Top 10 Irish surnames that will never die (the most popular ones worldwide)

If you go to any country in the world, it is only a matter of time before you run into someone with an Irish name. It seems like there are just some Irish surnames that will never die.

It is a well-known fact that there are far more Irish people living outside of Ireland than there are living in Ireland.

As a result of this, the huge popularity of Irish surnames worldwide isn’t so surprising as so many millions of Irish people have put their roots down in other countries.

At the same time, having an Irish name and an Irish heritage seems to be something that people across the world are very proud of.

Americans, in particular, seem to hold their Irish surnames with pride and remember very fondly their ancestors who travelled from Ireland and gave them not only their new life in America but also their Irish heritage and surname.

Murphy is the most popular name in Ireland.

First up on our list of the most popular Irish surnames that will never die is Murphy, the most popular surname in Ireland that is also very common across the rest of the world.

Many people might not know, but the name Murphy comes from the Irish “Murchada”, which means “Sea Warrior”.

The chances are that every person in Ireland knows multiple unrelated people with the surname Murphy.

A famous American with the surname Murphy is the renowned actor and stand-up comedian Eddie Murphy.

9. Kelly – a name fit for an Irish warrior

Next up on our list of Irish surnames that will never die is Kelly.
Credit: / @ArtsyBee

Just like Murphy, Kelly is a very popular and stereotypically Irish surname that has made its way around the world.

Kelly comes from the Gaelic “O’Ceallaigh” and is believed to mean “warrior” or “fighter”.

Some famous Americans with the surname Kelly are singer R. Kelly, model Kelly Kelly, and actresses Minka Kelly and Grace Kelly.

8. Ryan – can be used as a given or surname

Ryan is a versatile Irish name.
Credit: Instagram / @debbyryan

The Irish surname Ryan comes from the Gaelic word “Rian”, and it means “little king”.

The name Ryan is commonly used as both a first name and as a surname throughout the world.

Some celebrities with the surname Ryan are American actresses Debby Ryan and Meg Ryan, and former Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan.

7. Kennedy – made famous by an American president

This list of Irish surnames that will never die includes Kennedy.
Credit: / @skeeze

Even though Kennedy is an Irish name, it is definitely most associated with America as a result of the former U.S. President John F. Kennedy.

The name Kennedy comes from the Gaelic word “Ceannéidigh”, and it means “ugly head”.

It is believed that the Irish surname descended from a nephew of Brian Boru the legendary Irish High King.

6. O’Brien – the descendent of

O'Brien is a well-known Irish surname.
Credit: Instagram / @teamcoco

Similar to Murphy, the Irish surname “O’Brien” is a result of the old Irish High Kind Brian Boru.

Brian Boru’s descendants were called the O’Briens as “O” in a Gaelic surname means “the descendant of”. The direct translation from Gaelic of the name means “hill”.

One of the most famous O’Briens is the American late-night television presenter Conan O’Brien.

There are, however, some Irish surnames in danger. Check out our article on the top 20 Irish surnames that are disappearing.

5. Walsh – an Irish name for the non-Irish

One of the most popular Irish surnames that will never die is Walsh.

The name Walsh was initially brought to Ireland by the British during the Norman invasion of Ireland.

It was originally a name the Irish would call outsiders, and the Gaelic of Walsh, which is “Breathnach”, translates into “Briton”, “Welshman”, or “Foreigner”.

A famous American with the surname Walsh is the actress Kate Walsh, who is primarily known for her role in Grey’s Anatomy.

McCarthy is a popular surname in Cork.
Credit: Instagram / @melissamccarthy

McCarthy is one of the oldest Gaelic names in Ireland.

The translation of McCarthy from its Gaelic origin is “son of Carthach”, and its meaning is “loving”. Carthach, who the name comes from, was a rival of Brian Boru.

It is believed that almost 60% of McCarthys in Ireland live in Cork. The American actress Melissa McCarthy is one of the most well-known people with this second name.

3. O’Connor – a lover of hounds

O'Connor is one of the most popular Irish surnames that will never die.
Credit: Instagram / @jamesoconnor832

The surname O’Connor comes from the Irish surname “O’Conchobar”, which directly translates into “Descendant of Conor”.

It is believed that the meaning of “Conchobar” is “lover of hounds”.

One of the most well-known O’Connors outside of Ireland is the Australian rugby player James O’Connor.

2. Byrne – the name can be traced back to the 1200s

Byrne is a popular Irish surname.

The Irish surname Byrne comes from the Gaelic “O’Broin” and “O’Beirne”, both of which mean “descendant of Bran” – and the meaning of the Gaelic for Bran is “raven”.

The name traces back to Bran, who was the King of Leinster in the 11th-century.

Australian actress Rose Byrne is one of the most well-known people with this surname.

1. Doyle – an Irish surname that will never die

Number one on our list of Irish surnames that will never die is Doyle.

The surname Doyle comes from the Gaelic “Ó’Dubhghaill” and translates into “the dark stranger” or “the black foreigner”.

The term was used to tell the difference between the dark-haired Danish Vikings from the light-haired Norwegian Vikings.

Scottish writer, Arthur Conan Doyle, is the most renowned person with this Irish surname.

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