Baby Names - History and Origin
by John Lynch
The meaning of baby names of Irish origin
lies hundreds of years back in the Irish Gaelic language of the ancient
Celts who migrated from Central Europe before the foundation of the
The Celts Dominant
Those Celts who came to Britain, France
and Ireland were dominant for a long period. With the spread of the
Roman Empire, the Celts gradually were pushed back into North Western
France (modern Brittany with its distinct Breton language), Western
Britain (Cornwall and Wales), Northern Britain (Isle of Man and
Scotland), and the island of Ireland which was never conquered by the
As a result of Ireland's separate
development from Roman influence, the Gaelic language and way of life
was much less diluted than in Scotland or Wales. Again the influence of
the Anglo-Normans and later the English was less in Ireland because of
the difficulty of establishing control in the country other than a few
coastal towns such as Dublin.
The English kings' governor sat in Dublin
Castle issuing edicts against native Irish habits in dress, custom and
language, only to have them ignored in about 80% of the country with the
exception of the areas around Dublin called The Pale where the English
army held sway.
Gradual English Control
This situation continued for hundreds of
years until the English asserted an uneasy control at the end of the
17th century with the defeat of James 11 at the Battle of the Boyne by
William of Orange (the Dutch Protestant prince who was offered the
English throne by Parliament) in 1690.
So the first name origins of Irish
Christian names and surnames lie overwhelmingly in this Gaelic Celtic
culture which was totally dominant until the end of the 19th century.
Only at this point do we see English culture making inroads in language,
games and of course in first name origins.
In fact, this was not voluntary as
primary schools were established in all the major towns from the 1830's
onwards where English was the only language of instruction and Irish Gaelic
was forbidden. First name origins of Celtic descent gradually declined
and English baby names became popular for the first time.
By the end of the 19th century, Irish was
in crisis and English totally dominant in all the commercial, legal and
cultural spheres of Irish life. At this time organisations to stem the
English tide were established such as the Gaelic Athletic Association to
foster the games of hurling and Gaelic football), and the Gaelic League
to prevent the decline of the Irish language.
This brings us up to the present where
the meaning of baby names of most first names in Ireland are English in
origin or Anglicization's of native Irish names. This bilingual mélange
will continue. It remains to be seen whether first name origins of Irish
Gaelic ancestry will increase as they have been doing, or whether the
sea of Anglo-American influence will predominate.
(c) John Lynch
About the Author
(For a wide selection of musical
instruments, arts, crafts, gifts and jewelry from Ireland go to: http://www.simplyirish.com/default.asp?idaff=3045286
2005 – Sex Scrolls