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One woman’s impact on the world of names

Saoirse Ronan

When it comes to first names, there’s a strong case for saying that Irish-American actress Saoirse Ronan is the most influential person in the world. Since her first Oscar nomination for supporting actress in the 2007 film Atonement her movie profile has shot up. This year she’s been the face – and the star – of Lady Bird, a heavily promoted film for which she won a Golden Globe for best actress and won an Oscar nomination as an unconventional teenager on the verge of adulthood. She was also Oscar nominated for another international hit film Brooklyn as an Irish girl torn between love and family loyalty.

So what’s this got to do with names? Well, Saoirse meaning freedom and pronounced either Seer-she or Sair-sha has been on the rise just about everywhere in the past decade. It’d been a popular name in Ireland for a long time but seldom travelled beyond Irish families living abroad. Now she’s in the Irish top ten and has broken into the US top 1000 for the first time. In England she’s leapt 436 places to reach number 387 – a sure sign that Saoirse’s getting noticed.

Some Irish names have travelled well for generations such as Sean and Aisling but these are in decline in the UK along with one-time favourites Siobhan and Liam. So, is the Irish vogue over? Not so much over as shifting to Saoirse – thanks to the sweet acting skills of Lady Bird.


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