the name dara

The name Dara, Daire or Darragh is a Celtic, Jewish and Persian name for men.

The name first appears in the Hebrew Bible, or the Old Testament, First book of Chronicles Chapter 2 verse 6:
“And the sons of Zerah, Zimri, an Ethan and Heman and Calcol, and Dara: five of them in all.”
This makes Dara a masculine name within Hebrew as are most male names in the Bible ending in a; Joshua (that’s Jesus’ real name), Ezra, Elisha, the list goes on. If the actress Elisha Cuthbert is reading this, you have a man’s name. Most common names amongst Europeans and their descendants are Jewish: John, Michael, David, Stephen, Luke, Matthew. You don’t have to be Jewish to have a Jewish name any more than you need to be Chinese to own a Chinese made phone.


The original version in the name in Irish, or the main branch of the Gaelic Celtic language, is Daire which means a wood of oak trees. Oak tree is dair in Irish and the plural is daire so an oak forest or wood of oak trees. In that sense it is like the American name Forest. The name is mentioned in the Tain Bo Cualinge or Cooley Cattle Raid, an Irish epic tale about Celtic warriors, as the name of a male farmer who owns a sought after bull. The events took place over nineteen hundred years ago in the first century AD and was written down by monks in the eighth century AD, so the name is at least twelve hundred years old.

There is another variant of it, which I posses, Dara which is a variation of Daire, for example the original version of the County Kildare in Irish is Cill Dara; cill means a church on a hill and Dara a wood of oak trees so Kildare means Oak Forrest Church. Another variant is Doire is which is the Irish for Derry or Londonderry, an oak forest.


The third Irish variant of the name Darragh is merely an Anglicisation of the agh sound at the end of the name, so it’s an English attempt to try to spell a Celtic name. Although you meet Irish people who will try to tell you this is the original Celtic version of the name and the other variants are the anglicisations. There is no evidence for this. There are no names in Irish Gaelic which originally end in agh.


Being Irish there was never a problem with my name until I started to work with or meet Americans. I was asked “what’s your real name” or told repeatedly “I’ve never heard that name before”, “I don’t think people should be called that” or “that’s a girl’s name” as it ends in an a, even though it is not. There are a few women in Ireland with the name and they are repeatedly told “that’s a man’s name”.

The most common names for men amongst English speakers are Mike, Dave and John all being abbreviated versions of Anglicised Jewish names. I found Americans, particularly of a certain generation, simply unable to understand my name and they made such a fuss over it, insulting me in many cases, that I honestly regret having the name. As a tour guide I have been laughed at in my face in my own country by White English and German descended Americans in their twenties over my name, because they think it’s a girls name. They are guests in my country laughing at my thousands of year old Irish male name under the belief my parents were hippies who gave me a girls name like Fiona. They are contributing to the stereotype that Americans are ignorant of other cultures. They think it’s a girls name because parents in the States are using it as such as they are with Elisha etc. Most Americans do not know what their names mean or where they come from and as with anyone who does not understand names should not insult someone with a name they haven’t heard before.

irish names

Many tour guides, waiters, bartenders and members of the public from various European countries have had the exact same experience. When I lived in Rome it was not uncommon for tour guides to refuse to bring Americans, particularly White middle-aged ones, on tour. They were tired of being told there was something wrong with their name (which is older than the United States or the English and German presence in Europe).

When many American tourists would get lost on tour, they would eventually call the tour company to let them know that they still had the radios from the tour. When the phone operative for the tour company would say “What was your tour guide’s name?”, the American tourist would say “I don’t know…I think she was Italian/Spanish/French/German/Irish”. Their brains would refuse to remember the name because they didn’t like it. They hadn’t heard it before. Therefore the name was made up.

All men are called Mike, Dave, John or Bill. All women are called Susie, Diane, Sarah, Betty, Mary and Jane. This did not happen with most Canadians, Australians, New Zealanders or even actual English and actual German people. They had no problem with European “ethnic” names. It is a bad cultural attitude from a disproportionate amount of Americans. By no means are all Americans like this but in my experience and the experience of many, many people I have met, it is disproportionately common.

biblical names

The majority of Americans do not have pure English ancestry. Most Americans have at least one grand or great grandparent who had to change their first name to find work. Ethnic is considered to be non-white where it is actually non-English. The English themselves are an ethnicity (Anglo-Saxon or German for the most part) but having been the dominant European culture in the States they could pretend they were a non-ethnic group of apparently blank white people. Having fought the British in the revolutionary war they did not want to be seen as English or British and just called themselves “white”.

Many European newcomers to the states were similarly dubbed “not white” even though they were. They were forced to change their ethnic European names so they could fit in and find work, including the Germans who are now the largest component of White people in the States. Many of the English who set up the United States refused to learn an unfamiliar name and were in many cases afraid of the name. So third and fourth generation Americans who tell me I have a girl’s name or a new made up name are actually insulting their own ancestors from Germany, Italy, France, Poland, Slovakia, Ireland or anywhere else. It’s sad people have to give up innocent parts of their own culture to fit in but such is life.

girl names

If I actually had a female name like Sarah, Fiona etc. or even something originally masculine and now feminine like Leslie, I would have changed my name ages ago and I would not be giving out.

    The rules for men’s names appear to be:
  1. Men’s names must begin and end with a consonant – John, Michael, David, Stephen, Mark etc.
  2. A man’s name can be begin with a vowel so long as it ends with a consonant: Erin, Aaron etc.
  3. A man’s name can end with a vowel, particularly nicknames or abbreviations, so long as it is O, E, or Y: Marco, Dave, Steve, Andy, Pauly etc. Never A, that’s a girls’ vowel, even though it isn’t.

unique boy names

As my name ends with an A, I have four options:

  • 1. Change my name. Most of my American tourists would love that, but being Irish and living in Dublin my name is never a problem. It is not a problem for tourists from any other country. I may not be a tour guide for ever and changing ones name is a bit drastic. My Irish name has never been a problem in Ireland.
  • 2. Stop being a tour guide. An office job 9 to 5.30 with colleagues bitching and gossiping? No thanks, I’ve already done that. If you have the patience for that, God bless, I can’t sit still.
  • 3. No longer bring American tourists on tour. That would be an overreaction that many tour guides worldwide have succumbed to. A tremendous amount of American tourists are fantastic and have provided me with a pleasurable and profitable career. Apart from some middle aged people who don’t know any better and arrogant twenty something’s, it is mostly a lack of knowledge.
  • 4. Correct those who don’t know what they are talking about. It’s quite fun to present the faction of Americans who think it’s a girls name with the facts and watch their facial expression change. I am doing a public service by educating people about different cultures, which is the whole reason they have travelled in the first place. I chose number 4.
  • irish boy names

    Should I ever have children of my own I will never give them an uncommon non Anglo-Saxon name. People don’t like being criticised or corrected particularly if they realise what they have said made them look silly, arrogant and uneducated. A person who has to go around correcting someone over the interpretation of their name won’t be popular. I get away with it because most Americans know they don’t understand other cultures.

    If you happen upon this article and are considering the name or any other uncommon ethnic name for your child I would advise you against it particularly if you think your son will ever need to work with Americans or English speakers outside of Ireland. If you are a having a girl and you want to use it, it simply is not a girl’s name and in Ireland she may be laughed at in her face and repeatedly will be told “that’s a man’s name”. Dara, Daire or Darragh is not a girls name but I suppose it could be unisex like Leslie, which is also a man’s name.

    boy names

    It could be worse, I could have been called Apple. Please do not name your child after a fruit.