We’re approaching the end of Week B, and today we’re looking across the Irish Sea to Nana Lou’s home country of Ireland. In a way, we’re looking at the Emerald Isle as a whole, since today’s name is sometimes used as a poetic name for Ireland.
It makes sense, as according to Irish mythology, Banbha is the patron goddess of Ireland. Some traditions also hold that Banbha was the first person to set foot in Ireland before the flood.
Try to think of some names similar to Banbha who are currently popular, and you might struggle. After mulling over it, I came to the conclusion that she shares a certain similarity to Bella, who is currently (i.e. 2013) #56 in England&Wales. Consider it, and both are two-syllable B names ending with the ‘ah’ sound, of course, what you might call Bella’s ‘middle-section’ is softer sounding, which may be part of why she’s so loved.
Of course, most by now accept that the popularity of Bella can also in part be attributed to the Twilight furore. Especially if you consider my favourite fact that on the girls list, Beau outranks Bella’s sister, Belle, ranking at #178, compared to #321 – a gap that actually grew between 2012 and 2013 as Belle fell 66 places. Belle and Beau both mean beautiful in French, with Beau the masculine form of the word and Belle, the feminine; Bella, on the other hand, is Italian for beautiful.
Despite the similarities, Banbha fails to rank at all for any year since 1996.
Which is a shame, as whilst the likes of Siobhan (#1484) and Caoimhe (#639) rank, despite their pronunciation issues, Banbha is legitimately Irish and without the difficulty, but next to no usage. Although, as a side note, I have a friend named Siobhan and a mutual friend of ours still struggles with her name, despite me considering it to be a more ‘mainstream’ Irish name, i.e. one people ought be fine with the pronunciation of, like Sean. I went to Catholic school, though, so there were many Siobhans, Roisins, Sineads et al, that means not only did my school provide me with a traditional education, but also a fairly robust grounding in how to pronounced popular Irish names.
When it comes to the meaning of the name, the likeliest source of the name is the Scottish Gaelic word banbh, which means land unplowed for a year. However, there is an Old Irish word – banb – which could also figure in: the word means piglet.
To surmise, the name Banbha seems to be crying out for usage, and she could find fans in those looking for an Irish heritage pick off-the-beaten track, and this one has the added plus of links to Irish mythology.