Hi Duana!

I just found out that I'm having a baby girl, which is awesome because of all the fun outfits I can get for her, but not so awesome in the sense that we are totally stuck on the name front. If this baby was a boy, his name was going to be Niall. We plan to have more children in the future, and it is pretty much guaranteed that any future son would be called Niall, so I guess we should try to match a girl's name to Niall ''just in case'' we have a boy? Our biggest dilemma is we aren't sure if that means it has to be Irish; we have no Irish blood, just adore the name Niall after hearing it pop up on a friend's baby name list (they didn't use it!). There are lots of pretty Irish girl names for sure, but maybe two Irish names is over the top given that we aren't Irish? Thank you for any advice!!


So one year, during school pictures when I was about nine, I posed in a button-up collared shirt and my blunt-cut bangs almost hit the top of my nose. I had my hair in a low ponytail that went straight down my back. 

The result was that I looked like a boy. A cute little nine year old boy. And so my sister and I told the neighbourhood kids that it was actually a picture of our brother, Niall, who was away at boarding school. We chose Niall because our mother explained that each of us would have been named that if we were a boy, but alas, neither of us were.  

Poor Niall is such a great name, and it’s unusual largely because of the “I” sound that feels fresh and new, and because it’s masculine without being all hard consonants, like, say, Brock. (“Brock”. We get it, you’re a dude. BRRRRRROCK.)

The question is -- does your daughter have to have an Irish name? There are two reasons I don’t think so. Number one, half the people who hear Niall think you’re just being pretentious about your pronunciation of Neil, akin to “Ohhhhnnnndrea”. The other reason – brace yourself – is because of the One Directioner who has made the name much more well-known than it was before. I don’t even know which one of the band is the Niall one, but I know he exists and therefore the name has entered into the acceptable pop lexicon.   

So what fits with Niall? Other offbeat, slightly gentle, not-overtly-gender-strict names like Rowan and Clara and Maeve who don’t have to shout themselves from the rooftops but are beautiful nonetheless. Lena suggests herself here, as does Mona.  Norah is too matchy, I think, but what about Zora? Niall and Zora are so quietly sophisticated and evenly matched.   

If you love Irish names, of course, they’re not in short supply right now. Some that are lovely and kind of…mature …like Niall are Anya and Deirdre and the absolutely beautiful Roisin (Ro-SHEEN) – but they may never become as popular as the mythical brother she may or may not have.

But it’s about usage. Ultimately nobody thinks about Frederick being German anymore, or that Kevin was once the most Irish name going. Go with the most gorgeous name you can think of - regardless of extraction - and the rest will fall into place.