronounced SHAY-mus.
  • Sean (Seán) is pronounced SHAWN.

*Remember, all C’s are hard in Irish.

Keep in mind that these pronunciations may not cover all dialects of Irish.

What other Irish names do you have a hard time pronouncing?