The 10 hardest to pronounce Irish first names, Ranked

Do you think you have one of the hardest-to-pronounce Irish first names? Know somebody who does? Check out our top picks!

The 10 hardest to pronounce Irish first names, Ranked

The Irish language (also known as Gaelic) is the primary language of the Emerald Isle. It is considered the country’s first and leading language – before the far more widely spoken language of English – and although the numbers of native tongues dwindle, Ireland is still a bi-lingual country meaning all signposts, for example, are listed in both Irish and English.

Baffling many with its unusual formations, the Gaelic language differs wildly from Latin, the basis on which most other languages have been built. And funnily, although there are heaps of Gaelic words to bemuse, there is no simple word for “yes” or “no”!

Saying that, who really needs simple words when the language is considered so confusing as it is? It seems those not from the island are forever trying to work it out, with first names being a particular source of mystery.

So, finally, to put the record straight, here are the top ten Irish first names which foreigners find it impossible to pronounce (and the correct way to pronounce them!)

Things to know about Irish names – history and fun facts

  • Irish names often have many spelling and pronunciation variations.
  • Many of the most common Irish names derive from saints or religious figures.
  • Irish naming traditions often involve naming children after parents, grandparents, or other relatives.
  • Irish first names are often considered some of the hardest to pronounce worldwide.
  • Aoife is one Irish name whose pronunciation has been Googled over 100,000 times.
  • Many Irish surnames names start with ‘Ó’, meaning grandson of, or ‘Mac/Mc, which means “son of” in Irish Gaelic.

10. Aoife

Aoife, while strange, is another of the weird Irish names you won't be able to pronounce.

Aoife is an extremely common Irish girls name that means “radiance” or “beauty”. When in Ireland, you’re bound to come across quite a few girls with this name, so just to set the record straight, the name is correctly pronounced ‘eee-fah’. It’s another of the top hardest-to-pronounce Irish first names.

READ: AOIFE: pronunciation and meaning, explained

9. Siobhán

Siobhán is another of the weird Irish names you need to know.

This girl’s name is a popular one that has confused many foreigners time and again. And although more common than ever, the majority of those outside Ireland still can’t pronounce it!

Yes, you may assume this one to be pronounced ‘sio-ban’, but please refrain. It is, in fact, pronounced ‘shi-von’.

The name is another form of the girl’s name Joan, which also means “God is gracious”.

READ MORE: IB4UD’s Irish name of the week: Sinead

8. Gráinne

Gráinne is a great name and means love and charm. It's also another of the top weird Irish names.

Either “granny” or “grainy”, the pronunciation of this name is just never quite right. So, now that we have your attention, let’s clear this up: this girl’s name is ‘grawn-yeh’.

The name comes from Irish tradition and means “love” or “charm”. Thank you for your time. It’s truly another of the weird Irish names you’ll struggle to pronounce.

MORE: Irish name of the week: Grainne

7. Meadhbh

Meadhbh is a beautiful Irish name but is difficult to say. It's one of the top weird Irish names.

When you ask a foreigner to pronounce this female name, it usually results in a long pause, followed by a baffled look. In all fairness, we can see why; this is quite the mouthful. Alternatively, the name can be spelt Maeve, like Queen Maeve, but that doesn’t seem to be much easier to pronounce.

Whichever way it has been spelt, the correct pronunciation is ‘may-veh’.

The meaning of this traditional name is either “she who intoxicates” or “great joy”; either is pretty good!

RELATED: Meave: pronunciation and meaning, explained

6. Dearbhla

Dearbhla is another of the top hardest to pronounce Irish first names as well as being one of the weird Irish names.

Also spelt Dervla, this Gaelic girl’s name came from the medieval Saint Dearbhla. If people really want to add extra oomph, it can be spelt Deirbhile.

The fact of the matter is, though, whatever the spelling, those not from Ireland are going to be confused as hell when it comes to pronouncing this one.

Simply put, it is pronounced ‘derv-la’.

