MAR 26, 2015

Popular Irish surnames and their meaning

There are certain monikers synonymous with Ireland. Brand names like Guinness, Bushmills and Waterford are familiar tags directly descended from Irish shores. Spend time on the beautiful shores of Ireland or look to buy Irish gifts online and you’ll discover plenty of local labels that make brilliant gift ideas.  

Irish names are important. None more so than traditional family surnames, handed down by previous generations. Of course, you don’t have to live in Ireland to be blessed with a name that has Irish connections, there are countless Gaelic names around the world.

Have you ever wondered what your Irish surname means though and tried to discover the truth about its meaning?

Just for fun we thought we’d list some of the more popular Irish names here and explain a little about their background.  Check this list to see if your name is present.


Like a pint of Murphy? Or simply like being called Murphy? If so, you are lucky enough to own one of the most popular surnames in Ireland. The term Murphy means ‘Sea Battler’ and translates to MacMurchadh and O’Murchadh in Gaelic. Over the years, clans of Murphys inhabited areas such as Cork, Kerry and Wexford. The coat of arms means ‘Brave and Hospitable’ and that kind of sums a Murphy up!


Are you a ‘Bright-Headed’ one? That’s the literal meaning for the name Kelly and it’s the second most common name in Ireland. The name originates from the Gaelic version of O’Ceallaigh meaning ‘descended from Ceallach’ - a famous Irish Chieftan. 


Think you have eyes like a hawk? If your surname is O’Sullivan there’s a good chance your eyesight is razor sharp. This name means ‘The Hawkeyed Ones’ and in Ireland it’s known as O’Suilleabhin, don't be fooled by the spelling!

The O’Sullivan clan were the original lords of Cahir, County Tipperary in the 12th century before migrating to Cork and Kerry where the name remains popular today.

Do you have any of the above Irish surnames or are you from a different clan? If so, tell us what your last name means, we’d love to hear about your ancestry at Giftware Ireland. 

Created on 26th March 2015
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