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, Elijah…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, Sarah, Ruth etc. 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 in Ireland.

There is another variant of it, which I possess, 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 Grove Church. Another variant is Doire is which is the Irish for Derry or Londonderry, an oak forest – perhaps a mispronunciation of the original Daire who was from Ulster according to the Táin.


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; h doesn’t exist in the original Latin alphabet – it’s a Greek borrowing. Some people spell the female name Ciara (meaning the dark one) as Ciaragh; it’s not the end of the world you just can’t claim its the original because it isn’t.


Being Irish there was never a problem with my name until I started to work with or meet Americans and other English colonials. I was asked “what’s your real name” or told repeatedly “I’ve never heard that name before”, “that’s one of these new made up names” or “that’s a girl’s name” as it ends in an a and some American women are using the name, even though it is not.

Sadly, there now are a few hundred women in Ireland now using the name as the culture of not knowing what your name means or to what gender it belongs has spread to Ireland. The female of Daire is Doireann.

The Irish names Dara, Enda, Eanna, Rossa, Fiachra, Fachtna and so on are male. The names Aoife, Sorcha, Saoirse, Ailbhe are female. I have met women named Dara and Enda and heard of a man named Ailbhe. Just because A and E are considered to be feminine vowels (a, o and u are masculine in Irish) does not make the name feminine; in English the names Leslie and Lyndsay are men’s names but now more women use them and men who correctly use them are given a hard time by people. Nor are these names unisex. How you would feel if you met a man named Sinead or a woman named Conor, neither of whom was transgender? Before you say “that’s different!” no, sorry it isn’t.

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 it will be one of my strongest memories from tour guiding. As a tour guide I have been laughed at in my face in my own country by Americans from their twenties right up to their sixties over my name, because they think it’s a girls name or is “one of these new made up names”. They are guests in my country laughing at my thousands of year old Irish male name under the belief my parents mistakenly gave me a girls name like Fiona.

They are contributing to the stereotype that Americans and other British colonials are ignorant of other cultures. They think it’s a girls name because it ends with an A. Most Americans do not know what their names mean or where they come from, one of their many hangovers from British rule, and as with anyone who does not understand names should not insult someone with a name they haven’t heard before. The rest of the world isn’t like your country.

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 middle-aged ones, on tour. They were tired of being told there was something wrong with their perfectly common name in their own countries.

When I worked in the Vatican twice a week without fail a random American tourist would hear me giving a tour to a group, s/he would interrupt me and say that they had lost their tour guide. When I said “I’ve been working here five years, I probably know her, what’s your tour guide’s name?” the American would respond “I don’t know…I think she was Italian/Spanish/French/German/Irish”. Their brains would refuse to remember the name because they hadn’t heard it before; therefore the name was ‘wrong’. In fairness they would also forget it if the tour guide was named Bill or Susie, but the foreignness added to their refusal to remember the name. The other English colonials would remember their tour guide’s name.

This Anglo mentality (Spanish, Portuguese and other colonials do not have this) postulates that all men should be called Mike, Dave, John or Bill. All women must be called Susie, Diane, Sarah, Betty, Karen and Jane. This English mentality is prevalent with Australians, New Zealanders, actual English people and with many Canadians and some South Africans. The Canadians are used to the French and the South Africans have Dutch, Zulu and other cultures in their country so they know different peoples have different names. The Irish, the Indians and other former British colonies are mostly the ethnic aboriginal inhabitants, not transplanted English people, so we kept our own names across the centuries.

biblical names

The majority of tourists globally are Americans who have an English culture but do not have pure English ancestry; they are German, Italian, Polish, Irish, Norwegian, Greek etc. Their ancestors were forced to change their “ethnic” European names so as to not scare the English who set up the United States and who disliked unfamiliar names. 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 and in particular Ireland. I’ve even been insulted over my perfectly common name for a man in my own country by first generation so called Irish-Americans; their parents who were actually from Ireland wouldn’t have done that.

irish boy names

Should I ever have children of my own I will never give them a locally known Irish name. Names like Connor or Sinead are known globally; Dara and Aoife etc it doesn’t matter how common or ancient they are foreigners will insult you more often than not. The name Sorcha for instance is a perfectly common name in ireland for women; the Irish for Sarah. In Italy if you called a woman a Sorcha she would not speak to you again. Different culture, different meaning. People will make an insulting fuss over your perfectly normal Irish name and if you correct them they will argue with you or realise what they have said made themselves look silly, arrogant and uneducated. A person who has to go around correcting someone over the interpretation of their name won’t be popular.

If you happen upon this article and are considering the name or any other common but specifically 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 who live outside of Ireland. If you are a having a girl and you want to use it, it simply is not a girl’s name regardless of how many women you know with the name or what some erroneous website tells you. It’s man’s name in the Bible, Celtic Literature and even in Iran. The female of Dara is Doireann.

boy names

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