Irish ancestry stretches to the far reaches of the globe. So it comes as no surprise that no matter where you go, you tend to run into classic Irish names. Here are the top 100 Irish surnames you’re bound to experience at least once in your life!
Irish surnames stand out like a sore thumb. Unique and like no other, a mere uttering of an Irish family name and you’re sure to know they hail from the Emerald Isle.
Located off the western shores of Great Britain, the small island nation packs quite a punch when it comes to its heritage. Rich in history and proud in its Celtic roots, the Irish identity is worn like a badge of honour.
Irish family names can tell stories, too. They can reveal locations or even a family’s trade, such as a fisherman, for example.
Irish surnames today
Today, there are many different variations of Irish surnames, but most commonly, they can be divided into three categories. These include Gaelic Irish, Cambro-Norman, and Anglo-Irish last names.
For those of you wondering which Irish family names are most-popular today, your wait is finally over!
Top 100 Irish surnames
Gaelic Equivalent: ó Murchadha
According to the Central Statistics Office, Murphy is consistently the most prominent surname across Ireland.
Murphy is one of the most common Irish family names and examples of famous Murphys include actors Cillian Murphy, Eddie Murphy, and Brittany Murphy.
Gaelic Equivalent: ó Ceallaigh
Famous Kellys include actor and director Gene Kelly, 20th-century artist Ellsworth Kelly, and actress and Princess of Monaco Grace Kelly.
Gaelic Equivalent: ó Súilleabháin
Famous O’Sullivans include actress Maureen O’Sullivan, actor Richard O’Sullivan, and singer Gilbert O’Sullivan.
Gaelic Equivalent: Breathnach
The Central Statistics Office regularly records Walsh as one of the most common surnames in Ireland.
Irish TV personality Louis Walsh, singer and Girls Aloud member Kimberley Walsh, and American actress Kate Walsh are three famous people with the surname Walsh.
Gaelic Equivalent: Mac Gabhann
Meaning: son of the smith
Smith is one of the most common surnames across the world with well known Smiths such as actor Will Smith, actress Maggie Smith, and singer-songwriter Patti Smith all having the popular Irish surname.
Gaelic Equivalent: ó Briain
Meaning: high, noble
O’Brien has been a prominent surname in Ireland for centuries. It is commonly found in County Tipperary and neighbouring counties.
Famous people with the surname O’Brien include comedian Conan O’Brien, actor Dylan O’Brien, and guitarist Pat O’Brien.
Gaelic Equivalent: ó Broin
Meaning: a raven
By the mid-19th-century, Byrne was one of the most common Irish family names in Wicklow, recorded 1203 times.
Famous owners of the Irish last name Byrne include actress Rose Byrne, actor Gabriel Byrne, and singer and Westlife member Nicky Byrne.
Gaelic Equivalent: ó Maoilriain
Ryan is a popular surname in County Tipperary.
Ryan is another popular Irish family name across the world. Famous owners of the name include actresses Debby Ryan and Meg Ryan, and comedian Katherine Ryan.
Gaelic Equivalent: ó Conchobhair
Meaning: patron of warriors
By the mid-19th century, Connor was the most common variant of this name. 5,377 families had this name and they were mainly based in County Cork, Kerry, and neighbouring counties.
Famous O’Connors include singer Sinéad O’Connor, novelist Flannery O’Connor, and retired United States Associate Justice of the Supreme Court Sandra Day O’Connor.
Gaelic Equivalent: ó Néill
Meaning: from Niall of
O’Neill is perhaps one of the most famous Gaelic surnames worldwide.
Famous O’Neills include Eugene O’Neill, who was the only American playwright to ever receive the Nobel Prize for Literature.
Gaelic Equivalent: ó Raghallaigh
Meaning: the nine hostages
American journalist, author, and former television host Bill O’Reilly is one of the most famous people with the surname O’Reilly.
Gaelic Equivalent: ó Dubhghaill
Meaning: dark foreigner
Doyle is one of the most common surnames in County Mayo.
Famous Doyles include writer and creator of Sherlock Holmes Arthur Conan Doyle, and novelist and screenwriter Roddy Doyle.
