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Irish Naming Patterns

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Irish and Scottish Naming Patterns

Given Names

  • Many times the child would go by their middle name, not the first name.
  • Most given names have at least one associated nickname and these nicknames can be recorded in civil registrations as a first name.
  • Not always followed, naming standards are surprisingly accurate across both religions and regions in Ireland and Scotland.
  • Old Irish saying "In a family where the grandfather is called John, where the father is called John and if a male child is born he should not be called John because he will be unlucky".[1]
  1. The eldest son was named after the child’s paternal grandfather.
  2. The second son was named after that child’s maternal grandfather.
  3. The third son was named after the father.
  4. The fourth son was named after the child’s eldest paternal uncle.
  5. Subsequent sons were named after other paternal uncles, in order of the age of the uncles or mother's eldest brother.
  1. The eldest daughter was named after the child’s maternal grandmother.
  2. The second daughter was named after the child’s paternal grandmother.
  3. The third daughter was named after the mother.
  4. The fourth daughter was named after the child’s eldest maternal aunt.
  5. Subsequent daughters were named after other maternal aunts, in order of the age of the aunts or Fathers eldest sister.
The only difference between the Scottish & Irish naming patterns was that when the Irish father remarries after his first wife died, the first daughter born to this new marriage was often named after the deceased wife, and included her whole name.
If a child died young then their name was then used for the next child of the same sex, thereby keeping alive the name of the relative who they were 'named for'.
There were cases within the Irish community where a child was named after a person of esteem, eg: an Aunt, or an Uncle.
They have even given their child, as a middle name, the last name of the pastor/ priest of their local Parish or an influential person in the community.
Parents may have used the mothers or grandmother's maiden name as a child's middle name.[2]


  • Irish surnames of Gaelic origin were commonly used until England laid claim to Ireland in the fifteenth century.
  • English law, for a period of time, forbade the use of O' and Mac' in Irish surnames. Fitz was allowed.
  • Irish Surnames


  1. http://irisharchaeology.ie/2015/05/lucky-and-unlucky-signs-folklore-from-co-kerry/
  2. http://www.cotyroneireland.com/guide/NamePaterns.html

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FYI, looks like there's a typo in this page's URL: Space:Irish_Naming_Patternc
posted by Shawn Ligocki