The 10 most popular Irish last names
Read complete clan story and see photos about each family
The name comes from Welsh, which simply means Welshman, and its early Norman form was "Le Waleys." But this became gradually anglicized to Walsh.
5. O'Brien – the noblemen
O’Briens are pretty lucky – they are descended from one of the greatest and most famous Irish kings.
The name O’Brien, also spelled O'Bryan or O'Brian, translates to Ó Briain in Gaelic, which means "of Brian.”
The name indicates descendance from Brian Boru, the celebrated High King of Ireland. This gives O’Briens leave to call themselves “high” and “noble.”
Most O’Briens can be found in Counties Clare, Limerick, Tipperary and Waterford.
6. Byrne – the ravens
Byrnes can be found flying around all over Counties Wicklow and Dublin.
Byrne, originally O’Byrne, comes from the Gaelic O'Broin meaning "descended from Bran,” an 11th century King of Leinster.
The O'Byrnes were chieftains of what is now County Kildare until the Norman invasion when they were driven from their lands and migrated (ha!) into the mountains of County Wicklow.
There, together with their allies the O'Tooles, they successfully resisted Norman and English domination for centuries.
7. Ryan – the little kings
The meaning of the Irish name Ryan comes from the old Gaelic word "righ" and the old Irish diminutive of "an," which together form the meaning of "little king."
The name Ryan comes from the Irish name O' Riain - a contraction of the older Irish form O'Mulriain, which is now virtually extinct.
Ryan is also an extremely popular first name, especially in Britain and the U.S.
The Ryan family motto is 'Malo More Quam Foedari', which, when translated, means 'I would Rather Die than be Disgraced'. And they call them “little” kings…
8. O'Connor – patrons of warriors
They might not be warriors themselves, but at least O’Connors descend from them!
The O'Connor name, with its varied spellings, doesn't spring from a common source. The name arose in five areas of Ireland: Connacht, Kerry, Derry, Offaly and Clare and split into six distinct septs.
The most prominent sept is that of the Connacht O'Connors who gave us the last two High-Kings of Ireland: Turlough O'Connor (1088-1156) and Roderick O'Connor (1116-1198). They trace their heritage and name from the Irish "Ua Conchobhair," meaning from Conchobhar, a king of Connacht.
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