Gaelic Equivalent: Mac Carthaigh
Meaning: loving person
McCarthy is one of the most popular surnames in County Cork.
Famous McCarthys include Pulitzer Prize-winning American novelist Cormac McCarthy and actress Melissa McCarthy.
Gaelic Equivalent: ó Gallchobhair
Meaning: lover of foreigners
Gallagher is one of the most common hereditary surnames in County Mayo.
Two of the most famous Gallaghers are brothers and bandmates of Oasis fame, Liam and Noel Gallagher.
Gaelic Equivalent: ó Dochartaigh
One of the most famous O’Dohertys is Irish stand-up comedian David O’Doherty.
Gaelic Equivalent: ó Cinnéide
Meaning: helmet headed
Famous Kennedys include 35th president of the United States John F. Kennedy and his family.
Gaelic Equivalent: ó Loinsigh
Meaning: seafarer, exile
Famous people with the surname Lynch are actresses Jane Lynch and Evanna Lynch, as well as actor Ross Lynch.
Gaelic Equivalent: ó Muireadhaigh
Meaning: lord, master
Famous Murrays include tennis player Andy Murray and actor Bill Murray.
Gaelic Equivalent: ó Cuinn
Meaning: wisdom, chief
One of the most famous people with the surname Quinn is actor Aidan Quinn.
Gaelic Equivalent: ó Mordha
Moore is another of the most popular Irish names. Famous examples include actresses Demi Moore, Julianne Moore, and Mandy Moore.
Gaelic Equivalent: Mac Lochlainn
One of the most famous McLoughlins is author and television presenter Coleen Rooney (née McLoughlin).
Gaelic Equivalent: ó Cearbhaill
Meaning: valorous in battle
Famous O’Carrolls include British archaeological illustrator, painter, and sculptor John Patrick O’Carroll.
Gaelic Equivalent: ó Conghaile
Meaning: fierce as a hound
Famous people with the surname Connolly include comedian Billy Connolly and musician Brian Connolly.
Gaelic Equivalent: ó Dálaigh
Meaning: assembles frequently
Famous Dalys include American actress Tyne Daly, television host Carson Daly, and actress and TV personality Tess Daly.
Gaelic Equivalent: ó Conaill
Meaning: strong as a wolf
One of the most famous O’Connells is singer-songwriter Billie Eilish who was born Billie Eilish Pirate Baird O’Connell.
Gaelic Equivalent: Mac Liam
Meaning: son of William
One of the most famous Wilsons is actor Owen Wilson, as well as 28th president of the United States Woodrow Wilson.
Gaelic Equivalent: ó Duinn
One of the most notable people with the surname Dunne is Irish entrepreneur and former director of Dunnes Stores Ben Dunne.
Gaelic Equivalent: ó Braonáin
Famous Brennans include conedian Neal Brennan and actor Walter Brennan.
Gaelic Equivalent: de Búrca
Meaning: from Richard de Burgh
One of the most famous people with the surname Burke is American actor Robert Burke.
Gaelic Equivalent: ó Coileáin
Meaning: young warrior
Irish revolutionary Michael Collins is one of the most famous Irish people with this surname.
Meaning: crooked mouth
One of the most famous people with the name Campbell is model and actress Naomi Campbell.
Gaelic Equivalent: ó Cléirigh
Famous Clarkes include actresses Emilia Clarke and Melinda ‘Mindy’ Clarke.
Gaelic Equivalent: Mac Seáin
Meaning: son of John
One of the most famous Johnstons is American actress Kristen Johnston.
Gaelic Equivalent: ó hAodha
Notable Hughes’ include American business magnate Howard Hughes, and poet and activist Langston Hughes.
Gaelic Equivalent: ó Fearghail
Meaning: man of valour
The most famous O’Farrell is actress Bernadette O’Farrell.
Gaelic Equivalent: Mac Gearailt
Meaning: spear rule
Famous Fitzgeralds include singer Ella Fitzgerald and writer F. Scott Fizgerald.
Gaelic Equivalent: Mac an Bhreithiún
Meaning: son of the brehon (judge)
Brown is another common Irish surname. Famous people with this surname include singers James Brown and Chris Brown.
