Ryan: the Irish surname’s meaning, origin, and crest

Ryan is a common first name and surname in Ireland and throughout most English speaking countries around the world. Here is the meaning, origin, and crest of the Irish surname Ryan.

Today Ryan is a common first name and surname not just in Ireland, but across the globe. However, the name Ryan was initially most popular in the Irish counties of Limerick, Tipperary, and Carlow, but has since spread all over Ireland and the world.

According to www.forebears.ie, the Irish surname Ryan is the 1,281st most common surname in the world and is held by over 400,000 Americans.

There are recorded Irish settlers with the surname Ryan who settled in America in the 17th-century and Canada in the 18th-century making it no surprise the name has become so popular in these countries.

Pronunciation and different variations – a straightforward Irish name

The Irish surname Ryan is one of the easiest Irish names to pronounce.

Thankfully, unlike many other Irish names, Ryan is relatively easy and straightforward to pronounce.

Ryan is commonly pronounced as either “RY-UHN” or as “RY-AN” depending on your accent and where you come from.

There are different versions of the name Ryan in other countries, most notably the German name ‘Rein’. Other variations of the name Ryan include ‘Rian’, ‘Rhyne’, ‘Rayan’, and many more.

The meaning of the Irish surname Ryan.
Credit: pixabay.com / @dassel

The name Ryan’s meaning is commonly agreed to be ‘little king’, coming from the translation of ‘Rí’, which is the Irish word for King.

Other sources suggest that the name’s meaning might be ‘illustrious’ or that it might mean ‘water’ or ‘ocean’, deriving from the Irish name ‘Riain’.

No one can be certain what the meaning of the Irish surname Ryan is but ‘little king’ sounds pretty good to us.

The origin of the Irish name Ryan is  a shortened form of ‘O’Ryan’, which is an English interpretation of the Gaelic name ‘O’Riain’ meaning ‘descendant of Riain’.

Another origin of the Irish surname Ryan is a shortened version of the surname ‘Mulryan’ or ‘O’Mulryan’, which is a translation of the Gaelic name ‘Ó Maoilriain’, which means ‘descendant of the follower of Riain’.

The first-ever recorded spelling of the name Ryan is in the Medieval Records of County Tipperary where the name ‘Ó Maoilriain’ was written in the 14th-century.

The name ‘Mulryan’ has since then faded from popularity allowing for the rise of the surname ‘Ryan’.

Family crest and motto – a strong symbol

This Irish name has such an interesting motto and crest.
Credit: commons.wikimedia.org

The Ryan family crest is a red shield with three silver gryphons with their heads erased.

The motto for the Ryan family is ‘Malo Mori Quam Foedari’, which translates as ‘I would rather die than be disgraced’, which definitely rings true if you know any Ryans.

The Irish surname Ryan is popular all over the world.
Credit: Instagram / @debbyryan

Ryan is one of the most popular Irish first names and surnames that has made its way all over the world. Here are some of the most recognisable figures from popular culture with the surname Ryan.

Jack Ryan is the protagonist in the movie Jack Ryan, who is most recently played by actor John Krasinski.

Tommy Ryan is a character from the 1997 James Cameron film Titanic.

Nolan Ryan is a former American baseball player for the Texas Rangers.

Matt Ryan is a former American quarterback for the Atlanta Falcons.

Debby Ryan is a singer and former Disney Channel child actress.

Michelle Ryan is a British actress, who is most well-known for her role as Zoe Slater in the BBC soap opera EastEnders.

Bobby Ryan is an American ice hockey player, who currently plays for Ottowa Senators.

Meg Ryan is probably the most well-known person with the Irish surname Ryan. She is a very successful, golden globe nominated, American actress who has starred in movies such as You’ve Got Mail and When Harry Met Sally.

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