History of the Name Kenneth

The Kenneth name today functions as both a surname and a popular boy’s first name. Although the origins of the name remain contested, the meaning of Kenneth as a word drawn from the Celtic language strongly suggests ancient use of the name in the British Isle.

The Kenneth name: Origins

Both Ireland and Scotland lay claim to the Kenneth name, which may derive from two Gaelic terms “coinneach” (comely) or “caoineach” (handsome). In Scotland, Kenneth remains closely associated with the MacKenzie surname.

Yet two Old Irish Gaelic terms also tie the meaning of Kenneth to Monaghan in Ireland, where it may be connected to the surnames MacKenna, McKenna, Makenna, Mikenna and Macenna. In Irish, Kenneth translates to “beloved of Aodh.” Aodh was an ancient Celtic god of fire.


People in England pronounced these Gaelic words as “Kenneth” or “Kenith.”

Variations in the Name

Pet forms of the name include Ken and Kenny.

The popularity of Kenneth today

The first name Kenneth is well known through the celebrity of Irish film star Kenneth Branagh, American documentary film maker Ken Burns, ¬†English Comedian Kenneth Williams and Scottish author Kenneth Grahame. Today, the name Kenneth reportedly ranks 136th in popularity in the United States, however¬†in England it is not in the top 100 baby boys’ names (2013). The popularity of Kenneth seems assured for many years into the future!

Useful Resources

Discover the meaning and popularity of other English boys’ names like Kenneth.