Duana Names: I Must Have Tried A Thousand Times*

January 8, 2016 21:11:50 Posted at January 8, 2016 21:11:50
Duana Posted by Duana


This will sound insane, but my pregnancy brain is awful and I've MEANT to email you so many times but I don't THINK I have. I REALLY hope you will help me because I quoted Adele in my subject line* to try and engender some goodwill, plus I wrote in for help naming baby #2 but you weren't able to answer me because too many of us are desperately seeking your sage advice.

SO. Crazed rambling aside, here is my issue. Baby #3 is getting induced 5 weeks from today. This is a girl. Our first two children are Liam (I KNOW but I SWEAR it was not as popular when we picked it plus we really love it) and Brigid. We are obviously sticking with Irish names since we love them, our families are both very Irish, and that is the pattern we have established so we don't want to throw in a Margot or something out of left field (although Margot is gorgeous). The trouble is this. We have 5 weeks until induction day and NO frontrunners.

One of my sisters died when I was pregnant with my son- her name was Kerry. She was also my closest friend and I had always planned to name a daughter after her if I ever had one. But after losing her, I knew I could never use her name- even as a middle name. It's just too painful. The trouble is I LOVE her name, so picking girls' names is always very hard. Luckily we feel in love with Brigid for our first girl, but we are really struggling to love another name. Here's what we have to go on.

We at least LIKE Nora or Mary-something (Mary Clare, Mary Frances, help us fill in that blank if you like this idea). My husband loves Riley, and while I like the name I feel it's trendy, not a traditional or classic Irish name like our other two, and that it doesn't age well. Can Riley be your CEO or Supreme Court Justice? Of these three I like Nora the best, but is it as special as Brigid? And is it getting too popular? We've lucked out that our Liam has yet to meet another Liam in school/socializing, but I don't want to tempt fate

I love Saoirse, but my sister in law is named Siobhan, and she and my husband are both anti using something no one will ever be able to pronounce or spell. (My sister in law has been nicknamed Sio by most people at this point). Also, is using something so Gaelic too much of a departure from our Anglicized Irish names we have used so far?

One other option is Rory. It's my mom's name. (I guess my grandparents, like the Kennedys, didn't care that it was always a male name). We both love the name, and I love the option of using a family name that isn't my sister's but still connects to her, but I worry about two things: will people think I'm using "a boy's name" and also, do you think Rory is a great name on its own? Or do I only love it for the family connection? I know I love it, but I want an objective opinion.

So, Nora, Mary-something, Riley, Saoirse, Rory. Or something perfect you can think of that we haven't. And a middle name. Irish, works with Liam and Brigid. Can you help us?


I can help you.

Does that feel better? I actually know this for sure.

So let’s attack one by one, and then see how you feel.  I like Nora too, very much.  You ask whether or not it’s going to be as ‘special’ as Brigid, and to me it’s very pretty and stylish, and a wonderful choice, but it’s not quite as specifically Irish as the first two names. That is, everyone knows about Liam and Brigid (even if Liam now belongs to everyone) but, even though Nora is Irish, it might seem less so to the masses (kind of the way my Irish mother thinks ‘Jenny’ is an old woman’s name because that’s how it was in Eireann decades ago). If you want that immediate ‘pop’ of Irish, it’s less potent that way – which doesn’t make it any less beautiful.

Mary Clare, on the other hand, kind of goes the other way. It definitely says Irish loud and clear—or alternately, it says ‘Catholic’, and you can insert your own joke about whether or not those are synonymous. I’m not totally joking though—I don’t know any young people who have a double-barrel ‘Mary’ name unless they’re from Quebec, where it’s still very common to meet Marie-Claires and Marie-Pierres. However, it does bring up the very attractive option of …Mary. Think about it. Liam and Brigid and Mary fit beautifully together and capture a flavour that I think you’re looking for, despite Mary not being all-the-way Gaelic-adjacent.

Then there are Riley and Rory, which I hope you’ll forgive my packaging, because they’re both similar in ‘feeling’ and sounding Irish but being absolutely modern. Rory (or the unfathomable Ruadhri) is being used for boys now, but, like Taylor a generation ago, it’s swaying further and further to the girls’ side, as is Riley. The fact that there’s a debate and a swing is part of what’s making them feel trendy to you, as well as the fact that they’re being used at all. I’m willing to bet your Brigid is the only one, even though nobody has difficulty with her name. That’s the balance you want…

….which means you might have hit a sweet spot with Saoirse. The thing about it that’s different than Siobhan or Clodagh or something is that the sounds it contains are ones we use in ‘English’ names. That, and you’re about to ride a wave of recognizability in the current awards season, with people hearing it over and over, even if they don’t see it written. I know one non-famous Saoirse, and while I think her parents are the type not to be bothered about people not understanding their daughter’s name, I’ve never heard of any struggles. 

One other name struck me, though it is a little harder to understand – Roísín is intimidating to look at, but its sound, ‘RoSHEEN’, is pretty and reminds me of Brigid. Yes?

If you’re still unsure, here are some other names that to me say ‘Irish but contemporary but not trendy’: 

Una – so pretty. I feel like I would use this if I had any opportunity. Deirdre – underused and unquestionably Irish to those who know. Moira – I’m not sure why this is not more used. Maybe it sounds like people’s great aunts, but so does Evelyn, and that’s absolutely everywhere, so…? Aisling is a Gaelic spelling, yes – but it’s got really familiar sounds, which usually helps people over that first initial ‘A-i-s’. Hey, what about Frances? I’d love to see a baby Frances with Brigid and Liam, and it’s the kind of name that’s fresh and also kind of an inside tip.

Okay, your task is in front of you. Hit me back, let me know!

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