About Names: Dr. Evans on the name “Eileen”

NASA Commander Eileen Collins, the first woman to command a Space Shuttle mission (Photo: Public Domain)

Dr. Cleveland Evans writes about names for the Omaha World-Herald. In his December 17th column, he discusses the name “Eileen”.

Eileen’s creating thrills and chills on screen.

“Eileen,” a dark thriller based on Ottessa Moshfegh’s prize-winning 2015 novel, debuted Dec. 8. Eileen (Thomasin McKenzie) escapes from an alcoholic father by becoming involved in a revenge killing with colleague Rebecca.

Eileen and Aileen are English spellings of Eibhlín, Irish version of Norman French Aveline, brought to Ireland by 12th century Anglo-Norman invaders. Aveline’s from ancient Germanic Avi (perhaps “desired”) with affectionate suffixes -el and -in. In England it became Evelyn.

By the 17th century Ireland’s Norman aristocracy adopted Irish culture, and as Catholics were persecuted by the British. Aristocratic Eibhlín Dubh Ní Chonaill (Eileen O’Connell) (1743-1800) married Captain Art Ó Laoghaire in 1767. In 1773, a Protestant magistrate had Art murdered for refusing to sell him a horse.

Eileen wrote a lament considered one of the greatest Irish poems. In it she tells her husband “Travel that narrow road east where the bushes shall bend before you.”