Gaelic Equivalent: Mac Giolla Mháirtín
Meaning: devotee of Saint Martin
Famous Martins include musician Chris Martin of Coldplay, and actors Steve Martin and Dean Martin.
Gaelic Equivalent: Mag Uidhir
According to Irish history, the Maguires held Fermanagh from the 13th to the 17th centuries.
One of the most famous people with the surname Maguire is actor Tobey Maguire.
Gaelic Equivalent ó Nualláin
One of the most famous Nolans is film director Christopher Nolan.
Gaelic Equivalent ó Floinn
Meaning: bright red
Famous Flynns include actors Errol Flynn and Brandon Flynn.
Gaelic Equivalent: Mac Tomáis
Meaning: son of Thom
One of the most famous Thompsons is actress Emma Thompson.
Gaelic Equivalent: ó Ceallacháin
Meaning: bright headed
Miriam O’Callaghan, RTÉ television and radio broadcaster, is one of the most well-known O’Callaghans.
Gaelic Equivalent: ó Domhnaill
In Ireland, singer Daniel O’Donnell is one of the most famous people with this surname.
Gaelic Equivalent: ó Dufaigh
Meaning: dark, black
One of the most famous Duffys is rock musician Billy Duffy.
Gaelic Equivalent: ó Mathúna
Count Daniel O’Mahony was a general in the Irish Brigade and is one of the most famous people with the surname O’Mahoney.
Gaelic Equivalent: ó Baoill
Meaning: vain pledge
Comedian Frankie Boyle, as well as musician Susan Boyle, are two of the most well known Boyles.
Gaelic Equivalent: ó hÉalaighthe
Meaning: artistic, scientific
Famous Healys include musicians Matt Healey and Una Healey.
Gaelic Equivalent: ó Séaghdha
Meaning: of fair complexion
Notable O’Sheas include actor Milo O’Shea and singer-songwriter Mark O’Shea.
Gaelic Equivalent: Mac Giolla Bháin
Meaning: of fair complexion
Actress Betty White is one of the most famous people with this surname.
Gaelic Equivalent: Mac Suibhne
English actress, singer, and television personality Claire Sweeney is the most famous person with the surname Sweeney.
Gaelic Equivalent: ó hAodha
The most famous people with the surname Hayes were Rutherford B. Hayes, the 19th president of the United States, and retired basketball player Elvin Hayes.
Gaelic Equivalent: Caomhánach
Meaning: comely, mild
Irish poet Patrick Kavanagh is one of the most famous people by the surname Kavanagh.
Gaelic Equivalent: de Paor
Meaning: the poor man
The most famous person with the surname Power is American film, stage, and radio actor Tyrone Power.
Gaelic Equivalent: Mac Craith
Meaning: son of grace
Irish actress Katie McGrath is one of the most famous McGraths.
Gaelic Equivalent: ó Móráin
English journalist, author, and broadcaster Caitlin Moran is one of the most famous people called Moran.
Gaelic Equivalent: Mac Brádaigh
American football quarterback Tom Brady is the most famous person with the name Brady.
Gaelic Equivalent: Stiobhard
Meaning: one who superintends
Stewart is a very popular Irish surname. Examples of famous Stewarts include actress Kristen Stewart, actor Patrick Stewart, and musician Rod Stewart, among many others.
Gaelic Equivalent: ó Cathasaigh
Meaning: vigilant in war, watchful
The most well-known person by the name Casey is American journalist and former news anchor Whitney Casey.
Gaelic Equivalent: ó Foghladh
Meaning: a plunderer
Actor, director, and screenwriter Scott Foley is the most famous person by the name Foley.
Gaelic Equivalent: Mac Giolla Phádraig
Meaning: devotee of Saint Patrick
Ryan Fitzpatrick, NFL quarterback, was named the fifth ‘smartest athlete in sports’ by Sporting News in 2010.
Gaelic Equivalent: ó Laoghaire
Television host Dermot O’Leary is one of the most famous bearers of the name.
Gaelic Equivalent: Mac Domhnaill
Musician and YouTube personality Charlie McDonnell is one of the most well-known McDonnells.
Gaelic Equivalent: Mac Mathúna
Australian model and actor Julian MacMahon is one of the most famous MacMahons.
