Last Names & SurnamesLast Names & Surnames by Country

200+ Best Irish last names (2023)

When it comes to last names, there are a lot of different origins and meanings. In Ireland, a few different types of last names are commonly used. Irish last names, also known as surnames, have a rich history and cultural significance in Ireland. They were traditionally passed down from father to son and were used to identify individuals and families. Irish surnames often originate from a person’s occupation, physical, or personal characteristics. Here is a look at some of the most famous Irish last names and their origins.

What is An Irish Name?

There are many different roots for Irish names and, as a result, many different ways to spell them. 

  • The most common way to spell Irish names is with an “e” at the end (e.g., Murphy, O’Reilly, etc.), but there are also many names that are spelt without the “e” (e.g., Ryan, Quinn, etc.).
  • The spelling of an Irish name often depends on which part of Ireland the person is from. For example, in some parts of Ireland, the letter “c” is pronounced like an “s” sound (e.g., McCarthy would be pronounced “mack-ar-thee”), while in other parts, it is pronounced like a “k” sound (e.g., Carney would be pronounced “kar-nee”).
  • There are also many anglicized versions of Irish names (names that have been changed to make them easier to pronounce or spell for English speakers). For example, the Irish name Ó Sé has been anglicized to O’Shea, and Ní Dhomhnaill has been anglicized to Nolan. So, what is an Irish name? It can be spelt several ways and come from any part of Ireland!

10 Most Common Last Names in Ireland and Their Meanings

The following is a list of the 10 most common last names in Ireland, along with their meanings:

  1. Campbell– derived from the Irish word for “crooked mouth.”
  2. O’Brien – derived from the Gaelic word for “stone.”
  3. Nolan– derived from the Old Irish name noble
  4. Gallagher – derived from the Old Irish word for “eager” or “excited.”
  5. Fitzpatrick–derived from the Old Irish word for “son of Patrick.”
  6. McCarthy – derived from the Gaelic meaning of “son of Cathair” (an ancient personal name)
  7. Flanagan – derived from the Old Irish name meaning “Red.”
  8. Fitzgerald – derived from the Norman French name Fitz Gerald meaning “son of Gerald.”
  9. Brennan – derived from the Old Irish name Bran meaning “sorrow.”
  10. Dunne– derived from the Gaelic Badass surname meaning “dark.”

05 Most Short Irish Last Names and Their Meanings

Most Short Irish Last Names and Their Meanings

  1. Boyle: This common Irish surname is derived from the Gaelic name “O’BOYLE,” meaning “pledge.” The Boyles were families of rash or angry people, and this surname is often found along the coast of Ireland.
  2. Kelly is another old Irish surname with maritime origins. It comes from the Gaelic “O Ceallaigh,” meaning “descendant of Ceallach.” This was a popular name among early Irish kings, and many famous Kelly families can be found in County Galway.
  3. Ryan is a common Irish surname, derived from the Old Irish name “Ríoghán.” This name means “little king” or “illustrious one” and was commonly given to boys born into royal families. The Ryans are one of the most numerous families in Ireland.
  4. Brien is an old Irish clan name derived from the Gaelic “Ó Briain.” This clan descends from Brian Boru, High King of Ireland, in the late 10th century. The O’Briens were once a powerful and influential family in Ireland, and their legacy can still be seen throughout the country.
  5. Mcthy is another prominent Irish clan derived from the Gaelic “Mac Carthaigh.” This clan descends from Cormac mac Airt, who was King of

History And Why Some Irish Surnames Start with “O.”

The history of Irish names is very interesting. 

  • Many people think the last name “O’Connor” is Irish, but it is Scottish. Some Irish last names start with “O” because, in the olden days, when people were illiterate, they used symbols to represent their family name. For example, the symbol “Ó” meant “grandson of,” and “Mac” meant “son of.” So, if someone’s name was John Ó Connor, it meant that he was the grandson of Connor.
  • Many other symbols were used to represent different things. For example, “Ní” meant “daughter of,” so if someone’s name was Ní Bhriain, it meant that she was the daughter of Brian.

As you can see, the history of Irish last names is very interesting, and there are many reasons why some names start with “O.”

How to Pronounce Irish Names

If you want to learn how to pronounce Irish names, you’ve come to the right place. While there are some similarities between Irish and English names, there are also many differences. Here are some tips to help you get started.

  • Irish names are generally pronounced more closely to their original Gaelic forms than their Anglicized versions. This is partly because the Irish language uses phonetic spelling. As a result, most words are pronounced exactly as they are spelt.
  • When it comes to vowels, Irish pronunciation is fairly straightforward. All five vowel sounds in the Gaelic alphabet (a, e, I, o, u) are used in Irish names. The only exception is “y,” which is not considered a vowel in Gaelic and is usually silent. In addition, all vowel sounds are pronounced as follows:
  • a = ah (as in father)
  • e = eh (as in pet)
  • i = ee (as in machine)
  • o = oh (as in bone)
  • u = oo (as in cool)
  • y = uh (as in cute)

With these simple rules in mind, you should be able to pronounce most Irish names relatively easily. However, there are always exceptions to the rule. If you’re unsure how to pronounce a particular name, ask a native speaker or look it up online.


Ireland has a rich history and culture, and its people have unique last names that reflect this. In the past, many Irish names were anglicized by English colonial rulers, which led to the creation of many different spellings of the same surname. If you’re of Irish descent or are interested in learning more about Irish surnames, this article is for you. We’ve gathered some of the most common Irish last names and their origins and meanings. So take a look and see if your surname made a list!

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