The Irish usually have very distinctive surnames. Almost all Irish surnames are recognisable as being from the Emerald Isle as soon as you hear them. This article is a countdown of the most stereotypical Irish names that you’ll hear.
12. O’Connor (ó Conchobhair)
Irish (Derry, Connacht, Munster): Anglicized form of Gaelic Ó Conchobhair ‘descendant of Conchobhar’, a personal name which is said to have begun as Cú Chobhair, from cú ‘hound’ (genitive con) + cobhar ‘desiring’, i.e. ‘hound of desire’. Present-day bearers of the surname claim descent from a 10th-century king of Connacht of this name. In Irish legend, Conchobhar was a king of Ulster who lived at around the time of Christ and who adopted the youthful Cú Chulainn.
11. Ryan (ó Maoilriain)
Ryan is an English-language male given name of Irish origin. It comes from either the Irish surname “Ryan”, which is derived from “Ó Riain”, or from the Irish given name “Rían”, which means “little king”.
10. Byrne (ó Broin)
Usually recorded as Byrne, and sometimes as O’Byrne, this is a variant of the Irish ‘Ó’Broin’, meaning descendants of/from Branach or Bran, meaning “raven”. The Byrne or O’Byrne (Ó Broin) family originally came from Kildare claiming descent from Bran, the king of Leinster, who died in 1052.
9. Walsh (Breathnach)
Walsh is a common Irish surname, meaning “Briton” or “foreigner”, literally “Welshman”, taken to Ireland by British (Welsh, Cornish and Cumbrian) soldiers during and after the Norman invasion of Ireland.
8. Kelly (ó Ceallaigh)
Kelly is the anglicized form of Gaelic Ó Ceallaigh ‘descendant of Ceallach’, an ancient Irish personal name, originally a byname meaning ‘bright-headed’, later understood as ‘frequenting churches’.
7. O’Shea (ó Séaghdha)
O’Shea originates in County Kerry and is anglicized form of Gaelic Ó Séaghdha ‘descendant of Séaghdha’, a byname meaning ‘fine’ or ‘fortunate’.