A Guide to Pronouncing
Irish Names

Saoirse Ronan on Colbert.
Saoirse Ronan on Colbert.

By Adam Farley, Deputy Editor
April / May 2016

In January, actress Saoirse Ronan stopped by the Late Show with Stephen Colbert. She was there to promote her movie Brooklyn, but the conversation moved into Ronan teaching Colbert (whose ancestry is 15/16 Irish) both how to speak with an Irish accent and how to pronounce traditional Irish names – something that has no doubt been a problem since at least the eighth century, when Irish adopted the Latin alphabet.

More recently though, Irish stage and screen actress Siobhán McKenna is credited with making the name Siobhán popular again in the 20th century, heralding a new era of internationally acclaimed Irish actors with traditional Irish names that are nearly impossible for the uninitiated to sound out.

In that vein, here are the names of some of the most popular Irish actors, actresses, and revolutionaries referenced in these pages, along with phonetic pronunciations.

FILM & TELEVISION

Siobhán McKenna — Shiv · AWN
(Doctor Zhivago, King of Kings, Saint Joan)

Saoirse Ronan — SEAR · sha / SER · sha
(Brooklyn, The Host, Atonement)

Domhnall Gleeson — DOUGH · nall
(Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Ex Machina, Unbroken)

Ciarán Hinds — KEAR · awn
(Game of Thrones, Hitman: Agent 47, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2)

Colm Meany — KOLL · um
(Hell on Wheels, The Damned United, Star Trek: The Next Generation)

Cillian Murphy — KILL · ee · an
(Peaky Blinders, The Wind that Shakes the Barley, Batman Begins)

Brían F. O’Byrne  — BREE · an
(Jimmy’s Hall, Love / Hate, Million Dollar Baby)

Sinéad Cusack — Shin · AID
(The Sea, V for Vendetta)

Eoin Macken — O · win
(The Forest, The Night Shift, Merlin)

REVOLUTIONARIES

Pádraic Pearse — PAW · rick / PAWD · rick

Seán Mac Diarmada — SHAWN Mac DEAR · ma · da

Micheál Ó hAnnrachain — MEE · hall Oh HAN · ra · han

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