What’s in a name? Why are girls not called Brigid any more?

The name was so common in the 19th and most of the 20th century that Brigid was often used as a generic term for Irish women in the way that Paddy or Mick was used for men

Will the first Irish Bank Holiday named after a woman do anything to revive interest in the name Brigid?

Few names have fallen so precipitously out of favour with the Irish public as the one for the Patroness of Ireland or its most common variations – Bridget, Brid/Bríd, Bridie or Breege.

The name was so common in the 19th and for most of the 20th century that Bridget was often used as a generic term for Irish women in the way that Paddy or Mick was used for men.

Hence the title of the recent published book Bad Bridget: Crime, Mayhem and the Lives of Irish Emigrant Women which followed on from the popular Bad Bridget podcast.


Though Bridget is the most common spelling of the name, the woman herself is called St Brigid. Brigid has declined in popularity so much that the Central Statistics Office (CSO) will not say how many girls were called that name with that spelling in the years 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2021 for confidentiality reasons because it was fewer than three.

The CSO has data on baby names dating back to 1964 and the number of girls named Brigid reached a peak of 293 in the following year, whien it was the 26th most popular girl’s name. In 1995 it was still a relatively popular name with 62 Brigids. Between 2018 and 2020, 11 girls were called Brigid, but there were fewer than three in 2021.

Bridget peaked in popularity in 1964 with 595 girls called that name. In that year it was the eighth most popular girl’s name. It dropped out of the top 100 most popular girls’ names only in 1998. In 2020 just 23 girls were named Bridget, and in 2021, the figure was 20, when it was ranked 228th in terms of popularity.

Unlike any other variations of the name Brigit, Breda hit its peak popularity in 1982 when 49 girls were called this, which compares with 37 girls in 1964 when such records began.

Since 1982, its popularity has steadily declined, except for 1988 when 27 babies were called Breda. In 2020 six baby girls were called Breda, but there were fewer than three in 2021.

The use of the name Brid reached a peak in 1980 when 58 girls were so named. It steadily declined until 2017 when five girls were registered with this name. There are no records of the use of the name since then without the fada.

The CSO started to record the use of the fada in Irish names in 2018, and in that year eight girls were called Bríd. There were fewer than three babies called Bríd in 2020, but six girls were so named in 2021.

Two idiosyncratic spellings of the name, Bridgid and Brighid, have gone the same way as all the other variations.

Between 1967 and 1971, 23 girls were named Bridgid. The name features once more on the list in 1980 when three girls were given this name. It has disappeared since.

The highest use of Brighid on record is in 1964 when six girls were given this name. Since 1982, there has been no year where three or more girls have been called this name.

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy is a news reporter with The Irish Times