Irish names from the Bible

Blog > Irish names from the Bible
Posted on: May 8th, 2017by Lois Crouse

There's a mystique that clings to Irish names: romantic visions of shrouded moors, lively villages seemingly lifted from the pages of children's picture books, music both plaintive and joyous, a people as close to nature as they are to the supernatural. The names also have a long and varied history. Much of that history can be found in the Bible, once the Irish adopted and adapted Hebrew names.

Girls Names

Abigail Abigail began life as the Hebrew, "Abhigayil," which means, literally, "My father is rejoicing." Abigail will always know that she is "Daddy's little girl." Today, the meaning of Abigail is abbreviated to "source of joy."

There are two Abigails in the Bible, both connected to King David. One is his half-sister and one is his third wife. We know just a little about the wife—she was beautiful, intelligent and kind and gave birth to David's son, Daniel.

Elizabeth "Eilis" or "Eilise" in Gaelic means "consecrated to God." In Hebrew, "Elisheba" or "Elisheva" means "God is my oath."

Elizabeth appears in the Gospel of Luke, Chapter 1, as a member distinguished lineage of Aaron; a relative of Mary, the Mother of Jesus; and the mother of John the Baptist, the one who would prepare the way for Jesus's ministry. Elizabeth was a woman of great faith and a total commitment to God.

Fiona Fiona evolved from the Gaelic word,"fionn," which means "white, fair." It is also the feminized version of "Fionn," a hero of Celtic myths.

"Fiona" is "Phoebe" in the Bible. Phoebe was a deaconess in the early Christian Church—the first woman to hold an official position. The Apostle Paul mentions her in an epistle, assuring the Romans that she is a trustworthy emissary who is acting in his stead.

Lily Lily is the most popular flower name in Ireland. "Líle" is the Gaelic form, but the root is in the Latin name of the flower, "lilium."

The Bible has countless references to liles in both the Old and New Testaments. The columns of Solomon's Temple were decorated with lily motifs that symbolized purity and peace. Jesus used the lily as an example of why people should trust in God. "The lilies of the field do not toil or spin, yet their flowers rival King Solomon's clothes." Wherever there is the theme of purity and resurrection, there are lily analogies.

Ruth In Hebrew, "Ruth" is "re'ut," meaning "friend, companion." Ruth is a great heroine of the Old Testament. Still today, her words to her mother-in-law, "Whither thou goest, I will go," evoke compassion, loyalty and selfless friendship. She gave up her own homeland to accompany Naomi to Judah. There, as King David's great-grandmother, she became part of the direct ancestry of Jesus.

The Puritans were the first to name their children "Ruth." They introduced the name to the "New World," but no where was it as popular as in Ireland.

Boys Names

Aaron In Gaelic, the name "Aron" that means "high mountain." In Hebrew, "Aharon" means "mountain of strength" and evolved from "Aaru," the Egyptian heaven.

Aaron was the brother of Moses. Moses had a speech impediment; Aaron, a gifted speaker, became his spokesman. Later, Aaron was anointed the first High Priest of the Israelites, and the name has long been revered among Jewish people.

Daniel Daniel is the quintessential Irish name. The plaintive ballad, "Danny Boy," embodies all that it means to be Irish. The name goes far back into Gaelic history in the forms of Domhnall (which means "attractive"), Daineal and Dainial.

The Hebrew "Daniyyel" means "God is my judge." There are three Daniels in the Old Testament. Dan was one of the patriarchs of the Twelve Tribes of Israel. Another Daniel was the son of Abigail and King David. The most famous, though, is the Daniel who was thrown into the lions' den. He was smart, clever and talented and, above all, had great faith and reverence for God. During the Middle Ages, "miracle plays" often told his story and the name gained prominence.

Ethan The Gaelic "Ethan" is not far removed: "Eatan." In Hebrew, it's "Ethan" and means "enduring, long-lived." There are Ethans here and there throughout the Old Testament in minor roles, but they all make good associations for your baby boy. One Ethan is praised for his wisdom. One wrote the eloquent Psalm 89. And one was a musician at the temple during the time of David.

Jordan Jordan first came to Ireland as a Norman surname, "Mac Siúirtáin" (pronounced SHOOR tawn). The "Mac" was dropped and Siúirtán (SHOOR tawn) became a given name during the Crusades, when the crusaders baptized their children with water from the river Jordan.

The Hebrew word for the river, "Yarden," means "flowing down." The Jordan was important in both the Old and New Testaments. Joshua led the Isarelites into the Promised Land over the dry bed of the river. Later, it figures prominently in the life of Jesus, most notably when John the Baptist baptized him in the river.

Nathan The Gaelic "O'Neachtain" is derived from the East Celtic "nectos," which means "pure and bright." In Hebrew, the name is "Nathan" and means "gift from God."

Nathan was a prophet and a member of King David's royal court, where he acted as one of the king's closest advisors. God also trusted Nathan. Several times, God gave him messages to relay to David. Nathan was steadfast in his loyalty and was with David during the darkest, most difficult times of his life.

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