The meaning, coat of arms, history, and facts on the Irish surname O'Sullivan.

Irish derivation:

Ó Súilleabháin.

Name meaning:

"Descendant of the hawk/dark-eyed one."

Read more: I always knew I was an O'Sullivan at heart - Discovering my ancestry

Counties associated with the name:

Cork, Clare, Galway, Kerry, Limerick, Tipperary, and Waterford.

Coat of arms motto:

The steady hand to victory.

History of the O'Sullivans:

The old Gaelic name used by the O'Sullivan family in Ireland was O Suileabhain, which is partially derived from the word "suil," which means "eye" in Irish. 

The surname O'Sullivan was first found in the territory of Cahir, in County Tipperary, established in the 13th century in South-central Ireland, in the province of Munster. The Sullivan spelling is by far the most common name in Munster and is predominantly found in the counties of Cork and Kerry, with a smaller but still significant population in County Limerick.

Interesting facts:

- The term “Manifest Destiny” was coined by a journalist named O’Sullivan, who supported the expansion of the United States into the western territories.

- The father of the skyscraper was a Sullivan who also originated the famous architectural axiom "form follows function."

- The great Chicago Fire of 1871 was started by a Sullivan.

- The first tank ever acquired by the state of Israel was a gift from an O'Sullivan.

- The first heavyweight boxing champion of the world was a Sullivan.

- The man hit by the most lightning strikes was a Sullivan.

- First American woman ever to walk in space was a Sullivan.

Read more: Five brave Sullivan brothers died on WWII ship discovered

Some famous O'Sullivan’s:

  • Maureen O'Sullivan (1911-1998, Irish born actress)
  • Denis O'Sullivan (b.1948, Irish golfer)
  • John Francis O'Sullivan (1850-1911, Irish-American awarded the medal of honor during the Indian Wars)
  • Ed Sullivan (1901-1974, American television personality)
  • Anne Sullivan (1866-1936, Teacher of Helen Keller)

Do you know any O'Sullivans? Let us know in the comments!

Read more: Irish American NASA astronaut breaking diving world record

* Originally published in 2012, updated in 2020.

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