30 Irish Names You’re Probably Mispronouncing

There’s not a hint of an “m” sound in ‘Caoimhe.’
Left to right: Cillian Murphy, Saoirse Ronan, and Domhnall Gleeson.
Left to right: Cillian Murphy, Saoirse Ronan, and Domhnall Gleeson. / Anthony Harvey/Getty Images (Murphy); Tim P. Whitby/Tim P. Whitby/Getty Images for Sony Pictures Releasing UK (Ronan); Samir Hussein/WireImage/Getty Images (Gleeson)

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 with some help from Angela’s Ashes author Frank McCourt, who voices all the Baby Names of Ireland videos below.

1. Ailis

This Irish version of Alice is pronounced “AY-lish.”

2. Aoife

The first name of American folk singer Aoife O’Donovan is pronounced “EE-fuh.”

3. Blathnaid

Ignore the th and the second a in this name, which is pronounced “BLAH-nid.”

4. Bronagh

You can disregard the last couple letters: Bronagh is “BROH-nuh.”

5. Caitríona

Outlander star Caitríona Balfe says her name exactly like American English speakers say Katrina: “kuh-TREE-nuh.” 

6. Caoimhe

Caoimhe comes with options: Some people say “KWEE-vuh,” while others say “KEE-vuh.” Either way, that mh makes a “v” sound.

7. Ciara

American pop singer Ciara says her name like “see-AIR-uh.” But the Irish pronunciation is “KEER-uh.”

8. Ciaran 

If you already know Ciara, its male counterpart isn’t tough to remember: Ciaran can be “KEER-in” or “KEER-awn.”

9. Cillian

There’s no “s sound in the first name of Peaky Blinders star Cillian Murphy; it’s “KILL-ee-in.”

10. Dearbhla

Some Dearbhlas say “DURV-luh,” others say “DEERV-luh.” But none of them say “DEER-blah.”

11. Diarmuid

Gloss over a couple vowels to get the correct pronunciation of Diarmuid: “DEER-mid.”

12. Domhnall

Irish actor Domhnall Gleeson pronounces his first name as “DOH-null,” rhyming with tonal.

13. Eamon

It’s not “EE-mahn”—it’s “AY-mun.”

Discover More Commonly Mispronounced Names:


14. and 15. 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.”

16. Faolan

Faolan is typically pronounced “FWAY-lawn.”

17. Fionn

Fionn is often “FIN,” but it’s also sometimes pronounced “FYUN,” or “FEE-in.”

18. Fionnuala

Mastering Fionn will help you nail the first name of legendary Irish actor Fionnuala Flanagan: “fin-OO-luh.”

19. Grainne

No, it’s not pronounced like grain or Granny. It’s “GRAWN-yuh.”

20. Maebh

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.

21. Mairead

Mairead, the Irish version of Margaret, is usually pronounced “muh-RAID.” But regional variations abound, and you might also hear “MAR-aid” or “MUR-aid.”

22. Naoise

Nobody in Ireland is naming their baby Nosy or Noisy (that we know of). The name Naoise is pronounced “NEE-shuh.”

23. Niamh

Time to bring back that mh rule we mentioned earlier: Niamh is “NEEV” or “NEE-iv.”

24. Odhran

The dh in Odhran is silent: It’s “O-rahn” or “OR-in.”

25. Oonagh

Since you now know Bronagh, you pretty much already know Oonagh, too: “OO-nuh,” just Oona.

26. Padraig

Padraig and its various alternate spellings—including Pádraic, the name of Colin Farrell’s hapless character in The Banshees of Inisherin—can be pronounced “PAW-drig” or “PAW-rick.”

27. Róisín

Róisín, meaning “little rose,” is pronounced “roh-SHEEN.”

28. Saoirse

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.”

29. Siobhan

HBO’s Succession no doubt taught some viewers that Siobhan is pronounced “shiv-AWN”: Sarah Snook’s character, Siobhan Roy, is often called “Shiv.”

30. Tadhg

Tadhg is “TYG,” exactly like the first syllable of tiger.

A version of this article was originally published in 2023; it has been updated for 2024.