Ireland and Scotland are both known for their gorgeous scenery and lilting accents — but also their
beautiful names. Gaelic boy names can sound sweet, strong, poetic, and sometimes all three. Whether you can proudly trace your roots back to a country with Gaelic history, or whether you just enjoy wearing your “Kiss Me, I’m Irish” shirt on St. Patrick’s Day, these unique names will be a great fit for a new little boy. You can take your time choosing a name that will fit your baby boy perfectly.
Though Americans often use the word “Gaelic” to refer to the traditional languages of both Scotland and Ireland, they are actually two different languages: Scotts Gaelic and Irish are two of six Celtic languages that are still spoken today by approximately 2 million people. Gaelic boy names often honor myths, legends, or saints, and are part of a rich storytelling tradition.
This list of names draws from both Scotland and Ireland. Some of the names in their original spelling would give a substitute teacher a run for his money: The “BH” in Scots Gaelic is pronounced like the English “V”— so “Siobhan” is pronounced “Shi-von.” All of the names on this list work well in English and are unusual without being too hard for English speakers to pronounce. Whenever he visits Scotland or Ireland, these Gaelic boy names will serve your little boy well.
1 Eoghan Roberto Westbrook/Tetra images/Getty Images
If you’re looking for a Gaelic baby boys name that has ties to nature, Eoghan might be a good choice. It means “born of the yew tree” and “youth”. It’s pronounced as “YEW-en” or “Yo-wen”, making it similar-sounding to the more common Irish baby name, Owen.
Though Waylon seems to be an increasingly popular name (it broke into the SSA’s top 100 baby boy names in 2021), the very similar Whelan (pronounced well-in) isn’t even in the top 1000. This Gaelic boy name is derived from the Irish surname “Ó Faoláin” which means “young wolf.”
A variation of the popular Irish name Patrick, Padraig is a boy’s name of Gaelic origin. It means “patrician” or “noble”, perfect for that little prince in the making. As for that pronunciation, Padraig is spoken as “Pawd-rig.”
If your little guy is born with fiery red hair, you may want to give your little guy the name Aodhan. A nickname for Aodh, it means “little fire”. Aodhan is an old name, dating all the way back to the 6th century.
This sweet name (pronounced A-mon) is a variation on Edmund and means “wealthy protector.” Not qualities one typically associates with a newborn, but still a wonderful name.
Back in the early aughts, Brendan was a very trendy baby boys’ name. It has since slowed down in popularity, but that doesn’t make Brendan any less beautiful. Originating from the Irish name Breandan (and before that, Breanainn), Brendan means “prince.”
Fergus is a fine name for your little laddie. It means “the strong one” or “man of force.” While Fergus is the more common spelling, it can also be spelled Feargus.
Or Connor. Or, if you’re really wanting to lean into authenticity, Conchobar. This Gaelic boys name plays homage to the legendary — and semi-historical — King Conchobar mac Nessa (or, King Conor). He is a central figure in the Ulster Cycle, an ancient, classic collection of Irish myths. The name is usually translated to mean “lover of hounds” or “lover of wolves.” We love that it has a terrific combination of rich history and familiarity.
9 Ian Maskot/Maskot/Getty Images
“God is gracious” is the meaning behind the short but sweet Gaelic boys name Ian. In addition to meaning “the Lord is gracious,” Ian is considered to be the Scottish version of the name John. Ian can also be spelled as Iain, giving this name some fun flair.
A Scots Gaelic name meaning “dark stream,” this classic boy name is strong, beautiful and — despite its ancient roots — familiar enough that no one is going to mispronounce your son’s name.
You can set your baby up for success right from the very start by naming him Niall. It comes from the Old Irish word “niadh” and translates to meaning “champion”. Niall can also be spelled as Nial or Nile.
Oisin means “little deer,” so for nature-loving parents, Oisin is a natural choice. And if you’re unsure of how to say Oisin, it’s pronounced “oh-SHEEN”.
Alasdair is a swanky name for sure. It means “defender of man” and derives from both Scottish and Gaelic origins. Its pronunciation is “AL-as-dare.”
Bairre is a beautiful name for your baby who might have been born a blondie. It means “fair-haired”. And though it looks complicated, the name is simply pronounced “bear.”
Cairbre is a cool Gaelic baby boys name that you don’t hear very often — if at all. It means “chariot driver” as well as “strong man”, which you’d probably have to be if you were driving a chariot. It’s a popular medieval Irish name that is pronounced “CARE-bree.”
16 Cleary Jorn Georg Tomter/The Image Bank/Getty Images
Of all the names on your baby list, Cleary might be the clear choice. It means “learned one” and is of both Irish and Gaelic origin. It derives from the word “cleireach” which can mean “clerk” or “cleric.”
The Gaelic baby boy’s name Daley might have a lot of spellings (like Daly, Daley, Dailey, Daylee, etc.) but they all mean the same thing: “valley” or “gathering”.
It might sound like a surname, but Galloway is a good way to go if you’re interested in Gaelic names. It means “stranger” and “place of the foreign Gaels”, which is a reference to its roots in Galloway, a region in southwest Scotland, which has a mix of both Gaelic and Scandinavian people.
gender-neutral baby name, Keelan means “fair.” It is a variation of the names Caelan and Caolan, both of which sport more traditional Gaelic spellings. In Ireland, the name Keelan is still considered to be a boy’s name. 20 Laisren
Laisren is a Gaelic name that means “flame”. But when you add the Gaelic pronoun “mo” in front of the name, the name Laisren means something sweeter: “my light.” Laisren was the name of some medieval Irish saints. It’s pronounced “LES-ren.”
