Baby Names

Striped shirts on newborn and toddler boys, gaelic boy names
Created by Lauriann Wakefield/Moment/Getty Images

Gaelic Boy Names You Won't Hear Every Day

Scotland and Ireland have lots of strong, spunky names that might be perfect for your little boy.

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 one of these two countries, 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 little one perfectly, and also take a look at some other Irish names if you need a little more inspiration.

Though Americans often use the word “Gaelic” to refer to the traditional languages of both Scotland and Ireland, they are actually two different languages: Scottish 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 tradition of beautiful storytelling.

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

Sorley

Shutterstock

This Scottish names 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.

2

Calum

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. It means “dove.”

3

Finn

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!)

4

Duncan

Kseniya Starkova/Moment/Getty Images

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. From 1900 to 2020, there are only 3 years where Duncan hasn’t been in the top thousand most popular names.

5

Lachlann

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.

6

Ruary

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 US to tackle.) It means “red-haired king” and could be a great choice for a ginger baby.

7

Ciaran

This strong and appealing name means “little dark-haired one.” Probably most associated with the Irish actor Ciaran Hinds, the name still hasn’t cracked the top thousand in the US, though it’s more angelicized spelling “Kieran” has been climbing the charts in popularity since 1992, coming in at number 488 in 2021.

8

Ronan

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.”

9

Colm

Like Callum, this name also means “dove”—according to Wikipedia, both names come from Gaelic variations on the Latin word “columba.” There’s a long list of famous Colms, including novelists and actors. It still hasn’t gained much popularity in the US, making it an unusual choice that’s not hard to pronounce.

10

Diarmaid

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 is sure to share.

11

Malachy

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.

12

Innes

Shutterstock

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 The Lake Isle of Innisfree would be a great thing to hang in the nursery of a little boy with this name.

13

Declan

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 (it came in at # 105).

14

Connell

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.” Your little boy will share his name with that of an ancient Irish king.

15

Ernan

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.

16

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. (Mac was the 673rd most popular name in the US in 2021 while Max was number 159).

17

Seamus

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.”

18

Gavin

This name sounds both strong and serious, and means “white hawk.” It’s a more angelicized take on the name Gawain, a famous knight from the legend Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.

19

Hugh

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.”

20

Darren

Crystal Bolin Photography/E+/Getty Images

This name has the most straightforward meaning of all: “great,” something your little boy is sure to be in every way. This name had a brief surge of popularity in the US 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.

21

Kelby

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.

22

Eamon

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!

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 beannacht (blessing).