O’Connor: surname meaning, origin and popularity, explained

The O’Connor surname is a prevalent family name across Ireland and a name rich in history.

The O’Connor name is a common surname amongst Irish people.

The name dates as far back as the 10th century King, Turlough O’Connor, and his son Roderick O’Connor, the last High King of Ireland.

Read on to discover the meaning of one of the most popular Irish family names.

Meaning – O’Connors are dog lovers and heroes

O'Connor means lover of hounds.
Credit: Twitter / @gardainfo

The family history of the O’Connor name ties it back to the old Irish O’Conchobhair. O’Conchobhair, an old Gaelic Irish name, is believed to mean ‘lover of hounds’.

If you’re a member of the O’Connor family, you are likely to be a dog lover. Another meaning is ‘descendent of Connor’.

Conchobhair is also said to mean ‘hero’, or ‘champion’. Do you know any O’Connors who are heroes and love dogs?

Origins – dating back to old Irish royalty

The O'Connor surname originates from the province of Connacht in the west of Ireland.

The name O’Connor links to O’Conor and the Gaelic Irish O’Conchobhair. The earliest known recording of the name is in Connacht. The Connacht O’Connors are descendants of Conchobhair, King of Connacht.

The last two High Kings of Ireland are known to have come from the Connacht O’Connor family: Toirdhealbhach Mór Ua Conchobhair (Turlough O’Connor) in the 12th century and his son, Ruaidrí mac Tairrdelbach Ua Conchobair (Roderick O’Connor).

If you are a member of the O’Connor family, take pride in knowing that you are descended from Irish royal blood and Gaelic aristocracy. 

Popularity – is the name still commonly used today?

The O'Connor surname is still popular in Ireland today.

While the Conchobhair name was prominent in old Irish times amongst Irish royalty, it is still very much in use today. According to the Irish Genealogy Toolkit, O’Connor is the ninth most common surname in Ireland.

The O’Connor clan is scattered across Ireland, particularly in Kerry and County Cork. The family name is also prevalent in Clare, Wexford, Waterford, Limerick, Galway and Dublin.

While it is widespread across Ireland, it is most prominent in the province of Munster. How many people do you know with the O’Connor family name?

Indeed, O’Connor is one of the most stereotypical Irish surnames.

Famous people with this name – celebrity O’Connors

Sinead O'Connor is one of the most famous people with the surname O'Connor.
Credit: commons.wikimedia.org

Being the common surname that it is, it’s no great surprise that there are a significant few celebrity O’Connors dotted through the family history.

From singers and musicians to politicians and sports stars, people with this name have proven to boast many talents. Read on to discover some of their impressive accomplishments.

Sinéad O’Connor

One of the most prominent O’Connors of our time is, of course, the Irish singer Sinéad O’Connor. Born in Glenegeary, County Dublin, Sinéad is one of the biggest stars to come from the Emerald Isle.

Throughout her extensive music career, she has collaborated with some of the biggest names in the music industry, from Peter Gabriel and Wyclef Jean to Massive Attack and John Grant.

Her song ‘Nothing Compares 2 U’, written by Prince, became a worldwide hit and is still iconic today.

Ella Marija Lani Yelich-O’Connor (Lorde)

That’s right, the singer Lorde is a member of the O’Connor clan! Lorde sprung into stardom in 2012 with her song ‘Royals’ and hasn’t stopped since.

She has gone on to win two Grammy Awards and two Brit Awards. She has also received a Golden Globe nomination.

James O’Connor

The now 31-year-old James O’Connor made his international debut at the young age of 18. He currently plays rugby for Queensland Reds in Super Rugby.

There are many famous people with the surname O'Connor.
Credit: commons.wikimedia.org

Christy O’Connor Jr

Christy O’Connor Jnr was an Irish professional golfer and nephew of Christy O’Connor Snr, another prominent professional Irish golfer. He is most renowned for ensuring Europe won a trophy in the 1989 Ryder Cup.

Claudio O’Connor

Claudio O’Connor is a singer from Argentina, specialising in groove metal, thrash metal, and hard rock. He embraces his O’Connor roots so much that he even has a band called, you’ve guessed it, O’Connor.

Notable mentions

O’Connor is such a popular name that there are many more left to mention. Here are a few other people of note.

Joseph O’Connor: An Irish author known for writing Star of the Sea.

Raymond O’Connor: an American character actor with impressive filmography.

John O’Connor: John O’Connor is a Canadian politician.

Brian O’Connor: An American musician and bass player for Eagles of Death Metal.

Joseph O’Connor: An Irish revolutionary.

FAQs about the Irish surname O’Connor

There are a lot of O'Connors in Munster today.
Credit: commons.wikipedia.org

What part of Ireland do the O’Connors come from?

The O’Connors have origins in Connaught. There are six different O’Connor septs throughout Ireland. Today, they are predominantly in County Cork, Kerry, and neighbouring counties in Munster.

However, there are still many O’Connors throughout Leinster. This family name is less common in Ulster but remains popular throughout the other three provinces of Leinster, Connaught, and Munster.

How common is the last name O’Connor?

O’Connor is one of the most popular surnames in Ireland. It ranks in the top ten most common family names in the country, along with its variants Connor, Conners, Connors.

It is currently the ninth most prevalent surname in Ireland. This name has many spelling variants, all of which are derived from the Irish Gaelic Conchobhair.

What clan is O’Connor?

The O’Connor clan hails from Connacht and hails from the tenth-century king Conchobhair, whose name means ‘hero’ or ‘champion’. There are as many as six different septs of the O’Connor clan in Ireland today.

The last two High Kings of Ireland were members of the Conchobhair clan. Turlough O’Connor reigned from 1119 to 1156. His son, Roderick O’Connor, reigned from 1156 to 1186.

Find Your Dream Hotel in Ireland

On the hunt for the ultimate hotel for your Irish adventure? Explore a curated selection ranging from the charming heritage of boutique accommodations in Dublin's vibrant heart to the tranquil luxury of rural retreats and the captivating coastal vistas. Start your search below to find the perfect stay with our trusted hotel partner.

Get featured on Ireland Before You Die

Do you want to get your Irish business more online exposure? Especially to those interested in travelling the best places in Ireland? Then why not get a dedicated feature on Ireland Before You Die. Find out more here.

Related Posts


Ireland Before You Die is supported by its audience. When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more

Send this to a friend