Christian Names in Ireland

Christian Names in Ireland

Updated 1 July 1999

Submitted by Jane Lyons and posted here with her kind permission.

© Copyright Jane Lyons 1999
Edited from an article by Brian De Breffny in a journal called Breifne:

"The peculiarities in Christian names are not so likely as to mislead as diffrences in surnames- but may be thrown out of their proper place in an index or escape notice altogether, or, if seen might be taken to refere to some other person.

The peuliarities in Christian names in Ireland may be divided into five classes:
1) Names applicable to both sexes
2) Names usually given to one sex, but applied to the other
3) Diminutives materially differing from the original names
4) Names which are different but for varied reasons are used
interchangeably 5) Irish equivalents for English names and English equivalents for irish names.

Florence: more usually a male name in Ireland, particularly with the McCarthy family, but nevertheless found albeit rarely, as a female name even before the popularity of Florence Nightingale in the 19th C.

Sydney or Sidney used for both sexes but more commonly as a female name.

Evelyn - both sexes

Surnames given at baptism as Christian names frequently by Protestants and sometimes applied to both sexes.
Francis (male)
Frances (female)
Olive (female)
Olave (Male)
Jess (Male)
Jessie (female)
All confused due to their slight differences.

Edie - a male name in Ireland, confused with diminutive of Edith.
Kitty usually the diminutive of Catherine, but also used in the forms Kit and Kitty as a diminutive for Christopher.
Constant or Constance fuond for a boy in Co. Clare.
Constance and Constantia are found as girls' names.
Giles: usually a male name but found in Ireland as a female name and an anglization of Sheila.

Catholics in 19thC sometimes gave male children second name of Mary or Maria, and even rarely Mane.

Bartle, Bat, Batty, Bartly are forms of Bartholomew.
Toby form of Theobold
Con, Connor, Corny and Neily of Cornelius
Rory and Roddy of Roderick
Sandy of Alexander
Centy of Hyacinth
Lack and Lacky of Laughlin
Darby of Dermot
Castor and Kit of Christopher

Nancy and Nany are forms of Anne and Hannah
Bessie, Betsy and Lizzie forms of Elizabeth
Polly, Molly and Mally forms of Mary
Juggy form of Judith
Honor, Honny, Onny, Noey and Norah are forms of Honorah
Biddy, Bride and Beesy of Bridget
Anty of Anastsia (Anstace)
Peggy, Maggy of Margaret
Nell and Nelly of ELlen, Helen and Eleanor.
Polly also used to Martha


Alexander: Alistair
Theobold: Tobias (because of common diminutive = Toby)
Edward: Edmond ( because of phonetic similarity)
Patrick: Bartholomew (solely through confusion of respective diminutives Pat and Bat)
Jacob: James (because of latin form Jacobus)
Gerald: Garrett, Gerard
Owen: Eugene (both being used as translations of the Irish Eoghain)
Daniel: David ( due to poor penmanship and mis-reading or mis-copying)
Peter: Patrick (in Ulster)
Randal: Randolph: Ralph ( all variants of the same name and rendered Randolphus in latin)

Bridget: Bedelia: Delia: Bessy"
Abigail: Deborah (because ot the similarity of their respective diminutives
Abbie and Debbie and of Gubbie the diminutive of the Irish Gobnet)
Jane: Joan, Jean (all being rendered Johanna in Latin)
Alice: Ellen (probably due to the diminutive Eily for both the Irish names Eilish and Eileen)
Grizell: Grace (In Ulster)
Susan: Johanna (as renderings of the Irish Siobhán)
Giles: Cecily, Cecilia, Celia, Julia (as renderings of the Irish Sheelagh) Hannah: Honora, Johanna
Judith: Julia (perhaps due to the simillarity of their diminutives Judy and Julie)

