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Why Does Everybody Misspell My Daughter's Name?

My daughter's name is Caitlin, and I have the hardest time finding anything with her name spelled the correct way. This is the traditional Irish spelling, as noted in baby-naming books. So why do I constantly see her name with a "K?" And worse Katelyn....what the heck is that? - Melissa (one "L" two "S's")

You're absolutely right that Caitlin is considered the traditional spelling of the name. Why do so many American parents spell it Katelyn? Well, let's turn the question around. Why do you pronounce it Katelyn?

Caitlin is an Irish form of Catherine. It has been an Irish-American favorite for generations, in the Anglicized spelling Kathleen.

Yes, Kathleen is just a phonetic version of Caitlin. Depending on local accents an Irishman might say KAHT-leen or koyt-HLEEN, but not KAYT-lin. That's a modern American reading of the old Irish spelling.

Confusing, eh? It just shows how hard it is to pin down authentic versions of ethnic names. Strictly speaking, the Irish Caitlin should have an accent mark (Caitlín) or even be written in Gaelic script. Things get even more confusing with names that come from a completely different writing system like Arabic. Should you write Mohammad, Mohamed, or Muhammad? There's no one correct answer.

As a parent choosing a name, you should pick the spelling that best reflects what you love about the name. If Irish heritage is important to you, Caitlin is the way to go. If you just like the bright, girlish sound -- an updating of Carolyn and Jaclyn -- then Katelyn is a reasonable choice.


Please do not add links to your comments. Thank you.

September 21, 2009 10:43 PM
By Diana (not verified)

As someone who gave her daughter the name Caitlin as a MN in the late 70's, I'd only heard/seen it twice before -- and one of those was Caitlin MacNamara Thomas, the wife of the poet Dylan Thomas. I used it deliberately as a variation for Kathleen, and for her Irish heritage. I was on the crest of the naming wave, apparently, for then it was EVERYWHERE.

September 30, 2009 2:43 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

Just to let you know, there is no 'K' in the Irish alphabet. Most things in the Irish language spelt with a 'C' is pronounced with a 'K' sound.
Im from Ireland :)

October 4, 2009 2:06 AM
By anniebear (not verified)

Phonetic doesn't mean anything either. My son I named "Skyler" because I figured that using the "er" at the end, instead of "ar" would cause less misspellings of his name. It's phonetic, I'm a teacher--it made sense. Well, just about every single person who spells his name spells it "Skylar" and gets it wrong. To me "Skylar" should be pronounced "Sky-LAaar", and "Skyler" should be the spelling that is correct for the pronunciation. People just don't get it. ;)

October 14, 2009 12:30 AM
By Cailin - HEY! NO 'T' (not verified)

Let us take it one step further into the Irish, Gaelic names. Cailin. The Irish word meaning 'girl' (though the word should have an accent on the second I). It's impossible to find anywhere. Sometimes my mom would find bracelets that said Caitlin and cut the T off. It's pronounced like Caitlin only, of course, no t. I adore my name and I'm sure it should be pronounced differently if we were in the homeland however it's never on baby name websites. I don't even know how my parents found it cuz nor is it in books. Urg, :D So when I meet new people I have to say my name 6+ times and "no T" before they get it... and then they revert to hold habits anyway.

October 29, 2009 6:59 PM
By NameLover (not verified)

My maiden name is Gallacher (since we're talking about Irish names), pronounced Galla-GER, sometimes spelled (in America) Gallaher and most popularly Gallagher.

The original name is O'Gallobchair. Figure that one out.

December 24, 2009 1:38 AM
By Anonymous (not verified)
This website says 155 ways to spell Caitlin, 154 ways to mispell it.

January 31, 2010 3:49 AM
By Meg (not verified)

I feel exactly the same way. I love the name Caitlin, but hate Katelyn.

January 7, 2012 6:34 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

My daughters name is Cailin and it aggravates me when I have to correct people who call her Caitlin even though they have known us for years! I choose this name from an Irish name book. My friend is from Ireland and she let me borrow the book. I also know another girl who is older than my daughter named Cailin. It is a very beautiful name.

December 30, 2012 2:45 AM
By Anonymous (not verified)

Caitlín???? I'm from Ireland.....Are you's all crazy,a lovely name but very popular here. Pronounced Catchleen,

May 12, 2013 10:48 AM
By Oonagh (not verified)

Caitlin - with or without a fada, and where?

I've been told there are three different ways to put the fada on Caitlin. One way is to put it over the first a; another person told me it's over the second i, and a third person told me that the most popular way to punctuate it is to not use any fadas at all.

I have to admit that I have seen Caitlin with no fadas more than any other way...much like Sean and Siobhan, although they do indeed have fadas, are more popularly spelled without any punctuation/accent marks at all.

Please help! I'm designing a personalised plaque as a surprise gift for a friend who knows it's going to be a girl and they are going to name her Caitlin, but I can't ask her whether or not there's to be a fada or not, and if there is, where??

Which is the most popular way to punctuate the name Caitlin, then?

March 17, 2015 2:43 PM
By Katelyn (not verified)

My name is Katelyn. American's pronounce it "Kate-Lynn" however my family in Ireland all say "Koht-a-lin"

April 17, 2015 1:35 PM
By Different ≠ wrong (not verified)

Okay so this is probably silly of me, but I'm getting irritated that people keep referring to any alternate spelling of Caitlin as wrong.

My name is spelled Caitlynn. It's different from Caitlin, yes, but not wrong. It's my name.

If my parents weren't choosing to adhere to the Irish roots, that doesn't mean my name is wrong. The only time my name is "wrong" is when someone else spells it wrong.

Names aren't like words. There's one correct way to spell "name" in English, but there's many different ways to spell a lot of names. Just because it's different, doesn't mean it's wrong. If you think it's wrong because it's different from how you spell it, then this is a two way street.

N² out.

July 22, 2016 2:30 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

Why are all of you so harsh on the name Katelyn? It's my name, and I love it. Caitlin shouldn't even be pronounced like Kate-Lyn. It different from Caitlin, but I don't like that name. It's rude to say it's the "wrong" way.

December 16, 2016 9:41 AM
By Kaitlynn Behrenbrinker (not verified)

Why is my name spelled Kaitlynn I think it's weird many people miss spell my name why

December 16, 2016 9:42 AM
By Kaitlynn Behrenbrinker (not verified)

Cool you almost spell it out as mine mine is Kaitlynn

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