Vol. 69 No. 1 (2021)

Developing the Gaois Linguistic Database of Irish-language Surnames

Brian Ó Raghallaigh
Dublin City University
Michal Boleslav Měchura
Dublin City University
Aengus Ó Fionnagáin
University of Limerick
Sophie Osborne
Dublin City University

Published 2021-02-15


  • anthroponymy,
  • surnames,
  • database,
  • Irish,
  • Celtic,
  • Gaelic
  • ...More


It is now commonplace to see surnames written in the Irish language in Ireland, yet there is no online resource for checking the standard spelling and grammar of Irish-language surnames. We propose a data structure for handling Irish-language surnames which comprises bilingual (Irish–English) clusters of surname forms. We present the first open, data-driven linguistic database of common Irish-language surnames, containing 664 surname clusters, and a method for deriving Irish-language inflected forms. Unlike other Irish surname dictionaries, our aim is not to list variants or explain origins, but rather to provide standard Irish-language surname forms via the web for use in the educational, cultural, and public spheres, as well as in the library and information sciences. The database can be queried via a web application, and the dataset is available to download under an open licence. The web application uses a comprehensive list of surname forms for query expansion. We envisage the database being applied to name authority control in Irish libraries to provide for bilingual access points.


  1. Brylla, Eva. 2016. “A New Personal Names Act in Sweden?” In Proceedings of the 25th International Congress of Onomastic Sciences (Glasgow, August 25–29, 2014), edited by
  2. Carole Hough and Daria Izdebska, vol. 3, 27–33. Glasgow: University of Glasgow.
  3. Byrne, Kevin and Eoin O’Malley. 2013. “What’s in a Name? Using Surnames as Data for Party Research.” Party Politics 19, no. 6: 985–997.
  4. Central Statistics Office. 2016. “Irish Language and the Gaeltacht 2016.” Central Statistics Office Publications Website. Accessed December 15, 2020. https://www.cso.ie/en/releasesandpublications/ ep/p-cp10esil/p10esil/ilg/
  5. Central Statistics Office. 2017. “Irish Babies’ Names 2017.” Central Statistics Office Publications Website. Accessed December 15, 2020. https://www.cso.ie/en/releasesandpublications/ep/p-ibn/irishbabies names2017/bgn/
  6. Cló Iar-Chonnacht. 2020. “National Database of Irish-Language Biographies.” Ainm Website. Accessed December 15, 2020. https://www.ainm.ie/
  7. Coates, Richard. 2006. “Names.” In A History of the English Language, edited by Richard Hogg and David Denison, 312–351. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  8. de hÓir, Éamonn. 1973. “The Anglicisation of Irish Placenames.” Onoma 27: 192–204.
  9. Department of Education and Skills. 2013. “Simplified Arrangements for the Maintenance of the Register, Roll Book and Daily Attendance Book. Department Circular 0028/2013.” Department of Education and Skills Website. Accessed December 15, 2020. https://www.education.ie/en/Circulars-and-Forms/Active-Circulars/cl0028_2013.pdf
  10. Department of the Environment. 1995. A Guide for Local Authorities on the Use of Irish. Dublin: Government Publications Office.
  11. Foras na Gaeilge. 2020. “Irish National Morphology Database.” Teanglann Website. Accessed December 15, 2020. https://www.teanglann.ie/en/gram/
  12. Gaelic Athletic Association. 2020a. “Official Guide – Part 1.” Gaelic Athletic Association Website. Accessed December 15, 2020. https://www.gaa.ie/api/pdfs/image/upload/ljywtjsso59j5omsvd3b.pdf
  13. Gaelic Athletic Association. 2020b. “Official Guide – Part 2.” Gaelic Athletic Association Website. Accessed December 15, 2020. https://www.gaa.ie/api/pdfs/image/upload/vybckve2iipp56xmjhqd.pdf
  14. Government of Ireland. 1937. “Article 8 (on the Languages of the State).” In Irish Constitution. Dublin: Government Publications Office.
  15. Government of Ireland. 1958. An Caighdeán Oifigiúil. Dublin: Government Publications Office.
  16. Government of Ireland. 2003. Official Languages Act 2003, Number 32 of 2003. Dublin: Government Publications Office.
