Origins of the Most Common Irish Surnames and First Names
Irish names and surnames are steeped in our country’s rich tradition and centuries of history. In fact, many of today’s common Irish names have origins in Gaelic, Celtic, or Norse languages. More than a sense of pride, our names give us the ability to trace our Irish roots through the generations.
If you’re of Irish descent or simply interested in learning more about Irish names and their origins, keep reading. We’ll explore the 10 most common surnames in Ireland, popular Irish girls’ and boys’ names, and their histories.
The Most Common and Popular Irish Surnames
You may recognise some of the most common last names in Ireland. For example, Murphy, Byrne, and O’Brien are a few of the oldest and most common surnames in Ireland. Some may even say Murphy is the most Irish name ever, as it’s currently the most common surname in the country.
The Top 10 Most Common Irish Surnames
Many Irish family names have both anglicised and Gaelic equivalents. Most of them also carry a deeper historical meaning. Take a look at the most common surnames in Ireland, their Gaelic equivalents, and the underlying meaning they’ve taken on over time.
|Common Surname||Gaelic Version||Meaning|
|1. Murphy||Ó Murchadha||Sea-battler|
|2. Kelly||Ó Ceallaigh||Bright-headed|
|3. Byrne||Ó Broin||Raven|
|4. Walsh||Breathnach||Welsh people|
|5. Ryan||Ó Maoilriain||King|
|6. O’Brien||Ó Briain||Noble or high|
|7. O’Connor||Ó Conchobhair||Patron of warriors|
|8. O’Sullivan||Ó Súilleabháin||Dark-eyed|
|9. O’Neill||Ó Néill||From Niall of the Nine Hostages|
|10. Martin||Mac Giolla Mháirtín||Devotee of Saint Martin|
Popular Irish Boys’ Names
Today, Irish families and people around the world are choosing traditional Irish names for their children. Many Irish baby boy names cycle in and out of popularity, while others are classics that have stood the test of time. Some typical names include Finn, Rían, and Aiden. Below we’ll cover these and other Irish boy names, as well as their meanings and origins.
The Irish name Finn stems from the Gaelic equivalent, Fintan. Fintan mac Bóchra is a character in Irish mythology who is said to have been the only person to survive the Great Flood in Ireland.
This is one of the most popular baby names in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, but it’s popular elsewhere too. This Irish name was adopted by Norsemen and is still common in Scandinavia today.
Rían is another popular Irish name with roots in the Gaelic language. The name originates from the word rí, the ancient Gaelic word for king. The royal sentiment in the name Rían is easily understood across cultures. There are cognates meaning king in Spanish (rey), French (roi), and several other languages.
Aiden is a name with roots in both the Celtic and Gaelic traditions. It’s derived from the Irish word Aodh, which means fire. In Irish mythology, Aodh or Aed is also the name of the Celtic God of the underworld and the prince of Daoine Sidhe, a group of supernatural people.
Tadhg is an timelessly popular Irish boys’ name with roots in the ancient Gaelic language. It stems from the word taidhg, which means poet or storyteller. This name is most popular in the southwest of Ireland, around County Kerry and County Cork.
The name Pádraig comes from the Latin word patricius, which means noble or of the patrician class. This old and traditional name is the Irish equivalent of the English name Patrick.
Common Irish Names for Girls
Many beautiful Irish baby girl names are popular today as well. Some traditional names you may recognise include Róisin, Saoirse, and Aisling. Read on to learn about these and several other common Irish girl names.
Another beautiful Irish girls’ name with ancient Gaelic roots is Róisin. This name stems from the word ruisín, which means little rose.
You may be more familiar with English versions of this name, including Rosheen, Rosie, Roselyn, and Rose. There are several well-known Róisins in the world, including the famous Irish musician Róisin Murphy.
Fiadh is one of the most popular girls’ names in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. This name carries various meanings in the Irish language, including deer, respect, and wildness. Funny enough, this name was only added to Ireland’s name database in 2002, but it has emerged as a favourite among Irish families since.
Aisling is another name with ancient Gaelic history. It comes from the word aislinge, which means vision or dream. The term aisling also refers to a type of Irish poetry popular throughout the 17th and 18th centuries. Anglicised versions of this name include Ashling, Aislin, and Ashlyn.
Siobhán is a common Irish name that dates back to the ancient Celtic culture. The name comes from the word sebhan, which means God is gracious. Interestingly, this name is the Irish equivalent of the modern French name Jeanne.
Saoirse is a lovely Irish girls’ name with ancient Gaelic origins. This name stems directly from the Irish word saoirse, which means liberty or freedom. You may recognise this name from the famous Irish actress Saoirse Ronan.
Get Help Identifying Your Family Tree with Irish Family History Centre
Irish surnames and first names carry a sense of place, culture, and pride. They can also provide vital information if you’re researching your family history in Ireland.
If you’re interested in tracing your Irish heritage, our experts at the Irish Family History Centre can help. We provide guidance, expertise, and key resources to help you discover your Irish roots. Contact us today to find out which common Irish names appear in your family’s story.