Top 10 Hardest To Pronounce Irish First Names

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 it 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 10 first names which foreigners find it impossible to pronounce (and, the correct way to pronounce them!)

10. Aoife

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.

9. Siobhán

This girls name is a popular one that has confused many foreigners time and again. And although more common than ever, the majority of those outside of Ireland can still not 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 girls name Joan, which also means “god is gracious”.

8. Gráinne

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 girls name is gra-ni-eh.

The name comes from Irish tradition and means “love” or “charm”. Thank you for your time.

7. Meadhbh

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 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!

6. Dearbhla

Also spelt Dervla, this Gaelic girls name came from the medieval Saint Dearbhla. If people really want to add an 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 der-villa.

5. Caoimhe

This is one which always strikes up quite the conversation when it comes to pronunciation by foreigners. As confusing as it may look, this female first name is actually a rather simple one. Phonetically spelt out, it is quee-vah.

The meaning behind this traditional Irish name is “beautiful”, “precious” or
“gentle”, the perfect name for a newborn lass. The only issue is, hardly anyone can pronounce it!

4. Oisín

Oftentimes 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 boys name is pronounced ush-ian and means “little deer”.

3. Tadhg

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 ty-guh. The boys name means “poet” or “philosopher”.

2. Ruaidhri

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

Without further ado, this boys name – which can also be spelt Ruari – means “a great king” and is pronounced rur-ree.

1. Síle

In English this would be pronounced as Sheila, proving the Irish language just makes everything look ten times harder than it actually is!

The meaning of this Gaelic girls name is “musical”, and it can also be spelt Shelagh and 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.