5. Caoimhe

While unique and special, Caoimhe is another of the hardest to pronounce Irish first names.

Another of the top weird Irish names is Caoimhe. This is one which always strikes up quite the conversation when it comes to pronunciation by foreigners and is seemingly one of the Irish girl names nobody can pronounce. As confusing as it may look, this female first name is actually a rather simple one. Phonetically spelt out, it is ‘kwee-veh’.

The meaning behind this traditional Irish name is “beautiful”, “precious”, or “gentle”, the perfect name for a newborn lass. The only issue is it’s one of the hardest to pronounce Irish first names.

MORE: everything you need to know about the name Caoimhe

4. Oisín

Oisín is another of the top and hardest to pronounce Irish first names.

Often foreigners call a bluff on this name or make several failed attempts before accepting defeat! In all fairness, if you’re not from the Emerald Isle, we can see it’s a tough one.

This Irish boy’s name is pronounced ‘osh-een’ and means “little deer”.

FIND OUT MORE: Oisin name meaning and pronunciation, explained

3. Tadhg

While beautiful, Tadhg is another of the hardest to pronounce Irish first names.

Most foreigners don’t know where to start with this one, and well, we can’t blame them. Indeed, it is easy for an Irish person having been subjected to these names all throughout school; it is also quite understandable why this name is mind-boggler from appearance.

Tadgh is, in fact, pronounced ‘tige’. The boy’s name means “poet” or “philosopher”.

READ: Ireland Before You Die’s guide to the Irish name Tadhg

2. Ruaidhri

Another of the hardest to pronounce Irish first names is Ruaidhri.

This is one of those words that looks impossible, but once it has been broken down is astonishingly simple.

Without further ado, this Irish boy’s name – which can also be spelt Ruari or Rory – means “a great king” and is pronounced ‘rur-ree’.

1. Síle

Síle is truly one of the hardest to pronounce Irish first names.

This is another of the hardest-to-pronounce Irish first names. In English, this would be pronounced Sheila, proving the Irish language just makes everything look ten times harder than it actually is! It’s truly one of the top weird Irish names.

The meaning of this Gaelic girl’s name is “musical”, and it can also be spelt ‘Shelagh’ or ‘Sheelagh’. The general pronunciation, despite the various spellings, is ‘shee-lah’.

Irish names really are difficult to the outsider. If you don’t believe us, have a watch at Americans trying to pronounce Irish names below:

Also, you might be interested in reading our article on the top 100 Irish surnames.

Your questions answered about the hardest to pronounce Irish first names

If you still have questions, we have you covered! In this section, we’ve compiled some of our readers’ most frequently asked questions and popular questions that have been asked online about this topic.

Why are Irish names so hard to pronounce?

All of the letters present in the traditional Irish alphabet are present in the English alphabet. However, this isn’t the same case in the reverse, as a few letters from the English alphabet don’t appear in the Irish one.

English speakers find the Irish language so difficult to decipher because while the same letters are used, the sounds of Irish words are different.

What Irish names are the hardest to pronounce?

Our list above highlights the hardest-to-pronounce Irish first names. The name Aoife consistently appears in surveys, even in 2023, as one of the hardest Irish words to pronounce.

What are the hardest-to-pronounce Irish surnames?

Luckily for you – we also have an article on the hardest to pronounce Irish surnames.

Read more about Irish First Names

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Things you didn’t know about Irish First Names…

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The 10 hardest to pronounce Irish first names, Ranked

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Read about Irish Surnames…

The 10 most popular Irish surnames worldwide

Top 100 Irish Surnames & Last Names (Family Names Ranked)

The Top 20 Irish Surnames and Meanings

Top 10 Irish surnames you’ll hear in America

The top 20 most common surnames in Dublin

Things you didn’t know about Irish surnames…

The 10 Hardest to Pronounce Irish Surnames

10 Irish surnames that are always mispronounced in America

Top 10 facts you never knew about Irish surnames

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