Gaelic Equivalent: ó Donnghaile
Meaning: brown valour
Actress Meg Donnelly and Declan Donnelly, one half of the comedy duo Ant and Dec, are two famous bearers of the name Donnelly.
Gaelic Equivalent: ó Riagáin
Meaning: little king
Famous Regans include actress Bridget Regan and talk-show host Trish Regan.
Gaelic Equivalent: ó Donnabháin
Meaning: brown, black
Australian actor Jason Donovan is one of the most famous people with the surname Donovan.
Meaning: from Scottish Burness
Scottish poet and lyricist Robbie Burns is one of the most well-known people called Burns.
Gaelic Equivalent: ó Flannagáin
Meaning: red, ruddy
Notable Flanagans include actor Tommy Flanagan and actress Crista Flanagan.
Gaelic Equivalent: ó Maoláin
American soccer player Brian Mullan is one of the most famous people with the surname Mullan.
Gaelic Equivalent: de Barra
Meaning: Cambro-Norman name
John Barry, who composed the scores for 11 James Bond films is one of the most famous people with the name Barry.
Gaelic Equivalent: ó Catháin
Actress Chelsea Kane is one of the most well-known Kanes.
Meaning: son of Robert
Mary Robinson, the former president of Ireland, is one of the most well-known Irish Robinsons.
Meaning: Scottish name
Notable Cunninghams include American professional basketball player Dante Cunningham and football quarterback Randall Cunningham.
Gaelic Equivalent: ó Gríofa
Meaning: Welsh: Gruffudd
Basketball player Blake Griffin and comedian Kathy Griffin are two of the most well-known people with the surname Griffin.
Gaelic Equivalent: ó Cionaoith
Meaning: fire sprung
British actress and screenwriter Emer Kenny is one of the most well-known Kennys.
Gaelic Equivalent: O’Siodhachain
Famous Sheehans include bass guitarist Billy Sheehan and American writer Susan Sheehan.
Gaelic Equivalent: Mac an Bhaird
Meaning: son of the bard
X-Factor winner Shane Ward is one of the most well-known Wards.
Gaelic Equivalent: ó Faoláin
Leo Whelan was an acclaimed Irish portrait painter.
Gaelic Equivalent: ó Laighin
Notable Lyons include Australian politician Joseph Lyons and actor David Lyons.
Meaning: red haired / ruddy complexion
Famous Reids include actress Tara Reid, TV presenter Susanna Reid, and retired American attorney Harry Reid.
Meaning: grey home
Actress Lauren Graham is one of the most famous Grahams.
Gaelic Equivalent: ó hUiginn
Northern Irish football player Alex Higgins is one of the most well-known people with this surname.
Gaelic Equivalent: ó Cuilinn
The name Cullen is best known from the fictional family of the Twilight book and film series.
Gaelic Equivalent: Mac Catháin
Actresses Kerrie Keane and Dolores Keane, as well as football manager Roy Keane, are three of the most famous Keanes.
Gaelic Equivalent: ó Cionga
American blues guitarist B. B. King is one of the most famous people with this surname.
Gaelic Equivalent: Meagher
Meaning: fine, majestic
American comedian, political commentator, and television host William Maher is one of the most well-known Mahers.
Gaelic Equivalent: Mac Cionaoith
T. P. McKenna was an Irish actor from County Cavan and is one of the most well-known of this name.
Gaelic Equivalent: Mac Giolla Mhaoil
Actress Kristen Bell is one of the most famous people with this name.
Meaning: a Scottish gael
Scott is a very popular surname. The most famous being Sir Walter Scott, the Scottish patriot, writer, and poet.
Gaelic Equivalent: ó hÓgáin
American TV star Brooke Hogan and professional wrestler Hulk Hogan are two of the most well known Hogans.
Gaelic Equivalent: ó Caoimh
Actor Miles O’Keeffe is one of the most famous people with this surname.
Gaelic Equivalent: Mag Aoidh
British politician, writer, and broadcaster Bryan Magee is one of the most well-known Magees.
Gaelic Equivalent: Mac Conmara
Meaning: hound of the sea
Actress Katherine MacNamara is the most famous person with the surname MacNamara.
