Why do some people have such a hard time with Irish names? Is it the double and sometimes triple vowels?!

It's often the double vowel that catches out many people when they try to pronounce Gaelic names. Sometimes the triple vowel, as in “Caoimhe,” completely stumps non-Irish people!

Read More: The most popular Irish baby names in America

Having an Irish name in the US is an experience unto itself! There's the gradual acceptance that many people you meet - from new friends to the fine baristas at Starbucks - will have no idea how to spell or pronounce your name. There's the patience you learn to muster as you repeat your name slowly for the umpteenth time. There's the rare moment of sheer exultation when you encounter someone who gets your name right on the first go, or an Irish speaker who doesn't give it a second thought. 

Here’s a list of some of the most tongue-twisting Irish names - and a guide on how to pronounce them: 

Caoimhe

Meaning “gentle in Gaelic. Pronounced “Kweeva”, not “Cam-he”.

Siobhan

Very common Gaelic name. Pronounced “SHIV awn” not “SEE o ban”.

Oisin

Historic old Irish name of a fabled Fenian warrior (pictured above). Pronounced “USH een” not “Waz an”.

Sinéad 

Again a common girl’s name. Pronounced “SHIN ade” not “Sign aid."

Read More: 100 Irish first names and their beautiful meanings

Aisling

Meaning a dream or vision. Seen in "The Secret of Kells". Often pronounced “Ass Sling” by Americans. Proper pronunciation is “ASH ling."

Niamh

Very common name with girls in Ireland. Pronounced “KNEE ov” not “NI Am H”.

Grainne

After famed love partner of Diarmuid, a Fenian chieftain. Pronounced “GRAWN YAH” not “granny."

Tadgh

This is a difficult one. This is a boy’s name. Pronounced “TIG” as in the first three letters in Tiger, not “Tad guy."

Saoirse

Meaning freedom, see also actress Saoirse Ronan. Pronounced “See Or Shah” or "Ser Shah," not “Say oar see."

We'll leave it to the expert for this one...

Practice makes perfect! And remember, before you complain about how hard they are to pronounce, it's important that you keep in mind the reason it's so hard; the names are in another language!

Good luck!

* Originally published in 2014, updated in July 2020.