Friday, August 29, 2008

Comparing Irish baby names with US baby names

Ireland's Central Statistics Office has just released its report of the top Irish baby names for 2007. As the Irish Times notes, "Jack" and "Sarah" are still the most popular names, as they have been for many years.

[ You can get the full report from: ]

Let's compare the Irish list with the corresponding US list, produced by the Social Security Administration:

[from: , where there is a useful name popularity search tool]

In terms of boys' names, the US list is headed by "Jacob", which only sits at number 94 in Ireland (though "Jake" is at number 28, just in front of "Joshua"). "Jack" heads the Irish list (and has done so for years) but is not even in the Top 10 of the US list. "Ethan" is Number 3 in the US, but only 46 in Ireland. But, there is some commonality. "Michael" and "Daniel" are in the Top 5 in both the US and Ireland. Both lists are dominated by a mixture of biblical and Anglo (English) names. The Irish boys' names list, though, does include Irish names which would be well-known in the US ("Conor", "Sean") and some which are not ("Cian", "Darragh").

Over on the girls' names side, "Sarah" is once again the most popular girls name in Ireland, but is not even in the Top 10 in the US. "Emily" tops the list in the US and comes in at Number 8 in Ireland (though "Emma" is Number 2). "Ava" is a name which is Top 10 in both countries (Number 4 in the US, Number 6 in Ireland).

"Madison" is at Number 5 in the US, though at times it seems like every single toddler girl in the US is named "Madison". Certainly, if you've ever looked at a Pottery Barn Kids catalog, all of the personalized furniture seems to be for a "Madison". I am pleased to see that "Madison" is not even in the Top 100 in Ireland.

The Irish list shows a preference for abbreviated girls names, e.g. "Abby" is listed in the Irish list at Number 29, ahead of "Abigail" (Number 8 in the US, only Number 45 in Ireland).

"Aoife" (Irish for "Eve") is the only Irish name in the very Anglo Top 10 of the Irish girls names, whereas the Irish boys Top 10 contains more Irish names. But looking down the girls list there is "Ciara", "Caoimhe" (pronounced "Kweeva"), and "Niamh" (pronounced "Neev"). Irish-Americans looking for the next big Irish girls name can see names like "Cara" (Irish for "friend") and "Sadhbh" (pronounced "Sive", a pretty name but one which condemns a girl to a lifetime spent spelling out her name letter-by-letter to confused listeners). There is an enclave of girls called "Saoirse" here in Boston ("Saoirse", pronounced "Seer-sha", is the Irish for "freedom").

Anyone expecting or planning a baby could do worse than print out the Irish baby names list and its US counterpart , grab a highlighter, and get busy choosing.

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