Irish Names

Blog Profile PicBy Donal Casey

 “Well, it’s like Donald but without d” – “Oh, OK – nice to meet you Onald!” – or: “Donal? Just Donal? Are you sure there’s no d at end?” Anyone with an Irish name that is not well-known outside of Ireland will recognise such an exchange. Never mind challenges of venturing out into wider world with Irish names like Sadhbh, Tadgh, Lasairfhíona or Dáithí.

The name Donal is an anglicized form of Irish name Dónall, which is derived from more traditionally-spelt Dómhnall. Some people, like young actor Domhnall Gleeson, use older spelling but drop fada, accent over vowel. There has been something of a fashion in certain circles in recent years to use more obscure, ancient Gaelic spelling for names. The name Dómhnall itself derives from Old Celtic word for world ruler.

Where does confusion with Donald come from? Donald is in fact an Anglicization of Scottish-Gaelic version of exact same name although it has – of course – been used far more extensively in English-speaking world and indeed elsewhere, for instance current Prime Minister of Poland is Donald Tusk. There is, however, no pesky little d at end of original Scottish version either, that was introduced by English to make it sound more ‘normal’.

It has also been suggested that name Donal is Irish translation of Biblical Daniel, roots may not be same but certainly a relationship between two names has developed over years. Many Irish names are indeed simply Irish-language versions of well- known Bible and/or saints’ names: Mary is Máire, Paul is Pól, Anne is Áine, John is Seán (although it can also be Eoin, as in Pápa Eoin Pól II: Pope John Paul II) Catherine is Caitríona, David is Dáithí and, more challengingly, Francis is Proinsías and James is Séamus.


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