Gaelic Equivalent: Mac Dónaill
One of the most famous people with the surname MacDonald is singer-songwriter Amy MacDonald.
Gaelic Equivalent: Mac Diarmada
Meaning: free from jealousy
Famous McDermotts include actors Dylan McDermott and Charlie McDermott.
Gaelic Equivalent: ó Maolomhnaigh
Meaning: servant of the Church
Gaelic Equivalent: ó Ruairc
Famous O’Rourkes are child actresses and sisters Tammy and Heather O’Rourke.
Gaelic Equivalent: ó Buachalla
Meaning: cow herd
One of the most famous Buckeys is singer-songwriter Jeff Buckley.
Gaelic Equivalent: ó Dubhuir
O’Dwyer is a popular Irish name in Australia with cricketer Edmund Thomas O’Dwyer and National Rugby League player Luke O’Dwyer both having the name.
Irish surnames in a nutshell
The Irish people are native to the island country. Sharing in everyday culture and identity, as well as ancestry, human presence on the Emerald Isle dates back some 12,500 years, according to archaeological studies.
Over the centuries, Ireland has seen much change, with invasion by the Anglo-Normans in the 12th century, followed by British colonisation in the 16th/17th century – moments which significantly shaped our history. And, more so, dynamised the tapestry of Irish DNA, bringing greater numbers of English and lowland-Scot inhabitants to Ireland.
Today, the island is made up of the Republic of Ireland (an independent country) and Northern Ireland (a part of the United Kingdom). Those who live in the north of the country may hold various national identities, including Irish, Northern Irish, and British.
Ireland and its culture are known world-over. From its love for traditional art forms, including Irish dancing and trad music, its affinity for a creamy pint of Guinness, or its endless stream of iconic artists, including Oscar Wilde and Bram Stoker, Ireland is a small country with a big personality.
Whereas once the Irish people mainly spoke Irish (Gaelic/Gaeilge) – the indigenous language – English is now the primary language. However, Ireland considers itself a dual speaking country, so visitors can expect to see both English and Irish on public service signs and announcements.
Irish surnames; roots and genealogy
In its conception, Ireland was made up of kin groups or clans. Additionally, Ireland had its own religion, law code, alphabet, and even a style of dress.
Today some 6.7 million people live on the Emerald Isle. However, a whopping 50 to 80 million people around the globe are thought to share in Irish ancestry.
The mass exodus from Ireland has been a result of famine, war, and conflict throughout Ireland’s history. And, those of Irish descent can be found mainly in English-speaking countries, including Great Britain, the United States, Canada, and Australia.
Argentina, Mexico, and New Zealand also share in high numbers of Irish descendants. The largest number of Irish descendants reside in the United States, while in Australia, those sharing in Irish ancestry account for a higher percentage of the population than in any other country, except Ireland.
Widespread and woven into many different cultures around the globe, Irish surnames are ever-present today.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Irish surnames
What does “O” mean in Irish surnames?
The “O” or “Ó” preceding a second name means “the grandson of” or “descendant of” and is a common feat in Irish surnames.
What does “Mac” mean in Irish surnames?
The “Mac” prefix translates to “the son of” and is commonly seen in Irish surnames, as well as Scottish.
What are some Irish last names?
Irish last names you may recognise from around the world are Murphy (Ó Murchadha in Gaelic) and Walsh (Breathnach in Gaelic). Others you may not be as familiar with outside of Ireland are Whelan (ó Faoláin in Gaelic) and O’Keeffe (ó Caoimh in Gaelic).
Follow the links below to find out more about Irish last names.
What is the oldest Irish surname?
The oldest known Irish surname is O’Clery (O Cleirigh in Gaelic). It was written in the year 916 A.D. that the lord of Aidhne, Tigherneach Ua Cleirigh, died in County Galway. It is thought that this Irish last name might, in fact, be the oldest surname in Europe!
What are the most common Irish surnames?
Some of the most common Irish last names are Murphy (Ó Murchadha in Gaelic), Kelly (Ó Ceallaigh in Gaelic), O’Sullivan (Ó Súilleabháin in Gaelic), and Walsh (Breathnach in Gaelic).
Why was the O dropped from Irish names?
