CAOIMHE: pronunciation and meaning, explained

One of the most gorgeous Irish girl names is Caoimhe. You cannot get more Irish than this name.

It contains the staple feature of any Irish language name and to the detest of any non-Irish people: many vowels. All it’s missing is ‘u’, but we’re sure we could fit it in somewhere.

The beautiful Irish name, which actually means ‘beautiful’, has been around for decades. However, it is still very popular today, with 183 babies in Ireland being called Caoimhe last year.

If you don’t mind having to correct nearly everyone on how the name is pronounced, then this name would be a lovely choice for your Irish baby.

So, it’s time we stop talking about this Irish girl name and start learning more about it. Here is everything you need to know about the Caoimhe, including pronunciation (hang on non-Irish, we will get there) and meaning.

Ireland Before You Die’s top facts about the Irish name Caoimhe

  • Caoimhe is a beautiful Irish girl name that means “gentle”, “beautiful” or “graceful”. 
  • Caoimhe has become an extremely popular name across Ireland, and is pronounced as “kee-va”.
  • The Irish name of Caoimhe also has religious and Christian connotations, as it is sometimes associated with Saint Caoimhe. 
  • There are variants within the English language of the name Caoimhe, such as Keeva or Keva. It is often celebrated for its feminine and elegant sound. 
  • The name Caoimhe also lends itself to nicknames for the person, such as Caoi or Evie.

Pronunciation – we’ll get the hard part over with first

“How in the world do you pronounce this name?” might be what you’re wondering. The Irish language is very unique, including many words with baffling spellings.

Names of Irish origin aren’t any different. Is it really an Irish name if you can pronounce it by simply looking at it? We think not.

Caoimhe is arguably one of the most challenging Irish girl names nobody can pronounce. But it sounds stunning once you’ve got it!

The Irish spelling of this name is what causes hassle. There are many letters that really don’t need to be there if following the English language.

Irish girl smiling.
Credit: Pexels / Tomaz Barcellos

Caoimhe is pronounced as ‘kwee-va’. We know what you’re thinking: “What about the ‘h’ or the ‘m’?”. Some things in life are best not questioned.

However, you’ll be thrilled to know (not) that there is another way of pronouncing Caoimhe. It can also be pronounced as ‘kee-va’.

We can most definitely confirm that this name does not have a phonetic spelling, so please don’t waste your precious time trying to sound out this name. You’ve got to love Irish names and their pronunciations.

READ MORE: There’s a reason why Caoimhe ranks high on our list of the hardest to pronounce Irish names

Spelling and variations – ok, the hard part isn’t exactly over yet

How to spell Caoimhe.

So, as you may have noticed, Caoimhe is one of the most unique spellings of an Irish name. We say unique; you may say infuriating.

If you are really struggling with the original spelling, don’t worry, as it can be spelt in other ways. Caoimhe can also be spelt as Keeva and even sometimes as the Irish-anglicised version Kiva, which is pronounced as ‘Kee-va’.

These variations are a bit easier to get your head around.

READ: See where this names ranks on our list of the most beautiful Irish names beginning with ‘C’.

Popularity – a crowd favourite for many years

Caoimhe is a popular Irish girl name.
Credit: Pixabay / JillWellington

Caoimhe is a very popular Irish female name, coming in at number 25 on the list of baby girl names in 2021.

It was first placed on the Central Statistics Office baby name lists in the 1970s and has been a regular on top 20 lists since.

In 2019, it was ranked as the third most popular girl name and the 17th most popular Irish name that year overall.

Ireland is not the only place where you will find the name Caoimhe. It is quite well-known in the USA, placing at number 199 on the US baby name website Nameberry.

We’re not surprised; it’s a beautiful name, after all!

Meaning and history – where did the name with the literal beautiful meaning come from?

Saint Kevin's Church in Glendalough.

If your name is Caoimhe, you’re going to enjoy this next part. The name Caoimhe means ‘beautiful’.

It comes from the Irish word ‘caomh’, which means ‘gentle’, with a broader definition of ‘beauty’ and ‘grace’.

Not a bad meaning to have behind your name. The Irish female name Caoimhe actually comes from the Irish name for Kevin, Caoimhín, which means ‘handsomely born’.

The name Caoimhín was first seen in the form of the sixth-century Irish saint Caoimhín, who lived his life as a hermit residing in a tiny rock cave in Glendalough in Ireland.

He was a representative of a group of men, who called themselves the Green Martyrs of Ireland. This group of men chose to live in solidarity to focus on their scripture studies and dedicate themselves completely to God.

Saint Caoimhín’s work soon spread around Ireland and led to pilgrimages being made to Glendalough, where people came to learn from him. He soon became a beacon saint among the Irish people.

RELATED: Glendalough: history, facts & visit info

Famous Caoimhes – a name with a recipe for success

Caoimhe Butterly is an Irish activist.

Caoimhe Archibald is an Irish Sinn Fein politician. In 2016 she was elected as a member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) of Northern Ireland.

Caoimhe Butterly is an Irish human rights activist, educator, and filmmaker. She is also a therapist. 

She has spent over two decades working in humanitarian and social justice contexts in many countries such as Mexico, Iraq, Lebanon, and Palestine. In 2003 she was named by Time Magazine as one of their ‘Europeans of the Year’.

Caoimhe Guilfoyle was the seventh housemate to enter the Big Brother house back in 2010. However, she walked out of the house on the 42nd day. Caoimhe pronounces her name as ‘kee-va’.

Caoimhe De Barra is the CEO of Trocaire, a charity that offers aid and support to children in Africa.

Notable mentions

Caoimhe Dillon: Actress Aoibheann McCaul plays the part of Fair City character Caoimhe Dillon.

Queeva McDonagh: Queeva McDonagh is an Irish American singer-songwriter. This is also another way to spell Caoimhe but it is not very common.

Keeva Fennelly: Keeva Fennelly is an Irish camogie player and financial reporter.

Your questions answered about the Irish name Caoimhe

Below, we have put together the most frequently asked questions about the Irish name Caoimhe from both our readers and online in case you had any further queries.

How do you say Caoimhe?

Caoimhe is pronounced ‘kwee-va’.

What is Caoimhe in Irish?

Caoimhe is an Irish name. It comes from the Irish boy name Caoimhín.

Is Caoimhe a boy or a girl name?

Caoimhe is a girl name.

What is the male version of Caoimhe?

The male version of the name Caoimhe is Caoimhín. The anglicised version of this is Kevin.


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