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Updated September 15, 2022

The Gaelic people have a very interesting history and it’s worth learning more about. This is especially true if you have Gaelic roots. Some of the Irish and Scottish people are Gaelic descendants as well. 

Below is a list of Gaelic surnames that are still widely used throughout Ireland. We will also talk about how some of these names came to be.

Gaelic Culture and Naming History

A big part of Gaelic last names in modern days is that they are anglicized. The Norman Invasion was the main reason for this. Many Gaelic names were changed to make them sound more English. 

This was also true for the Scottish settlers in Ireland as well. Here are some examples; O’Murchadha is the original Gaelic version for the last name Murphy, and O’Laoghaire is the original Gaelic version of O’Leary. 

Many names like O’Connor kept the “O” while other names like Kelly dropped it altogether and it remained that way. Places like Munster, Galway, and Giolla are where you will see many Gaelic names that have turned into anglicized Irish names. These surnames were also patronymic to the child’s grandfather which is why many of them translate to “descendent of.”

Popular Gaelic Surnames and Meanings 

  1. Barry - Irish for “fair-haired.”
  2. Boyle - Gaelic for “rash pledge.”
  3. Brady - Irish for “spirited” and derived from “Mac Brádaigh.”
  4. Brennan - Irish for “descendant of Braonán.”
  5. Buckley - Irish for “bleak hill.”
  6. Burke - English and Irish habitational name that means “from Burgh.”
  7. Byrne - Gaelic for “descendant of Bran.”
  8. Campbell - Scottish and Irish name that means “crooked mouth.”
  9. Carroll - Irish for “fierce in battle.”
  10. Casey - Irish for “descendant of Cathasach.”
  11. Clarke - English and Irish origin, means “clerk.”
  12. Collins - Anglo-Saxon and Scottish for “descendent of Coileáin.”
  13. Cunningham - Irish for “descendant of Cuinneagán.”
  14. Daly - Gaelic for “assembly.”
  15. Doyle - Irish for “descendant of Dubhghaill.”
  16. Duffy - Irish for “descendant of Dubthach.”
  17. Dunne - Irish for “dark” or “brown.”
  18. Farrell - Irish for “descendant of Fearghal.”
  19. Fitzgerald - Anglo-Norman French name that means “son of Gerald.”
  20. Fitzpatrick - Anglo-Norman French for “son of Patrick.”
  21. Flanagan - Irish for “red” or “ruddy.”
  22. Flynn - Irish for “descendant of Flann.”
  23. Foley - Irish for “plunderer.”
  24. Gallagher - Irish for “descendant of Gallchobha.”
  25. Hayes - Irish for “descendant of Aodh.”
  26. Hogan - Irish for “young man” or “young warrior.”
  27. Hughes - English and Welsh patronymic name that means “son of Hugh.”
  28. Kelly - Irish for “descendant of Ceallach.”
  29. Kennedy - Irish and Scottish name that means “descendant of Ceannéidigh.”
  30. Lyons - Irish for “grey” and “descendent of Laighin.”
  31. MacCarthy/McCarthy - Irish name that means “loving person.”
  32. Moore - Derived from the Irish Gaelic word “mordha” which means “noble.”
  33. Murphy - Irish for “descendant of Murchadh” and it means “sea warrior.”
  34. Murray - Scottish and Irish for “sea settlement.”
  35. Nolan - Irish Gaelic for “descendant of Nuallán.”
  36. O’Brien - Irish for “descendant of Brian or O’Briain.”
  37. O’Connell - Irish for "descendant of Conall."
  38. O’Connor - Irish for “descendent of Conchobar” or “lover of wolves.”
  39. O’Doherty - Irish and Scottish for “descendant of Dochartach.”
  40. O’Donnell - Irish for “descendant of Domhnall” or “descendant of Donal.”
  41. O’Leary - “Irish for “descendant of Laoghaire” or “keeper of the calves.”
  42. O’Niall/O’Neill - Irish for “descendent of Niall.”
  43. O’Reilly - Irish Gaelic for “descendant of Raghaillach.”
  44. O’Sullivan - Irish Gaelic for “descendant of Súileabháin.”
  45. Quinn - Irish for “descendent of Conn.”
  46. Ryan - Irish for “little king.”
  47. Sheehan - Irish for “descendant of Síodhachán.”
  48. Smith - The anglo-Saxon name for someone who works with metal.
  49. Thompson - Irish for “descendent of Thom” and derived from “Mac Tomais.”
  50. Walsh - Irish for “Welshman.”

Stefanie Miller

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Stefanie is an experienced parenting writer and has published works in other publications… Read more

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