The fifth group of Irish Christian names is that used as the Irish or English equivalents of one another, but not necessarily being a correct translation of such names:
BrianBernard, Barnabas (Barney)
Diarmaid (Dermot)Jeremiah, Darby, Demetrius
TeigeThaddeus (Thady)
AodhHugh, Edie
EoghainOwen, Eugene
EamonnEdmond, Edward, Aimon
ConchobarConnor, Cornelius, Constantine
DonoghDenis, Donat
DhonalDaniel, Donald
EileenEllen, Helen, Eleanor
SiobhánJohanna, Susan, Jane
SheelaghCecilia, Cecily, Giles, Sheila, Celia, Julia
OonaghUna, Winifred

The correct or standard translation of such Irish names as Sean-John; Seamus- James etc., can be found in a good Irish-English lexicon.

Until the end of the mid 18thC it was unusual for a child to receive more than one Christian name in Ireland..although threr were some standard favourite combinations such as Ann Jane, Mary Anne. Even in the 19thC the practise of giving a second christian name was slowly adopted....starting with the richer gentry.

Favourite Catholic Christian names were:

For boys:
John, Patrick, James, Denis, William, Darby, Dermot, Daniel, Cornelius, Henry, Timothy, Thomas, Michael, Jeremiah, Bartholomew, Brain, Laurence, Thady, Terence, Owen, Martin, Mathias, David and Jospeh for boys.
Dominick enjoyed vogue in the 17thC..
Columb, Malachy, Miles, Felix, Ambrose and Stanislaus were less commonly used.
Aloysius is rare before the 19thC.

For girls:
Mary, Catherine, Bridget, Honora, Margaret, Ellen, Anastasia, Johanna, Judith, Julia, Rosanna, Maryanne, ELizabeth and Jane. Less common were Magdalen Monica and Theresa. Marcella is found in Ireland but is rare in England.

Protestants were more varied:
Arthur, John, Henry, James, William, Frederick, George, Edward, Richard, Charles, Philip, Oliver, Jonathan, Anthony, Andrew, Simon, Marmaduke and Stephen. They also used old testament names which were rarely used by Catholics such as Abraham, Jacob, Moses, isaac , Samuel, Joshua, Gamaliel.

Favourite Protestant girls names seem to have been:

Mary, Sarah, ELizabeth, Eleanor, Lucy, Catherine, Susanna, Hannah, Margaret, Jane, Isabella, Frances and Alice. Less frequently: Barbara, Gertrude, Dorothea, Charlote, Diana, Rebecca, Lydia , Race, Phoebe, Henrietta, Lettice, Ursula, Penelope, Esther and Heather.

The name Austin (for Augustine) was common in the Catholic peasantry in Connaught but was uncommon elsewhere.

Lettice was widespread amongst Protestant families in Cavan.

Lancelot in Monaghan.

Jasper and Horatio had a vogue in Cork.
Bernard and Sylvester in Cavan:
Hyacinth in Galway:
Ignatius and Xaverius were common amongst Catholics in Mayo and Galway, also Dominick.
Florence was used as a boys name amongst the Catholics in Cork....
Moses, usually a name used by Protestants was a popular Catholic name in Wexford.

Latin Names

Baptisms and marriages were recorded in either Latin or English. Never in Irish. Generally where English was more common English was used and Latin was in Irish speaking parishes. There is however, no consistency. The Latin version of the first name was given while the surname and placename were still written in English.

Latin NameEnglish Equivalent (s)
CorneliusCornelius, Conor, Neil
DemetriusJeremiah, Jerome, Jerry, Dermot or Derby. (Demetrius is a latinised form of the Irish name Diarmaid which has also been anglicised as jeremiah)
IoannesJohn or Owen
JacobusJacob, James
JohanaJohanna, Hannah, Joan, Jane
Johanes, JoannesJohn
HonoriaHannah, Nora, Norry
MargaritaMargaret, Peg (Peig is actually the Irish name for Margaret)
MariaMary, Marie
NigellusNeil, Niall
Timotheus, ThaddeusTimothy, Tadgh, Thady


Latin words change their endings according to their case: however it is reasonably easy to guess at the English name when reading these.

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