“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose By any other name would smell as sweet.”

© 2005 Aislinn Adams
Lady Hillingdon rose, Rosa ‘Lady Hillingdon’

Aislinn, Aisling or Ashling – What’s in a name?

When I was young very few people had the name Aislinn- an old Irish (Gaelic) word meaning dream or vision and a genre of poetry. Most people spell the name ‘Aisling’ or ‘Ashling’ (more phonetically) and although my name is spelled Aislinn, it is pronounced Ash-ling also. This pronunciation comes from  the southern Irish province of Munster where words ending ‘inn’ are pronounced ‘ing’ in their particular dialect.

Embarrassing name

I was rather embarrassed by my name’s meaning when young. I loved the idea of it but at the same time it seemed a bit grandiose for me. To make matters worse my brothers would like to tease me about it, saying I was more like a nightmare than a dream! It was especially embarrassing in those awkward teen years when practically anything said about you could cause embarrassment.

I have a dream…

Then one day while on my first solo adventure traveling in Greece I met a Canadian fellow-traveler and, while explaining my name to him, he said “Oh! You mean as in; I have a dream?” Perfect! I thought. Why didn’t I think of that? I immediately loved that explanation and that’s how I like to interpret my name ever since. For me it means an aspiration or dream I want to realize — a vision of something I want to work towards and achieve.


My name has influenced me. I don’t agree totally with Shakespeare. Of course a rose would still smell as sweet if it had another name but I think it would have a different perfume. Names do matter. Because my name carries with it so much meaning in Irish history and culture it sparked in me, from a very young age, an enduring interest in and love for the Irish language, culture and history. It is because of this interest that I collect old Irish proverbs for my Irish sayings greeting card series.  And, it is why I love to write blogs about the human stories behind plants and to connect them to Ireland whenever I can.

It may strike you as a little thing but having had to explain how to pronounce my name (and happy to do so) most of my life, it has made me more sensitive to all names and their meaning. And now that I live in an incredibly diverse country with so many names from different countries and traditions I try my best to use the correct pronunciation of a name, not its easier anglicized version. To me it is a question of respect, a way to honor that person’s identity, history and heritage. And in the end, I believe, it makes us all the richer for it.

Aislinn Adams

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.” Shakespeare

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