Ryan: meaning of the name, history, and origin explained

Ryan, the Irish name most famous for being mixed up with the name Bryan.

Ryan is a very old and ancient Irish name that is still very commonly used as a first name and a surname throughout Ireland and the rest of the English speaking world.

Although the name Ryan is a lot more common in its English spelling, it is not uncommon to see the Irish spelling of ‘Rian’ and ‘Riain’ used commonly throughout Ireland too.

The name Ryan is most commonly used as a first name, but it is also very widely used as a surname in the forms of Ryan, O’Ryan, O’Riain, and also Mulryan and O’Mulryan.

As a surname, Ryan is the 1,281st most popular surname across the world and is commonly found outside of Ireland, with over 400,000 Americans having this surname.

Meaning – a regal name

Meaning of the Irish name Ryan.
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The Irish name Ryan dates back so far in time that it is believed that the actual meaning for the name was lost before records began.

However these days, the meaning for the Irish name Ryan is commonly agreed to be ‘Little King’ coming from the translation of ‘Rí’, which is the Irish word for King.

Other sources suggest that the meaning of the name might be ‘illustrious’ or that it might mean ‘water’ or ‘ocean’ from the Irish name ‘Riain’.

No one can be certain what the actual meaning of the Irish name Ryan is, but ‘Little King’ definitely sounds good to us!

History – a historical name

Ryan is a historical name.
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Although the name originated in Ireland, it is very commonly found in England, Scotland, Wales, and even in the United States.

In Scotland, in particular, the name Ryan steadily rose in popularity throughout the 1900s to the point where it was actually the most common name given to newborn boys born in Scotland between 1994 and 1998.

In England and Wales, the name is still common but isn’t quite as common as it is in Scotland with the name Ryan only featuring in the top 30 most popular names a handful of times between the year 2000 and 2010.

In the United States, just like in Scotland, the name Ryan grew steadily in popularity throughout the 1900s.

In 1946, the name featured in the top 1,000 most popular names for the first time, but by the year 1976, it was one of the 20 most common names given to a newborn boy in the United States.

For 30 years from 1976 to 2006, the name Ryan remained as one of the 20 most popular names given to newborn boys in the U.S.A.

Pronunciation and different versions – a versatile name

How to pronounce the Irish name Ryan.
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Thankfully, unlike a lot of other Irish names, Ryan is fairly easy and straight forward to pronounce.

Ryan is commonly pronounced as either “RY-UHN” or as “RY-AN”, depending on your accent and where you come from.

There are different versions of the name Ryan in other countries, most notably the German name ‘Rein’. Other variations of the name Ryan include ‘Rian’, ‘Rhyne’, ‘Rayan’, and many more.

Ryan Reynolds.
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Two of the most famous people in the world with the name Ryan are the actors Ryan Gosling and Ryan Reynolds.

Both Ryan Gosling and Ryan Reynolds were born in Canada and are now two of the most famous actors and celebrities in the whole world.

Reynolds is most famous for his appearances in Deadpool and Wolverine and Gosling is most well known for his appearances in La La Land, Blade Runner, and Blue Valentine.

Ryan Giggs is one of the most famous people with the Irish name Ryan.
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For people in Ireland and the U.K., however, the most famous person named Ryan is probably ex-football player Ryan Giggs.

Giggs is a Manchester United legend with over 900 appearances for the club, and he is currently the manager of his home country’s national team, Wales.

Other very famous Ryans are Ryan Seacrest, the American radio presenter, T.V. host, and producer most well known for hosting American Idol.

Ryan Adams, the singer and songwriter most well known for his hit record ‘Summer of 69’, and also Ryan Lewis, the American producer and D.J., who is most well known for his hit songs with Macklemore.

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