Irish name of the week: Aoife

From pronunciation and meaning to fun facts and history, here’s a look at the Irish name Aoife.

Aoife is a uniquely Irish name that has grown in popularity in recent years. If you’re lucky enough to have it as yours, and if you have ever travelled outside of Ireland you’ve probably had to correct people on its pronunciation on multiple occasions.

The Irish name Aoife has been one of the most popular names in Ireland, with its peak being in 1997 when it was ranked 2nd as the most popular baby girls names in Ireland. Since then its popularity has decreased slightly, but as of 2019, the Irish name Aoife ranked 17th according to the Central Statistics Office.

Here is everything you need to know about the Irish name Aoife, our name of the week!

Pronunciation

Due to the nature of the sheer number of vowels in this five-letter name, Aoife is very often mispronounced if abroad. Aoife is pronounced as ‘Ee-fa’ which tends to baffle people due to the disappearance of the individual vowel sounds.

As the writer of this article who has the pleasure of bearing this name, I have become accustomed to multiple different ways people have mispronounced my name. Some common mispronunciations that I have encountered are ‘Ay-oh-fee’ and ‘Eff-ie’ however, these are only commonplace outside Ireland.

Spelling and variants

The Irish name Aoife is frequently spelt Aoife, Aife or even Eva.

The name is usually spelt as ‘Aoife’; however, very rarely you will come across it spelt as Aífe. Aífe is the Old Irish spelling, but the pronunciation doesn’t change.

The English version of Aoife is often referred to as being Eve or Eva. However, the Irish version for Eva is often Éabha. It is believed that due to the similarity in sound, Aoife is frequently anglicised as Eve or Eva.

Meaning

The meaning of the Irish name Aoife is beauty and radiance.

Aoife probably derived from the word aoibh, pronounced ‘ee-v’, which is the Irish word for beauty or radiance. This Irish name has been compared to the Gaulish (ancient Celtic language spoken in Gaul) name Esvios.

According to behindthename.com, people think that the characteristics of the name Aoife are: natural, wholesome, classic, refined, youthful, strange, and complex.

Aoife is a name steeped in Irish mythology and folklore as it was the name of the stepmother of the children of Lír and of a female warrior who appeared in the story of Cú Chulainn (more on these below).

Mythology associated with Aoife

The Irish name Aoife comes from mythological roots.

The name Aoife is also borne by several famed characters in Irish mythology, pointing further to the significance of this Irish name. One such character was the female warrior who appeared in the story of Cú Chulainn, the main hero in Irish folklore.

One version says that Aoife had an identical twin sister and lifelong rival, Scathach, a legendary martial arts teacher. Scathach was teaching Cú Chulainn the art of war before one day they did battle against Aoife.

Cú Chulainn uses his teacher, Scathach’s, knowledge of her sister’s weakness to beat her in battle. Aoife lost this duel and was taken captive by Cú Chulainn, where they evidently fell in love and had a son.

Another story in Irish mythology is of Aoife, the stepmother from the Children of Lír. A while after getting married, Aoife began to grow jealous of her husband’s affection towards her four stepchildren. She intended on killing them, but instead, she cast a spell on them which turned them into swans.

When Aoife’s husband learned of what his wife had done to his children, he changed her into a demon and banished her to the four winds forever. Legend has it you can still hear her voice on a stormy night, sighing and sobbing above the sound of the wind.

Famous Aoifes

Famous bearers of the Irish name Aoife include Aoife Walsh, Miss Ireland.
Credit: @aoife_walsh_x / Instagram

As Aoife is only recently a common name in Irish society, there are very few people who have reached fame at the moment.

Here is a selection of the notable individuals with the name Aoife:

•    Aoife McLysaght, a renowned researcher in molecular evolution and comparative genomes

•    Aoife Walsh, a fashion model and former Miss Ireland 2013

•    Aoife Hoey, an Irish bobsledding Olympian

•    Aoife Mulholland, an actress who was very successful in the West End

•    Aoife O’Donovan, a singer/songwriter

•    Aoife Mannion, an international football player for England

With the surge in popularity of the Irish name Aoife, there will no doubt be more Aoifes rising to fame in the future.

There you have it – all you need to know about the Irish name Aoife, our name of the week!

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Aoife O'Mara is a travel-hungry 21-year-old from East Clare. Having returned from a gap year in Melbourne, she discovered a newfound appreciation for the place she calls home. Now studying communications and media production in Griffith College Dublin, she is also writing for the university's magazine. When not dreaming about future trips and adventures, she can be found petting dogs, exploring Ireland's lakes and rivers, and taking photos.