Which Irish Family Names Are The Oldest?

Out of all the stories, history, and legends surrounding them, one thing is certain of the Irish people. They are one of the oldest and most well-spread nationalities in the world. Due to the famine, war, and poverty that struck Ireland from 1845 to 1852, most of the Irish people emigrated to faraway lands. Today, there are plenty of people who are of Irish descent in Canada, Australia, the United States, and Great Britain. There are also fewer among Mexico, New Zealand, Argentina, and Brazil. It is recorded that more than a million Irish people lost their lives between this period.

So if one wants to trace back really old Irish names, then one would have to go back as early as the Gaelic people names who were believed to be the earliest settlers in Ireland. Historically, however, the oldest Irish names will be traced back to the names of the Irish people that first migrated to the United States and other nations.

According to the Irish Times, one of the oldest recorded Irish family names is Ó Cléirigh. This went with others like O’Neil (there is a whole legend about him and the Queen of England ), O’Brien, O’Sullivan, and O’Connor.

Names with Mac or Mc are still some of the earliest recorded surnames in Ireland. This was when the concepts of surnames were invented and people had to bear two names. So MacTyre meant son of wolf. Or more properly, the son of a man called wolf. Below are some of the oldest recorded Irish names. We have names of Gaelic, Norman, Welsh and Campbro Normal origin. These are just the popular out of the earliest Irish names.

  • Tobin: This name first originated from Tipperary, Kilkenny, and later in French-Norman, de St. Aubyn.
  • Tyrrell is of Gaelic origin from Westmeath.
  • Archbold: The name originated from Anglo-Norman and means brave of heart.
  • Archer: Archer was very popular during the medieval war times in Dublin, Kilkenny.
  • Ayl(e)ward is from Waterford, and of Anglo-Norman origin.
  • Baldwin is also from Waterford – German-Flemish, Baldwyn.
  • Barron: is from Waterford and Cambro-Norman origin and is derived from Fitzgerald. Today there is the English Barron.
  • Bermingham: was first from the county of Galway, and there were variations like Norman, de Bermingham.
  • Blake: We all know Ed Sheeran’s song Galway Girl. The name Blake originated from Galway and is of Welsh origin. Now it is unisex, and we have names like Blake Shelton.
  • Darcy is of Anglo-Norman origin.
  • Deane is still very popular today and was too in Dublin in the prehistoric Irish.
  • Fitzgerald: is of Cambro-Norman origin, and originated from Windsor.
  • Fleming is another very old Irish surname.
  • Griffin is of both Gaelic and Welsh origin.
  • MacAuley or MacAwley originated in both Co Fermanagh branch of MaGuire and Mac Amhlaoibh.
  • MacBrennan it means son of Brennan same for MacCasey and
  • Mac Fhlannchaidh.
  • Cosgrave people from Co Wicklow started naming their kids Cosgrave and later Wexford.
  • Ó Colghain started from Co Derry and Co Donegal.
  • Dubhchonna also progressed over time as Doheny or Downey and is of early Gaelic origin.
  • Ó Dochartaigh, Doherty, or Dougherty, was first adopted by the lords of Inishowen. It is also the name of the famous and movie star and legend, Marilyn Monroe.
  • Ó Domhnallain or later Donlan is from Galway.
  • MacDonagh – Co Cork – lords of Duhallow and Corran had its early roots in, branch of McDermott and MacCarthy.
  • Mac Donnchadha – MacDonnell as you might have rightfully guessed this name is from the Clan of MacDonald.
  • Ó Fionn the anglicized version is (O) Finn and it had its roots in Co Sligo, Co Galway, and chiefs of Calry.
  • Ó Fionnagáin is now popularly known as Finnegan and has its roots in Galway as well.
  • Mac Conghamhma is now anglicized ad Gaffney or Caulfield and originated from both Galway and Fiachrach Aidhne.
  • Ó Gallchobhair is now (O) Gallagher and has its roots in Co Donegal and Cenel, Conaill.
  • Mac Giolla Riabhaigh is now Gallery (not your phone gallery), MacAreavy of Gray
  • The name we know as Gavin was originally Ó Gealbháin from Co Clare.
  • Ó Mainnín: now anglicized as Mannion or Manning is from Galway county and of Pictish origin.
  • Mac Maghnais or now MacManus is from Maghnais, son of Turlough O’Connor.

Most of the so-called English surnames in the united states today were of Irish origin, but now have eventually come to be regarded as English names. Unfortunately, most of the original spellings and pronunciation have been lost over time.


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