Origin & Meaning of Irish Surnames

Irish surnames reflect the history of Ireland and in particular the various waves of immigrants and invaders who came to the country over the centuries, intermarried with the Irish population or simply never went home. Over the centuries the Irish emigrated in such large numbers to every corner of the globe, that it is now a rare place that you will not find surnames which originated here.

The Origins of Ireland’s Surnames

It is easy to think that Irish surnames are all Gaelic in origin, but it’s far from the case. While the majority have Gealic roots, the various waves of settlers and conquerers that came to Ireland over the centuries brought their names with them and many surnames which are nowadays looked on as ‘typically Irish’ are not in fact Gaelic in origin. Alongside the most numerous Gaelic surnames, which are invariably the oldest found in Ireland, there are almost as many names of Norman or English origin and quite a few with less common but often fascinating histories, such as those of Viking and Huguenot origin. For information about each of these categories of names, please use the links below: Gaelic Names | Norman Names | English Names | Viking Names | Huguenot & Palatine Names

300 Most Common Irish Names

We have listed more than 300 of the most frequently found names in Ireland, with some brief information about the origins of each and their distribution in Ireland in the past and to-day. Many names have complex histories, so while we have tried to be as accurate as possible in these listings there may be errors or omissions. If you see any, please let us know!

Published: November 17, 2008 | Updated: March 31, 2017

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  • Patrick Myler says:

    My grandfather’s name was Thomas Petitt (variations Petit, Pettitt). My mother always said her ancestors were French. I have researched several generations but unable to find any French verification. Would the name be of Huguemot origin?

  • ted riley says:

    LOOKING AT THE NAME RILEY THEY LEFT IRELAND IN1855 to go to England and lived in Staffs then moved on to Warrington Cheshire. My grt,grt, was John Riley 1817to 1861.

  • Frances J. Alexson says:

    Looking for the Coughlan Family in Co.Cork who immigrated to Newfoundland, Canada in the late 1700s or 18 th century .

  • tracey says:

    I am looking for the surname Eniffer

  • Roland Young says:

    Why are there no names (YOUNG) in the Palatine’s?
    I think my #5 G/gf was Peter young found in NJ/USA
    1766. May have been ta Courtmaytrex and then in Glenosheen Co., Limerick. There were 3 family members, William/James/Charley Peter Young
    Billy Steepe in Glenosheen to me of them.
    Roland Young
    Clovis, Ca.

  • allyson says:

    hi i was wondering if you know the the origin and meaning of the name kerrigan? west of ireland most likely

  • […] those of you looking to find out information on your last names. Recommended reading includes the meaning of Irish surnames and Irish surnames of Viking origin. They also have complied a list of 300 of the most common names […]

  • James c says:

    ‘If you take a trip to Ireland anytime soon you can find out that info in no time. I was in Galway and the giftshops had all that info for like 15 euro lol. You can get that info from the Irish tourism board I think, I know I did.

  • I have letters from 1600 saying the last name Cash came from County Cork. is this true
    Thanks so much for your help
    Brenda Cash Beeton

  • ash says:

    Dear lovly jubly people can you shed any light on my surname my two grand mothers were born over Ireland my Mum,s mum. The  West Coast, on my Fathers side  Belfast,  Take Care My Babies David Any info., Tel  07511 583112

  • Anne Howley says:

    Can anyone out there shed any light on the name LARRISSEY?
    Possibly some Armada link, or urban myth?
    Thanks in advance.

  • Margaret Brett says:

    I am looking for  the surname Bohan or Bowen from Muir or Latherham. The family came to England in the  late 1840’s. Can’t find the places either, assume they were small villages which disappeared in the famine?

    • Katherine says:

      Muir and Latherham are not Irish places and I am certain they never were. They sound like places in England to me, or possibly Scotland. While many small villages disappeared during and after the famine, the place names tended not too, so would still be around if they had existed.

    • Nicola says:

      The name Bowen in Ireland is often of Welsh origin being another form of the anglicized name Owens, often used instead of MacKeown. It was also used as a form of the Norman name de Bohun from the twelfth century onwards. Bohane is another variant.

      Cant locate any existence of the place names you mentioned.

  • Robin Price says:

    Good evening,
    I am looking for the origin and area of my family name Larkin.  I have been told Galway but not sure. My family  left Ireland and went to Philadelphia but not sure when.  That side didn’t talk about it and by the time I was old enough to inquire they were all dead.

  • Colleen says:

    I am seeking the origin of the surname Hession.  I believe it to be a name from the West  of Ireland.  Thank you in advance for your help.

    • Tony Dolan says:

      Collen Your surname even though it has a German sound to it, is indeed an old Irish name from the Galway and Mayo counties and is spelled O hOision in the Irish lauguage

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