Irish name of the week: Cillian

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

Cillian is a uniquely Irish name. If you’re lucky enough to have it as yours, and if you’ve travelled outside of Ireland, you’ve probably had to correct people on its pronunciation once or twice in your time. 

However, Cillian is actually a name on the rise outside of Ireland, no doubt as a result of a certain Irish actor with very good looks and a great range of acting skills. So maybe you won’t have to go on correcting people for much longer! 

In our article today we’ll cover all the interesting facts and history behind the Irish name Cillian, our name of the week. 

Pronunciation 

Considering the writer of this article was born and raised in Ireland, I should’ve probably known the correct pronunciation of the name Cillian already—but it came as a surprise when researching this piece to find out that it is pronounced “Kil-e-an” and not with a soft C, like I had mistakenly been doing.

But that’s okay, we all make mistakes! And now, at least, we know. 

Once more:

“Kil-e-an” 

Spellings and variations

The Irish name Cillian is our name of the week

Obviously the most common way to spell the name is simply as Cillian. But from searching around online we have found a handful of alternatives for the name. We’ll list a few of the examples below. 

Firstly, there is the Anglicized version, which is spelt as either Killian or Kilian. 

Then we have some other ways to spell it, such as Killion, Cillène, Killion, Ceallach (yeah, we don’t know either), or Ó Cillìn. 

We’ll leave you to decide which is your favourite! 

Meaning

The Irish name Cillian means "little church"

We found a couple of different meanings of the Irish name Cillian, but they both boil down to more or less the same thing: “associated with the church” is the first meaning, and “little church” is the other. 

The name is a reference to someone prayerful or spiritual. In Gaelic, “cill” means church, and the suffix “ín” is used affectionately to indicate a pet or diminutive status. 

Cillian is a name steeped in spiritual meaning as it was the name of a 7th-century Irish saint who evangelized in Franconia (more on that below). 

History and increasing popularity 

Saint Kilian was martyred in Germany, where a statue of him stands
Statue of Saint Kilian in Germany

There have been several Saint Cillians in Irish history. The most well-known is Saint Kilian, who was an Irish missionary bishop and the Apostle of Franconia. He would later be martyred in Wůrzburg, Germany. 

Patrick Woulfe was a Catholic priest who was instrumental in reviving Irish names after Ireland’s war for independence from England in the 1920s—Woulfe theorised that Cillian might also be related to a Gaelic name meaning “war”. 

In terms of popularity, Cillian is ranked at number 22 in its native Ireland—but it is also increasing overseas, too. Did you know that Cillian currently stands at number 516 of most popular boy names in America? 

Irish names will soon be taking over the world! 

Famous celebrities sharing the name 

Cillian Murphy is probably the most famous Cillian
Cillian Murphy in Peaky Blinders

Probably the most popular Cillian we currently know (and likely the reason you clicked on this article!) is versatile Irish actor Cillian Murphy, revered for his outstanding performances in movies such as Dunkirk, Inception, Batman Begins, 28 Days Later, The Wind That Shakes the Barley, and as his most popular character Thomas Shelby in the hit series Peaky Blinders.

In the world of sport, there’s Irish hurler Cillian Buckley, who currently plays for Kilkenny Senior Championship club Dicksboro. 

But honestly, there aren’t too many other famous Cillians out there—which means that if it’s your name, you’ll certainly stand out in the world of celebrity. 

Jokes 

We've found a few god jokes that revolve around the name Cillian

Alright, now for the best part of the article—some jokes revolving around the Irish name Cillian that we scoured the internet for.

1. My 14-year-old son is named Cillian. He said it was awkward when he sat next to an Ian on the bus and his friend shouted his name! Poor Ian had to get off a stop early.

2. I’ve been “Killan” it with the name puns recently. 

3. Cillian Murphy can Cill me with his jawline. 

And, just because we thought it was funny, here’s one of the Urban Dictionary descriptions for the name Cillian: 

4. “Cillian. A once-off occurrence in Irish history.” 

So there you have it—all the information on the Irish name Cillian, our name of the week.