Can you read Irish names?The “rich” food of Ireland|Keiko Miki|KnowLedge World Network|Activities|KNOWLEDGE CAPITAL

  • 2019.08.09
  • Can you read Irish names?
In my past posts, I’ve written about the distinctive accents and ways of speaking that Irish people have.
Now, I’d like to explain them in a little more detail. We’ll start with the accents. For example, words that should normally have an “uh” sound—like “bus”, “up”, and “duck” may be pronounced with a neutral sound of “u” and “o” depending on the spelling… to the point that sometimes you can’t even tell “duck” and “dog” apart (lol)! People also speak in a very rhythmical way. It sounds like they’re singing once you’re used to it, and there are so many truly friendly people. Some of them have a tendency to interject your name into the conversation frequently. It’s really nice.

Then there are times when people are trying to refer to a person whose name they don’t know. I knew about “sir” and “dear”, but in Ireland you hear the word “love” as well. Of course, these words are used between people who know each other, but a stranger on the street might say, “Sorry, love,” to you as well. To be honest, I thought the person was hitting on me the first time I heard it. (lol) It might sound funny, but everyone says it—from the supermarket employees to the plumber that comes to the house to fix the washing machine. It’s just their culture, so they don’t think anything of it, but even if you’re taken off guard by it, it definitely makes you feel like they’re treating you kindly.

Anyway, let’s get back to my topic this time—Irish names.
Why are Irish names so different?
I’m sure some of you have wondered that before. The fact is that some Irish names are so hard to decipher that you might as well give up! (Of course, some are completely obvious as well, lol)

Let’s start with a few classic examples.
Can you read “Aoife”? It’s a girl’s name. It’s not what it looks like. (lol) It’s actually pronounced “ee-fa”.
Then there’s the boy’s name “Eoin”, which is pronounced “Owen”.
The girl’s name “Caoimhe” is pronounced “kweva” or “keeva”.
And lastly, the two boys’ names, “Tadhg” (“taig”) and “Daithi” (“da-hi”).

…Wait, what? (lol) They’re full of vowels, but then there are all these consonants scattered in as well. How in the world do you get a “v” sound from Caoimhe? It seems completely unpredictable, right? lol

These are traditional names that come from the Celtic language. There are many more beautiful names I’d like to tell you about, but there are too many to list here. If you’re interested, though, make sure you look them up!

Irish last names are distinctive as well—so much so that you know immediately when you see one. They’re the ones that start with “Mc” or “O’” (just to reiterate, though, there are tons of Irish last names that don’t start this way as well). Apparently, both of those prefixes mean “descendant of”. For example:
Names like O’Donnell, O’Reilly, McCarthy, and McLoughlin (this one’s a little tough to read, but I’m going to let you figure it out for yourself).
I’ve also had some embarrassing experiences associated with last names. My doctor is named Ryan, so I always just called him that. But one day I realized that there was another name listed in front of the name Ryan… meaning that it wasn’t his first name but his last name. When I figured it out, I realized that I had been rudely referring to him by his last name without his title! It sounds funny now, but the first name “Ryan” is actually a last name in Ireland.
When you’re memorizing Irish names, make sure you learn the spelling at the same time! You’re sure to make some surprising and fascinating discoveries.

On a side note, here’s a picture of a Japanese restaurant that recently opened up. It’s got a serious Ginza vibe. (lol)

That’s all for now. See you next time!


  • Keiko Miki
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Keiko Miki lives in Dublin, Ireland, where she works as a translator for a mobile game company.She wants to introduce readers to aspects of Irish culture and the Irish people that are little-known in Japan, and tell everyone how the Irish see Japan—all in a fun way that hopefully gets a few laughs in the process.

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