It was common in the 1600s for the Irish prefixes O and Mac to be dropped from Irish names. As English rule in Ireland intensified at this time, it became increasingly difficult to find work if you had an Irish sounding name.
When were surnames adopted in Ireland?
Evidence of last names in Ireland appears from around the early 900s, making it one of the first places in Europe to adopt hereditary surnames.
What is the most popular last name in Ireland?
According to reports from the Central Statistics Office, Murphy is the most popular last name in Ireland.
What does the Fitz mean in Irish names?
Fitz means ‘son of’ and it would often come before the father’s forename.
Where can I learn more about Irish names?
Should you be keen to learn more about Irish names, check out some of these articles:
Things you didn’t know about Irish family names…
Read about Irish first names
Things you didn’t know about Irish First Names…
How Irish are you?
Trace your family and Irish surnames today
For those of you keen to dig a little deeper into your roots, we suggest you check out ancestry.com!
Full list of Irish surnames
|5||Smith||Mac Gabhann||son of the smith|
|6||O’Brien||ó Briain||high, noble|
|7||Byrne||ó Broin||a raven|
|9||O’Connor||ó Conchobhair||patron of warriors|
|10||O’Neill||ó Néill|| from Niall of|
the Nine Hostages
|12||Doyle||ó Dubhghaill||dark foreigner|
|13||McCarthy||Mac Carthaigh||loving person|
|14||Gallagher||ó Gallchobhair||lover of foreigners|
|16||Kennedy||ó Cinnéide||helmet headed|
|17||Lynch||ó Loinsigh||seafarer, exile|
|18||Murray||ó Muireadhaigh||lord, master|
|19||Quinn||ó Cuinn||wisdom, chief|
|22||O’Carroll||ó Cearbhaill||valorous in battle|
|23||Connolly||ó Conghaile||fierce as a hound|
|24||Daly||ó Dálaigh||assembles frequently|
|25||O’Connell||ó Conaill||strong as a wolf|
|26||Wilson||Mac Liam||son of William|
|29||Burke||de Búrca||from Richard de Burgh|
|30||Collins||ó Coileáin||young warrior|
|33||Johnston||Mac Seáin||son of John|
|35||O’Farrell||ó Fearghail||man of valour|
|36||Fitzgerald||Mac Gearailt||spear rule|
|37||Brown||Mac an Bhreithiún||son of the brehon (judge)|
|38||Martin||Mac Giolla Mháirtín||devotee of Saint Martin|
|41||Flynn||ó Floinn||bright red|
|42||Thompson||Mac Tomáis||son of Thom|
|43||O’Callaghan||ó Ceallacháin||bright headed|
|45||Duffy||ó Dufaigh||dark, black|
|47||Boyle||ó Baoill||vain pledge|
|48||Healy||ó hÉalaighthe||artistic, scientific|
|49||O’Shea||ó Séaghdha||fine, stately|
|50||White||Mac Giolla Bháin||of fair complexion|
|54||Power||de Paor||the poor man|
|55||McGrath||Mac Craith||son of grace|
|58||Stewart||Stiobhard||one who superintends|
|59||Casey||ó Cathasaigh||vigilant in war, watchful|
|60||Foley||ó Foghladh||a plunderer|
|61||Fitzpatrick||Mac Giolla Phádraig||devotee of Saint Patrick|
|65||Donnelly||ó Donnghaile||brown valour|
|66||Regan||ó Riagáin||little king|
|67||Donovan||ó Donnabháin||brown, black|
|68||Burns||from Scottish Burness|
|69||Flanagan||ó Flannagáin||red, ruddy|
|71||Barry||de Barra||Cambro-Norman name|
|73||Robinson||son of Robert|
|75||Griffin||ó Gríofa||Welsh: Gruffudd|
|76||Kenny||ó Cionaoith||fire sprung|
|78||Ward||Mac an Bhaird||son of the bard|
|81||Reid|| red haired,|
|89||Bell||Mac Giolla Mhaoil|
|90||Scott||a Scottish gael|
|94||MacNamara||Mac Conmara||hound of the sea|
|96||MacDermott||Mac Diarmada||free from jealousy|
|97||Molony||ó Maolomhnaigh||servant of the Church|
|99||Buckley||ó Buachalla||cow herd|