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Maps featuring the names and their origins in Ireland

The ten most popular family names in Ireland

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Maps featuring the names and their origins in Ireland

Read more: Most popular Irish baby names in America

Read more: Top 100 Irish last names explained

The Irish have a habit of travelling all over the world which  mean names like O'Reilly, Malone, Doyle and Hughes are common all across but from the 3,500 Irish surnames what are the most popular. Did your name make the cut? And what is the history behind the names?

Here are our top ten Irish surnames explained:

1.  Murphy

Murphy is the most popular name in Ireland by far especially in County Cork.

This surname, which means “sea battler,” translates to Gaelic as MacMurchadh (son of Murchadh) and O'Murchadh (descendent of Murchadh), a derivation of the first name of Murchadh or Murragh.

O'Murchadh families lived in Wexford, Roscommon and Cork while the MacMurchadhs of Sligo and Tyrone area responsible for most of the Murphys in Ulster.

The name was first anglicized to MacMurphy and then to Murphy in the early 19th century.

Read more: The Murphy Clan

2. O'Connor

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.

Read more: The O'Connor Clan

3. Kelly

The Kellys are all over Ireland; the name originates from at around ten different and unrelated ancient clans or septs. These include O'Kelly septs from Meath, Derry, Antrim, Laois, Sligo, Wicklow, Kilkenny, Tipperary, Galway and Roscommon.

O'Kelly comes from the Gaelic O Ceallaigh, meaning "descended from Ceallach," an Irish chieftain.

“Ceallach” means war or contention. It is an ancient first name that is no longer used as a first name in Ireland. However, Kelly is a popular first name for women in the U.S.

Read more: The Kelly Clan

4. O'Brien

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.

Read more: The O'Brien Clan

5. Ryan

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'.

Read more: The Ryan Clan

6. Walsh

The meaning of this “Welsh” name is pretty straightforward.

The name Walsh is one of the most common of the Norman associated names found in Ireland. It seems to have been the name used by the many different groups of Welsh people who arrived in Ireland with the Normans during the 12th century.

The name comes from Welsh, which simply means Welshman, and its early Norman form was "Le Waleys." But this became gradually anglicized to Walsh.

Read more: The Walsh Clan

7. Byrne

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.

Read more: The Byrne Clan 

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