Gaelic Baby Names
Starting with Letter "G"


Gaelic Names and Historic Naming Customs

Gaelic is an adjective which means “pertaining to the Gaels (or Goidels)”. The Gaels were a Celtic tribe who developed the Goidelic languages which today you recognize as Irish, Scottish-Gaelic and Manx (spoken on the Isle of Man in the Irish Sea). The Gaelic language originated in Ireland and eventually spread to the nearby Isle of Man and Scotland – it is one of the two surviving branches of the Insular Celtic language family, the other being Brythonic (Breton, Cornish and Welsh). The Celtic languages that developed on continental Europe in ancient times are now extinct. This is what makes the Insular Celtic languages, such as Gaelic, so remarkable. The persistence of this culture into modern times is nothing short of miraculous, but is testament to the strength and endurance of the Gaelic people.
The Celt settlements in Ireland date back to at least the 6th century B.C., and the Gaels specifically succeeded in suppressing and dominating all other previous habitants at some point in the first few centuries B.C. About the time of Christ, the Gaels divided the island into several tribal kingdoms, the rulers of which would often form allies to fend off invasions from Britain and continental Europe.  The Roman Empire conquered and occupied England in the first to early fifth centuries A.D. but was unable to incorporate Ireland. The Romans understood very little about these people except that they were fierce and efficient, managing to flourish despite the cold climate and insular geography. Because the Romans never moved into Ireland, the Gaelic culture was preserved while Celtic people of mainland Europe became systematically Latinized bu the Roman Empire. 
The Gaels believed themselves to be descendents of Míl Espáine (Míl of Spain), an adventurous war leader and eponym of the legendary Milesians. Míl’s sons believed Ireland to be their ancestral home and made their way over to the green isle from the Iberian Peninsula after their father’s death. These so-called Milesians successfully invaded and colonized Ireland. Although the story is largely considered mythic, there remains some potential historic accuracy. We know that Celtic people located in the northwestern region of the Iberian Peninsula are genetically related to the Gaels.  In any case, it’s not enntirely certain exactly when the Gaels came to dominate Ireland or when the Gaelic language developed into shape. 
The ancient Gaelic people lived in multi-generational families. Most were fierce warriors who didn’t shy away from battle; they also fought for their tribes rather than their country. Their religion was polytheistic and their heroes, gods and goddesses were nature oriented. Ancient Celts (and Gaels) had politically religious leaders known as Druids who held a lot of power within their communities. The Gaelic people had rich, colorful traditions of poems, songs and legends which were passed down orally (it wouldn’t be until the 4th century A.D. that they began to read and write). They were also deeply superstitious and had all sorts of tokens for luck.
Sometime in the mid-5th century A.D., the Gaels expanded east from Ireland over to the Isle of Man and western Scotland where they settled in the region of present day Argyll. In Scotland, the Gaels were met by another Celtic tribe known as the Picts (related to the Brythonic branch).  The Pictish people fiercely opposed (and at times dominated) the Gaels until the 9th century when the two tribes merged under the Scottish-Gaelic leader Kenneth Mac Alpin. The Gaelic society and culture ultimately won out in Scotland and spread throughout the country north of the Forth and Clyde (the skinny part of Scotland along the line where Edinburgh and Glasgow are located).  The Picts ultimately became extinct. In medieval times, Scottish-Gaelic became the language of the royal nobility and most of the commoners.  The Scottish King James IV (1473-1513) was the last monarch to speak Gaelic.  Two centuries later, Scotland adopted English as its official language. Highland culture where most of the Gaels resided was systematically attacked by the more dominant and populous Lowlands which bordered England, and the Gaelic traditions, customs and language greatly diminished.
Fortunately, in the past 75 years there has been a Renaissance of sorts, as Gaelic national pride in both Ireland and Scotland has soared, also influencing Irish and Scottish descendents in other English-speaking nations. The Manx language is also enjoying resurgence as it’s taught in schools on the Isle of Man as a second (and sometimes primary) language. Most Gaelic speakers reside in the Republic of Ireland where nearly 40% of the population claims the ability to speak some Irish (about 5% speak it daily).  Most Gaelic speakers in Scotland reside in the Hebrides and west coast of Scotland. About half the Highlanders have some Gaelic language knowledge and close to 25% claim to be Gaelic speakers.  There are currently about 25,000 Irish-Gaelic speakers in the United States (most residing is cities where the Irish-American communities are concentrated – Boston, Chicago, San Francisco and NYC).
In terms of Gaelic names, one just needs to look at the present day naming statistics in both Ireland and Scotland. Both countries have been influenced by the same naming trends present in other English-speaking counties (i.e., a growing diversity of names, the Anglicization of names, the influence of fashion and pop-culture, etc.), yet we still see clear traces of the Gaelic language in Irish and Scottish names.
Some popular Gaelic girl and boy names in Ireland today:
Girl's Name Pronunciation Meaning
Aoife EE-fa  From Gaelic “aoibh” meaning “beauty”
Ciara KEER-a From Gaelic “ciar” meaning “black”
Caoimhe KEE-va From Gaelic “caomh” meaning “gentle, kind”
Niamh NEEV
 From the Gaelic word meaning “bright”
Saoirse SEER-sha From the Gaelic word meaning “freedom”
 Boy's   Name Pronunciation Meaning
SHAWN  Irish equivalent to John
Conor KAHN-er  Anglicized form of the Gaelic “Conchobhar” meaning "dog/wolf lover"
RIE-en  From the Gaelic Rían meaning “little king”
Cian KEE-an  From Gaelic meaning "ancient"
DAW-ra  Anglicized form of the Gaelic Dáire meaning "fruitful, fertile"
Liam  LEE-em  Irish short form of William
OSH-een  From the Gaelic for “little deer”
O-in  Gaelic form of John
Cillian KEE-lee-ahn  From the Gaelic “ceall” meaning "little church"
As you can see from the above examples, the Irish (like Americans) tend to be more traditional when naming their little boys and more fashionable when naming their daughters. This is why we see more examples of masculine Gaelic names on their charts for the males than for females. Otherwise, the charts are full of similar names we see in America such as Sophie, Ava and Emma for girls and Jack, Daniel and James for boys.
Here are some Gaelic-flavored popular names currently in Scotland:
Girl Names Pronunciation Meaning
EYE-la  The name of an island “Islay” off the western coast of Scotland
Eilidh Uncertain  Diminutive for the Scottish-Gaelic form of Eleanor
NEEV  From the Gaelic word meaning “bright”
Maisie MAY-zee  Diminutive for the Scottish-Gaelic form of Margaret
OR-la   From the Gaelic name Órfhlaith meaning  "golden princess"
Skye SKIE   Isle of Skye off the west coast of Scotland
ie-ON-a  Another island in Scotland
Boy's Names
Pronunciation Meaning
 LO-gen  Scottish-Gaelic for “little hollow”
Ryan RIE-en   From the Gaelic Rían meaning “little king”
LEE-em  Irish short form of William
Finlay FIN-lay  Anglicized of an old Gaelic name Fionnlagh meaning “white warrior"
IEL  Scottish derived from the Gaelic “caol” meaning "channel, strait"
Callum KAL-um  Scottish form of Latin Columba (“dove”); important early Scottish saint
KAHN-er   Anglicized form of the Gaelic “Conchobhar” meaning "dog/wolf lover"
Rory RAWR-ee  From the Gaelic elements “ruadh” and “rí” meaning “red king”
Euan YOU-en  Anglicized form of the Gaelic name Eoghan meaning "born from the yew tree"

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