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:

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?

4 thoughts on “Unusual Irish name: Breifne

  1. My name is Brefney and I’m female, when I was born and now. I’m Canadian though not American, but I think related to some of those O’Reillys you mention. My last name is not O’Reilly though. Thanks for all those spellings. Oh and yeah there is a poem called The Little Waves of Breffny. I can’t remember where or when it’s from but it’s old.

  2. Oh and I forgot to mention that I do have a great aunt who I never met who came to Canada from Ireland or England not sure which, around the time of the first world war, whose name was Brefney, and her last name, her maiden name was O’Reilly. So there’s more evidence that it was used as a girl’s name too, around the late 19th early 20th centuries anyway

  3. How interesting that it was used twice as a female name in your family — especially in the case of your Great Aunt.

    Thank you for mentioning that poem. Here’s the text of The Little Waves of Breffny by Eva Gore-Booth, if anyone wants to read it. I don’t know when the poem was published originally, but the earliest book I found it in was printed in 1904.

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