Popular Irish Last Names And Their Meanings

Are you looking for popular Irish last names?

The majority of people with an Irish surname are used to answering questions about their ancestors and fending off all manner of jokes and inquiries.

Aside from that, Irish descendants have every reason to be proud of their heritage, as many people are fascinated by Irish genealogy.

Indeed, Doyles, Kellys, and other prominent Irish families from around the world frequently request genealogy tours of the Emerald Isle when they visit. They want to learn about the origins of their family names and hope to run into long-lost cousins in the neighborhood pub.

Surprisingly, the prevalence of numerous Irish surnames is not the most difficult factor to overcome when tracing an Irish ancestor. Irish genealogy research frequently comes to a halt due to a lack of records.

Even the most meticulous transcriptions by Catholic monks and nuns were not always sufficient in a country plagued by famine, natural disasters, wars, and religious conflicts.

So, how does one begin the process of tracing their Irish roots? Despite its tardiness in adopting online records, Ireland is now regarded as a world leader in genealogy.

Surnames in Ireland are now divided into three groups based on their origins and ancestors: Gaelic Irish, Cambro-Norman, and Anglo-Irish.

If you’re looking for your Irish family or ancestors, start by determining the region of the country from which they came.

How do you do it? To begin, you must be able to distinguish between Ireland and Northern Ireland, both of which have provinces where you can conduct ancestry research.

Following all of the fightings, Ireland regained — for the most part — its independence from Britain.

Northern Ireland remains united with England, Scotland, and Wales, distinguishing it from (the Republic of) Ireland. Connacht, Leinster, Munster, and Ulster are the four provinces that still exist today.

Popular Irish Last Names And Their Meanings

Here’s a list of the most popular Irish last names and their meanings.

Popular Irish Names and their meanings

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Popular Irish Last Names from Connacht

Connacht is home to popular destinations such as Galway and Mayo, which boasts some of the most breathtaking scenery in Ireland.

Common Irish surnames you can find in Mayo are:

● Doyle – dark stranger
● Doherty – obstructive or dangerous
● Duffy – black or swarthy
● Gallagher – Descendent of Gallchobhar, an Irish king
● McHale – son of Haol
● Murphy – sea warrior
● O’Malley – gentle or smooth
● Walsh – describes the Welsh people who came to Ireland during the Anglo-Norman invasions

Galway, meanwhile, is the most well-known county in Connacht. is a popular tourist destination and home to a university, as well as being mentioned in the song “Galway Girl” by the Irish singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran.

Some of the Irish surnames you can find in Galway are:

● Connolly – fierce as a hound
● Connor – wolf or hound dog
● Flynn – reddish or scarlet
● Fallon – descended from a ruler
● O’Reilly – descendant of Raghailligh
● Shaughnessy – elusive

Common Irish Last Names from Ulster

Ulster is a province mostly of Northern Ireland. Donegal, one of the Royal Sites of Gaelic Ireland, is a well-known county in Ulster which is part of the Republic of Ireland. It is also known by its Irish name, Grianan Ailigh, which translates as “Stone Forts of the Sun.”

Some surnames you can find in Donegal:

● Brennan – of the droplet while Ó Branáin means of the raven
● McGill – son of the stranger
● McGinley – son of the fair haired valorous one
● O’Donnell – descended from/the son of Domhnal
● Sweeney – son of Suibhne, a Scottish lord

Popular Irish Surnames from Munster

Clare, Tipperary, Limerick, and a few other counties are located in Munster.
In the 18th and early 19th centuries, a nationalist leader is known as Daniel O’Connell, aka The Liberator, won an election in Clare, emancipating Catholics in Ireland.

Some popular surnames you can find in Clare:

● Kelly – bright-headed
● McMahon – son of Mathghamhna, Chief of a clan in Aran
● Moloney – a servant of the church
● O’Brien – strong or noble
● O’Connor – a descendant of Conchobhar

Tipperary is a county in Munster, which was divided into North and South kingdoms before the Norman invasion. It was dominated by Irish people with the surnames O’Brien and McCarthy. It wasn’t until 2014 that these north and south parts were reunified.

Popular Irish surnames found in North Tipperary:

● Burke – fortress or castle
● Carroll – hacking with a knife
● Kennedy – armored, or misshapen head
● O’Brien – high or noble
● O’Meara – a descendant of the merry one

Popular surnames found in South Tipperary:

● Dwyer – dark wise one
● Hayes – fire
● Maher – of the generous/hospitable
● McCarthy – son of Cárthach, King of Munster
● Quirke – riches

Popular Irish Last Names from Leinster

Leinster is the largest of the four provinces, with more than ten counties and the capital of Ireland, Dublin.

Leinster is also a popular tourist destination, boasting several of Ireland’s top attractions, such as Dublin City, the stone passageways, castles, and Trinity College.

Byrne is a very popular surname in the province. Byrne is derived from the Irish word “O’Broin,” which means “descended from Bran,” a king of Leinster in the 11th century.

The O’Brynes were driven from their lands during the Norman Invasion. Byrnes, or O’Brynes, are now found in the Leinster counties of Dublin and Wicklow.

What are the origins of some of these Irish surnames?

Names are derived from occupations in the majority, if not all, cases. O Cleirigh, for example, was a descendant of a clerk. The surname Mac/McGowan derives from the Gaelic phrase “Mac Gabhann,” which translates as “son of a smith.”

In some communities, the surname McGowan was retained, while in others, it was changed to Smith.

Meanwhile, the Norman Invasion resulted in the emergence of popular surnames such as Smith and Collins. Collins’ surname has been variously spelled Cullen, Cullane, and Cullinan.

If you’re looking for the most popular Irish surnames and their meanings, look no further.

Here’s more of the most common Irish surnames found around the world, which might help you learn more about your ancestors, your friends, or the ones you’ve married into!

● Boyle – Vain pledge

● Buckley – Descendent of the cow herder

● Casey – Alert, vigilant and watchful

● Cleary/Clarke – Descendent of the clerk/cleric

● Collins – Descendent of the young warrior/hound

● Daly – Of the assembly

● Donovan – Brown-black

● Dunne – Brown

● Farrell – Man of valor

● Fitzpatrick – Follower of Saint Patrick

● Foley – Plunderer

● Hogan – Of youth

● Kenny – Fire born

● Lynch – Descendent of Loingseach, a seaman

● Lyons/Lyne – Of the spear

● McCarthy – Son of Cárthach, King of Munster (Ireland’s southern province)

● McDermott – Son of Diarmait, King of Leinster, and High King of Ireland

● McGowan – Son of the blacksmith

● McLoughlin – Son of the vikings

● Moore – of greatness or grandiose while Muir means sea

● Mullan/Mullen/Mullins – Descendent of Maelan, King of Maigh Seóla (in Galway)

● Mulligan – Descendent of the bald man

● Murray – Descendent of Muireadhaigh, a seaman

● O’Keeffe – Of the noble/the gentle

● O’Leary – Descendent of Laoghaire, a calf-keeper

● O’Neill – Descendent of Niall Noigiallach, an Irish king

● O’Rourke – Descendent of Ruarc, King of Bréifne (an area including counties Leitrim and Connacht)

● O’Shea – Descendent of the majestic

● O’Sullivan – Descendent of the dark-eyed

● Quinn – Descendent of Conn, a wise chief

● Regan – Descendent of Riagáin

● Ryan – Descendent of Riain, a king

● Sheeran – Descendent of Sírín

● Whelan – Of the wolf

Are you looking for the most popular first names for your baby? Check out our popular lists of Irish names!







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