Certain Irish names, like Fiona, are easy to say because they follow American English pronunciation rules. Others are simply so common that you probably don’t think much about the discrepancy between how they look and how they sound—Sean, for example.
But then there are monikers like Blathnaid, Caoimhe, and Tadhg, which either harbor silent letters, phonemes with unexpected sounds, or both. Sure, you may have guessed that they’re not pronounced “BLATH-nayd,” “COW-i-mee,” and “Tadge,” respectively. So how do you say them? Find out the phonetics of those and other classic Irish names below.
This Irish version of Alice is pronounced “AY-lish.”
The first name of American folk singer Aoife O’Donovan is pronounced “EE-fuh.”
Ignore the th and the second a in this name, which is pronounced “BLAH-nid.”
Outlander star Caitríona Balfe says her name exactly like American English speakers say Katrina: “Kuh-TREE-nuh.”
Caoimhe comes with options: Some people say “KWEE-vuh,” while others say “KEE-vuh.” Either way, that mh makes a “v” sound.
American pop singer Ciara says her name like “See-AIR-uh.” But the Irish pronunciation is “KEER-uh.”
If you already know Ciara, its male counterpart isn’t tough to remember: Ciaran can be “KEER-in” or “KEER-awn.”
There’s no “s” sound in the first name of Peaky Blinders star Cillian Murphy; it’s “KILL-ee-in.”
Some Dearbhlas say “DURV-luh,” others say “DEERV-luh.” But none of them say “DEER-blah.”
Gloss over a couple vowels to get the correct pronunciation of Diarmuid: “DEER-mid.”
Irish actor Domhnall Gleeson pronounces his first name as “DOH-null,” rhyming with tonal.
It’s not “EE-mahn”—it’s “AY-mun.”
13. and 14. Eoin and Eoghan
The first name of Artemis Fowl author Eoin Colfer is simpler to say than its vowels suggest: “OH-in,” like Owen. Eoghan, an alternate spelling, is also pronounced “OH-in.”
It’s not “FEE-on”—it’s “FIN.”
Mastering Fionn will help you nail the first name of legendary Irish actor Fionnuala Flanagan: “fin-OO-luh.”
No, it’s not “GRAIN” or “GRANNY.” It’s “GRAWN-yuh.”
Whenever you see a bh or mh in an Irish name, it’s a safe bet to replace it with a “v” sound. Maebh is pronounced “MAYV,” just like Maeve.
Nobody in Ireland is naming their baby Nosy or Noisy (that we know of). The name Naoise is pronounced “NEE-shuh.”
Time to bring back that mh rule we mentioned earlier: Niamh is “NEEV” or “NEE-iv.”
Róisín, meaning “little rose,” is pronounced “Roh-SHEEN.”
As Saoirse Ronan once said on Saturday Night Live, “It’s ‘SER-shuh,’ like inertia.” Then she sang a whole song about the pronunciation of her name in the hopes of clearing up the confusion once and for all. But there probably will still be a little uncertainty, in part because not even all Irish people pronounce it the same way—some say “SEER-shuh.”
HBO’s Succession no doubt taught some viewers that Siobhan is pronounced “Shiv-AWN”: Sarah Snook’s character, Siobhan Roy, is often called “Shiv.”
Tadhg is “TYG,” exactly like the first syllable of tiger.