Of all the Gaelic baby boy names, Madden has one of the sweetest meanings. It means “little dog” and is a gender-neutral name. Madden is an Irish surname that is similar to Madigan, which has also become a popular first name, too.
Don’t let the “D” and “H” confuse you. Odhran, a popular Gaelic boy’s name in Ireland, is pronounced “OR-an”. It means “little pale green one” and is also a common name for Irish saints. And if you’re into accent marks, Odhran can also be spelled Oḋrán or Odhrán.
He may be but mere minutes old, but you can already tell that your little guy is an old soul. For the baby who might be a big thinker, only the baby name Tadhg will do. Meaning “poet” or “philosopher,” Tadhg has been the name of both ancient kings and princes in the Emerald Isle. It’s pronounced “TIE-g.”
This Scots Gaelic name has the lovely meaning “summer wanderer,” so maybe on visit playgrounds with gates if you choose this one. It’s unusual in the states, and hasn’t yet been in the top thousand baby names for boys.
This name (also sometimes spelled “Callum”) is pretty popular in Scotland, and was the 139th most popular boy’s name in that country in 2021. Since 2008, the double “L” spelling has been steadily rising in popularity in the U.S., coming in at number 273 last year according to the Social Security Administration. Callum means “dove.”
This super-cute name got big in the U.S. during the 2000s, but not as big in Scotland, where it was the 18th most popular boy’s name in 2021. It’s just a really adorable name, meaning “fair” and pay tribute to a famous warrior of Scottish legend, Finn MacCool. (Yes, that’s his real name!)
This name is so lovely it sounds like a poem. Meaning “warrior from the land of lochs” (lakes), it’s a great unusual but easy-to-pronounce choice for a family with Scottish roots. The spelling “Lochlinn” is an Irish variation on the name.
Pronounced like “Rory,” this name honors the last king of Ireland, Ruaidhri (which has the same pronunciation, but might be a bit too challenging for English speakers in the U.S. to tackle.) It means “red-haired king” and could be a great choice for a red-headed baby.
This strong and appealing name means “little dark-haired one.” The name still hasn’t cracked the top thousand in the U.S., though it’s more anglicized spelling “Kieran” has been climbing the charts in popularity since 1992, coming in at number 488 in 2021.
The name Duncan appears in everything from
Macbeth to The Day the Crayons Quit, so a little Duncan will see himself in all kinds of great works of literature. The name means “dark-haired warrior” and in the U.S., it’s a name that both has never gotten wildly popular but never gone out of style. 31 Colm
Like Callum, this name also means “dove.” There’s a long list of famous Colms, including novelists and actors. It still hasn’t gained much popularity in the U.S., making it an unusual choice that’s not hard to pronounce.
In Irish mythology, Diarmaid (sometimes spelled Diarmuid) had the power to make anyone who looked at him fall madly in love with him — a quality that your adorable baby boy is sure to share.
This super-sweet name means “second,” but it’s a great choice for any little boy, no matter his birth order. The name appears in Frank McCourt’s famous memoir
Angela’s Ashes. If you choose this name, you could use the cute nicknames Mal or Mac. 34 Innes
This Scottish name just rolls of the tongue, and means “from the river island.” Though it’s a different spelling, the beautiful W.B. Yeats poem
would be a great thing to hang in the nursery of a little boy with this name. The Lake Isle of Innisfree 35 Ronan Westend61/Westend61/Getty Images
Slightly less common than the increasingly popular name “Rowan,” this name means “little seal”— how adorable is that? It can also be spelled “Ronin” and lends itself to the super-sweet nickname “Ro.”
This Irish name has a great meaning: “Full of goodness” or “man of prayer.” This name has been steadily rising in popularity during the 2000s, and nearly squeaked into the top 100 last year.
Less popular on this side of the Atlantic than its more common cousins “Colin” or “Connor,” this name has an awesome meaning: “Strong as a wolf.”
This unusual but nice-sounding name means “wise one.” If you choose this name, you’ll have to stop by the beautiful island Tory on a visit to Ireland, though maybe not during the toddler years, as the island is famous for its steep cliffs.
39 Mac Chanin Wardkhian/Moment/Getty Images
This simple, cute name is a prefix meaning “son of” (hence last names like Macgregor or Macgill) but it works beautifully as a first name, too. Though just a letter off, it’s significantly less popular than Max, which seems to be everywhere these days.
From the wonderful poet Seamus Heaney to the
Harry Potter character, there are lots of famous people named Seamus, which will likely mean that your little Seamus won’t run into too many people who can’t pronounce this slightly unusual name. It means “supplanted” and can also be spelled “Shaymus.” 41 Gavin
This name sounds both strong and serious, and means “white hawk.” It’s a more anglicized take on the name Gawain, a famous knight from the legend Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.
This classic name has roots in many countries, but Ireland is among them, and it sounds great with Irish or Scottish last names (Hugh MacGregor just rolls off the tongue). The name means “mind” or “intellect.”
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This name has the most straightforward meaning of all — “great” — something your little boy is sure to be. This name had a brief surge of popularity in the U.S. in the 1980s, but is barely in the top thousands as of last year, so your little Darren probably won’t have to share his name with any of his classmates.
This name has the lovely meaning “place by the fountain or spring.” If you like this name, you could also go with Kelty, which is an unusual twist on the most Irish name of all, Kelly, which can be both a first and last name.
If you’re looking for THE most popular Gaelic baby boys name, look no further than Liam. It is an abbreviated version of the name Uilliam, which is thought to have derived from the German name William. It means “helmet of will” or “protection.”
Though most families who can trace their roots to Scotland or Ireland don’t speak any of the Celtic languages, it’s worth learning a bit of Gaelic through these names. Whatever name you pick, your little boy is sure to be a
This article was originally published on
June 22, 2022