  17. Government of Ireland. 2020. “Placenames Database of Ireland.” Logainm Website. Accessed December 15, 2020. https://www.logainm.ie/en/
  18. Hanks, Patrick, Richard Coates, and Peter McClure. 2016. The Oxford Dictionary of Family Names in Britain and Ireland. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  19. Irish Language Commissioner. 2020. “Monitoring Report 2019.” Irish Language Commissioner Website. Accessed December 15, 2020. https://www.coimisineir.ie/userfiles/files/CT_Tuarascail_Faireachain_Monitoring_Report_2019_web.pdf
  20. Kimura, Maiko. 2014. “Differences in Representations of Japanese Name Authority Data among CJK Countries and the Library of Congress.” Information Processing & Management 50, no. 5: 733–751.
  21. Levenshtein, Vladimir Iosifovich. 1966. “Binary Codes Capable of Correcting Deletions, Insertions, and Reversals.” Soviet Physics Doklady 10, no. 8: 707–710.
  22. MacLysaght, Edward. 2013. The Surnames of Ireland. 6th ed. Dublin: Irish Academic Press.
  23. Mac Mathúna, Liam. 2006. “What’s in an Irish Name? A Study of the Personal Naming Systems of Irish and Irish English.” In The Celtic Englishes IV, edited by Hildegard Luise Charlotte Tristram, 64–87. Potsdam: Potsdam University Press.
  24. Měchura, Michal Boleslav. 2014. “Irish National Morphology Database: a High-Accuracy Open-Source Dataset of Irish Words.” In Proceedings of the First Celtic Language Technology Workshop (Dublin, August 23, 2014), edited by John Judge, Teresa Lynn, Monica Ward and Brian Ó Raghallaigh, 50–54. Dublin: Association for Computational Linguistics and Dublin City University.
  25. Měchura, Michal Boleslav. 2017. “Introducing Lexonomy: an Open-Source Dictionary Writing and Publishing System.” In Electronic Lexicography in the 21st Century: Lexicography from Scratch–Proceedings of the eLex 2017 Conference (Leiden, September 19–21, 2017), edited by Iztok Kosem, Carole Tiberius, Miloš Jakubíček, Jelena Kallas, Simon Krek and Vít Baisa, 662–679. Brno: Lexical Computing.
  26. Muhr, Kay and Liam Ó hAisibéil. 2021. A Dictionary of Family Names of Ireland. Oxford: Oxford
  27. University Press.
  28. National Folklore Collection. 2020. “Irish Surname Index.” Dúchas Website. Accessed December 15, 2020. https://www.duchas.ie/en/nom
  29. Nic Cóil, Róisín. 2011. “Irish Prefixes and the Alphabetization of Personal Names.” The Indexer 29, no. 2: C1–C6.
  30. Ó Corráin, Donnchadh and Fidelma Maguire. 1990. Irish Names. 2nd ed. Dublin: The Lilliput Press.
  31. Ó Cuív, Brian. 1986. Aspects of Irish Personal Names. Dublin: Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies.
  32. Ó Cuív, Éamon. 2018. “Cúrsaí Gaeilge. Dáil Éireann Debate, April 18 2018, Question 19.” The Oireachtas Website. Accessed December 15, 2020. https://www.oireachtas.ie/en/debates/question/2018-04-18/19/
  33. Ó Droighneáin, Muiris. 1966. An Sloinnteoir Gaeilge agus an tAinmneoir. 1st ed. Dublin: C. J. Fallon.
  34. Ó Droighneáin, Muiris. 2013. An Sloinnteoir Gaeilge agus an tAinmneoir. 12th ed. Dublin: Coiscéim.
  35. Ó hUiginn, Ruairí. 2008. “The Irish Language.” In A New View of the Irish Language, edited by Caoilfhionn Nic Pháidín and Seán Ó Cearnaigh, 1–10. Dublin: Cois Life.
  36. O’Rahilly, Thomas Francis. 1976. Irish Dialects Past and Present, with Chapters on Scottish and Manx. Dublin: Dublin Institute of Advanced Studies.
  37. Plassard, Marie-France. 1996. Names of Persons: National Usages for Entry in Catalogues. 4th ed. Frankfurt: K. G. Saur.
  38. Shi, Yanqing and Junzhi Jia. 2018. “Use and Presentation of Personal Name Components in Chinese Authority Files.” The Journal of Academic Librarianship 44, no. 4: 477–485.
  39. The Irish Times View. 2020. “The Irish Times View on State Bodies and the Irish Language: A Litany of Failures. August 14, 2020.” The Irish Times Website. Accessed December 15, 2020. https://www.irishtimes.com/opinion/editorial/the-irish-times-view-on-state-bodies-and-the-irish-language-a-litanyof-failures-1.4329599
  40. Woulfe, Patrick. 1923. Sloinnte Gaedheal is Gall: Irish Names and Surnames. Dublin: M. H. Gill & Son.