Irish-language Dopers: How to pronounce "Saoirse"?

The Irish actress Saoirse Ronan is getting a bit of buzz lately for the film Hanna. How is her given name pronounced? “Sowers”? “Sorsha”? “Soyers”? Something else that I’m not even coming close to?


Roughly, “SEER-shuh”.

According to it’s

“Although in traditional Irish, the name Saoirse would be pronounced “seer-sha”, she says it as “sur-shuh”.”

Actually, from the horse’s mouth:

Of course, written versions aren’t all that helpful as they depend on the speaker’s accent…

Why don’t we ask her/him?

Paging saoirse!

Paging saoirse!


“Sur-shuh” would be the most common pronunciation I’ve heard but I’ve also heard it “Seer-sha” “Ser-sha” etc.
Here’s an interviewwith her where you can hear the presenter say her name around the 50 second mark.

In thisinterview she says it’s pronounced “Saoirse like inertia” :slight_smile: .

A woman I work with has a daughter named Saoirse and she says it a bit like Sair (rhymes with hair) sha.

Thanks, folks! I can never seem to parse how Irish Gaelic orthography translates into pronunciation, no matter how many times I get it explained…I think it’s a mental block.

Someone once claimed somewhere that it’s a simple 1:1 correlation between spelling and pronunciation. I’m doubtful (and I still remember how I tried to work out the proper way to say Dun Laoghaire before I heard someone say it).

Perhaps the flip side of this basic issue is how many ways there are of spelling “Sean” so that it gets pronounced like the Irish or Scots version.

I know a girl named Siobhan and instead of having others pronounce her name as “shuh-vawn” (or something in that ballpark) she gets all the way to “stob-hand” as efforts by well-meaning types.

And let’s not even get into Antoine!

Oh, yes…because the single name I asked about in the OP doesn’t have two different pronunciations of the grapheme “s” in it.

All the variations have to do with how the different dialects of Irish say the combinations “ao” and “aoi”. There are wide variations, linked to local accents.

It gets more complicated because a lot of the people speaking the words are not Irish speakers. They develop their own anglicised pronunciations of Irish words - so Dún Laoghaire is usually pronounced as if it were “done leery”, when it should be nearer to “dhune lair ah” (that dh sound is like th in the word the.)

Similarly, many English speakers pronounce “Port Laoise” as if it were “port leash”, when it should be nearer to “purt leesha”.

That’s a complex example because although it is spelled in Irish, it is nearly universally the English way, “Dun Leary”. The only time I ever hear it pronounced by its Irish spelling is at election times.

There are few ways to pronounce Saoirse. Sayr-sha. Seer-sha. Sore-sha. Ser-sha. Usually I just ask which way they pronounce it.

Am I the only one who just avoids talking about her and pronounces it “say-oh-eer-say” in my head?

Slightly off-topic, I once went to camp with three girls named Megan, except one was “MEE-g’n,” one was “MAY-g’n,” and one was “MEH-g’n.”

Ha! Ha ha ha ha ha ha!


(Just laughed my head off).

Um…is that better or worse than suh 'orsie? You know, like a small British child telling you that it’s their horse :wink:

It’s not the “s” on its own that’s important, it’s the “s” in combination with the vowels around it. Next to a broad vowel (a, o or u) it takes on one pronunciation and next to a slender vowel (i or e) it takes on another. It isn’t 1:1 by any means, but it certainly is a lot more regular than it appears to those unfamiliar with the rules of Irish pronunciation.

Up until recently, when I heard someone else say it more accurately, I pronounced it “Sour-shuh”. But I also think I was pronouncing “Ronan” incorrectly at the same time. Luckily it was only ever in my own head.