It is of no surprise that there are over 33 million Americans that claim to have Irish heritage considering there have been almost 5 million Irish to emigrate to the US since the 1700’s. The influx in Irish immigrants in America really took off during the Great Hunger (Irish Potato Famine) between 1845-52 when over 1 million Irish died and many more fled in search of a better life.
The population of Ireland declined by 25% and to this day the population is still substantially smaller compared to what it was in the 1800’s. The Irish have completely integrated in to American society and many of the popular family names have lived on.If you or someone you know has some Irish blood and an Irish name then take a look at some of our personalized family crests to hang in your home or give as a gift on theirishstore.com.
Here are some of the most well known and common Irish surnames and a small description on their meanings:
What do Irish surnames mean?
Murphy is the most common name in Ireland and is definitely a name you will be familiar with. The origin of the name came from two different ancient Gaelic clans the O’Murchadha and the MacMurchadha and means “Sea Warrior”. The Murphy clan originally had a large stronghold in the province of Leinster with Munster now holding the largest percentage in Ireland.
The Irish surname Kelly is one of the most popular Irish names and is derived from the name “O’Ceallaigh”. It is said to mean warrior or fighter and later descriptions state it to mean “frequenting Churches” originating from the Irish word Ceall. There have been many famous celebrities with the surname Kelly including Grace Kelly and Gene Kelly.
This very well known Irish name comes from the Gaelic version of both O’Broin and O’Beirne. In the Irish language the name O’Broin means Descendent of Bran, with Bran meaning Raven. There is a book named “The book of the Byrnes ” or “Leabhar Branach” and contains many different Gaelic poems detailing the exploits of the Byrnes and O’Byrnes in the 16th Century.
There are over 30,000 Irish people living in Ireland with the surname Ryan and many more documented worldwide. The origins of this particular name are not 100% clear but it has been said that it may have been derived from the Gaelic word “Rí” meaning King. There are numerous Ryan clans documented in history and originating in parts of Leinster including Wexford and Carlow, with majority of Ryan families tracking their heritage to the Munster clans in Tipperary and Limerick.
The O’Sullivans are said to be a continuation of the Eoghanacht Chaisil sept who descended from the King of Cashel or Munster from 601-618AD and are therefore deemed to be of royal extraction. They later became known as high princes under the powerful Kingdom of Desmond who succeeded the O’Sullivans in Cashel/Munster. The O’Sullivans family motto is “An Lámh Fhoisteanach Abú” which translates as “The Steady Hand to Victory”.
The surname Doyle has quite a unique and interesting background. It is stated that it originated from the the first name “Dubhghall” which means “black-stranger”. This was a term used to differentiate the Danish Vikings from the fair-haired Norwegians who were given the name “Fionnghall”. The name is not as old as many other Irish surnames and is also linked with the MacDowell clan and thought to have similar background.
Walsh is a name brought to Ireland by the British during the Norman invasion of Ireland and translates to “Briton” or “Welshman” or even “Foreigner”. It is in the top 250 most popular surnames in American and the 4th most common in Ireland.
The O’Connor surname has been very well documented throughout history and comes from the name O’Conchobar meaning “Descendant of Conor”. The family motto reads “O Dhia gach an chabhair” which translates to “Every help from God”.
The is a very old Irish name and means “Son of Carthach” who’s name meant “loving”. There are several variants of the name and almost 60% of McCarthy’s living in Ireland at the moment live in Co.Cork where the family held a lot of power during the middle ages. Carthach was a bitter rival to the famous Brian Boru, about whom there are many stories.
These are just some of the most popular Irish surnames, there are many many more who’s history go back hundreds and thousands of years. If you have an Irish surname and want to show off your Irish heritage than take a look at some of theirishstore.com personalized framed family crests to hang in your home or to give as a gift.