Thursday, April 06, 2006

Choosing a Gaelic Baby Name

It seems to be a major trend these days to take a "normal" name and spell it in cutsey, unique and outrageous ways. Madison, Cameron and Kylee are no longer perfectly acceptable spellings to many new parents; in an effort to appear more "feminine," they have become Madisyn, Kamrin, and Kyleigh. If you want a uniquely-spelled name with historical or family meaning but still want a normal sound, you may want to consider Gaelic (Scottish or Irish Celtic) names. Gaelic names often have normal name sounds like Shawn and Tiernan, but are spelled quite differently (Sean and Tighearnan).

The history of the Irish people is a long and vibrant one, dating from prehistoric times and consisting of a thousand different legends and mysteries. Irish names have been partially kept alive in America by the Irish immigrants who came to this country in the mid-19th century and established naming practices that are in some cases still used by their descendants. Some Irish names have become common in the American mainstream, such as Sean, Patrick and Alan.

Whether you are having a boy or a girl, there are plenty of names to choose from for either gender. Parents usually choose a name for one of three reasons: (1) After a family member or close friend (2) Because they like the sound of the name, or (3) because of the name's specific meaning. If you are not of Gaelic extraction and merely want your child to have an ethnic name, it will probably be one of the last two.

Some Irish Gaelic male names with desirable meanings are:

AINMIRE (pronounced AN-meir) is thought to mean "great lord." At least one of Ireland's countless kings was named Ainmire; he lived in the 500s A.D.

ARDGHAL (ARR-dal) takes the meaning of "high valor" and is a great choice for a baby boy's name. A similar name meaning "war" is CATHAOIR (KA-heere).

BRANDUBH (BRAN-da) means "black raven." You may want to consider this name for a child with dark features or just for the sense of the mysterious. Bran ("raven") was a famous legendary Irish king, a convert to Christianity. You may choose Bran as a nickname to connect your child to the great stories of Ireland's past.

FEARADHACH (FAR-a-thek) means "manly or masculine." This would be another great choice for an Irish baby or one whose parents looking for that special exotic name. It is interesting to know that one of the ways the name has been anglicized is "Ferdinand."

MAOLMORDHA (mahl-MORR-ee-ah) is thought to mean "majestic chief" and is a name so ancient that no one is sure when it was first used. You may want to consider Mori as a nickname.

Here are some choices for Gaelic female names:

AOIFE (EEF-ya) is thought to mean "beauty" and is a popular Irish girl's name. It can also be pronounced "EEF-ah." The name was used in Irish legend as a famous warrior woman. What a wonderful way to give a little girl self-esteem!

CATRIONA (kah-TREE-na) is a beautiful Gaelic form of Catherine, a name that means "pure or unsullied." If you want a more common Irish name for your baby, you may want to go the traditional route, choosing Kate or Kathleen. Caty, Cady or Katy are some fun nicknames that you might wish to consider.

MOINA (MOY-na) is a short form of MUADHNAIT (MOO-naught) and means "little noble one." It could also be pronounced in a more traditional way, like the American name Mona.

RIOGHNACH (ree-O-na) means "queen." It can be spelled Riona as well. You might consider Ria as a nickname. Rioghnach was a saint who lived in the 500s, sister of another saint called Finnian.

One possible problem with giving your child a Gaelic name is that once he or she starts school (and throughout life, actually), the spelling of the name may cause a hassle. Many Gaelic names are NOT pronounced as they are spelled, and this could be a problem with schoolwork, other children not knowing how to pronounce the name, and even your child having trouble learning to spell his or her name. You may want in this instance to use the anglicized form of the name, keeping the Irish meaning but making it easier to learn. Riona instead of Rioghnach, Katrina instead of Catriona, etc. Names that are very long or would need an extended knowledge of the Irish language to comprehend are a no-no.

Consider the Gaelic form of Cordelia: Creiryddlydd. Is this the sort of name you want to saddle your baby girl with? Many would not even be able to spell this name, let alone say it. That is the nature and the beauty of the beast with Gaelic names. They are beautiful if used properly, but a disaster for the American child if they are overused.

By Lacie Schaeffer