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100 Powerful Celtic Surnames

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Bring all the fun Celtic last names to light while understanding where they originated and why.

Much of the culture of the Emerald Isle (and the United Kingdom as a whole) is influenced by Celtic last names. How best can you distinguish between the many forms of Celtic surnames in existence?

Here you’ll learn much about Celtic last names, from those beginning with “O” and “Mc” to less common Viking-influenced names. Get ready for all the famous namesakes, pronunciations, and variations that make Celtic last names rock!


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100 Popular Celtic Surnames

These Celtic last names are loaded with magic rooted in bountiful history that continues to fascinate.

Ahearn

Ahearn comes from the Irish “Ó’Eachthigheirn,” meaning “descendent of Eachthighearna.” It’s made of the Celtic “each,” meaning “steed,” and “thighearna,” meaning “lord.”

  • Origin: Celtic, Irish
  • Meaning: Horse lord
  • Pronunciation: Ah-HHERN
  • Variations: Ahearne
  • Namesakes: Theresa Ahearn, an Irish Teachta Dála representative from 1989 to 2000. Joe Ahearne, an Irish TV writer best known for Doctor Who.
  • Popularity: Ahearn is rare worldwide and mostly used in the U.S.
Uncommon, Unique

Barry

Barry represents the Anglo form of the Irish Ó’Beargha, meaning “descendant of Beargh” or “spear-like.” It’s also associated with the Irish Ó Báire, denoting someone from the town “of Barry.”

  • Origin: Celtic, Irish
  • Meaning: Plunderer
  • Pronunciation: BEAHR-iy
  • Variations: Barey, Barrey, Barrie
  • Namesakes: Max Barry, an Australian author known for Syrup (1999). Todd Barry, an American comedian appearing on Aqua Teen Hunger Force.
  • Popularity: Barry ranked 460th worldwide, is mainly used in Guinea, and ranked 49th in Ireland in 2014.
Geographical, Popular

Blevins

Belvins uses the Welsh root “blaidd,” meaning “wolf.” It uses an “-ins” suffix to reduce the big bad wolf to a cut, fuzzy wolf cub.

  • Origin: Celtic, Irish
  • Meaning: Wolf cub
  • Pronunciation: BLEH-vihns
  • Variations: Blevin
  • Namesakes: Bret Blevins, an American comics artist of New Mutants for Marvel Comics. Dean Blevins, an American sportscaster for KWTV CBS in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
  • Popularity: Blevins is rare worldwide and primarily used in the U.S., where it ranked 893rd in 2014.
Nicknames, Ancient

Brogan

Like other Irish surnames, Brogan is an Anglo variation of a Celtic name. It derives from Ó’Brógáin, meaning “son of Brogan,” from “bróg,” meaning “shoe.”

  • Origin: Celtic, Irish
  • Meaning: Small shoe
  • Pronunciation: BROW-Gahn
  • Variations: O’Brogan
  • Namesakes: John Brogan, a Scottish footballer for Glasgow Perthshire. Nicola Brogan, a Northern Irish member of the Legislative Assembly since 2020.
  • Popularity: Brogan is rare worldwide, mostly used in the U.S., and ranked 518th in Ireland in 2014.
Patronymic, Traditional

Buckley

Buckley is based on the Celtic Ó’Buachalla, from “buachaill,” meaning “herdsman.” It transformed into Ó’Boughelly, Buhilly, and, finally, Buckley.

  • Origin: Celtic, English
  • Meaning: Bleak hill
  • Pronunciation: BUHK-Liy
  • Variations: Buckleah, Bucklee
  • Namesakes: Jeffrey Buckley, an American musician best known for his cover of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.” William F. Buckley Jr., an American political commentator who founded National Review in 1955.
  • Popularity: Buckley is uncommon worldwide, primarily used in the U.S., and ranked 53rd in Ireland in 2014.
Unique, Geographical

Byrne

Byrne first appeared as the Gaelic O’Broin, meaning “descendant of Bran.” Bran was the king of Leinster who influenced this “raven” like name to the modern world.

  • Origin: Celtic, Irish
  • Meaning: Ravens
  • Pronunciation: BAHRN
  • Variations: O’Byrne, Byrnes
  • Namesakes: David Byrne, a Scottish-American musician, and member of Talking Heads. Mary Byrne, the Mayor of Galway from 1984 to 1985.
  • Popularity: Byrne is uncommon worldwide and mainly used in Ireland, ranking 3rd in 2014.
Popular, Traditional

Cadwallader

Like other Celtic last names, Cadwallader is patronymic, meaning “the son of Cadwaladyr.” It’s based on the Welsh Cadwaladyr, composed of “cad,” meaning “battle,” and “gwaladr,” meaning “leader.”

  • Origin: Celtic, Welsh
  • Meaning: Battle leader
  • Pronunciation: Cad-WAAL-ah-Dehr
  • Variations: Cadwaladr
  • Namesakes: Douglass Cadwallader, an American golfer, and bronze medalist at the 1904 Summer Olympics. Gavin Cadwallader, an English footballer for Shrewsbury Town.
  • Popularity: Cadwallader is very rare worldwide, mostly used in the U.S., and ranked 1,284th in Wales in 2014.
Rare, Unusual

Campbell

Campbell is made up of the Celtic “cam,” meaning “crooked,” and “beul,” meaning “mouth.” The Campbell clan was famous for its chief Colin Mor Campbell, known as Colin The Great.

  • Origin: Celtic, Irish
  • Meaning: Crooked mouth
  • Pronunciation: KAEM-Bahl
  • Variations: Cambell, Campbel
  • Namesakes: Bruce Campbell, an American actor known for the Evil Dead horror films. Thomas Campbell, a Scottish poet, and co-founder of the Literary Association of the Friends of Poland.
  • Popularity: Campbell ranked 657th worldwide, is mainly used in the U.S., and ranked #1 in Northern Ireland in 2014.
Nicknames, Popular

Carey

Carey comes from the Celtic O’Ciardha, meaning “descendant of Ciardh.” It was first a given name based on “ciar,” meaning “black,” and also works as an offbeat boy’s name.

  • Origin: Celtic, Irish
  • Meaning: Dark
  • Pronunciation: KEHR-iy
  • Variations: Cary, Carrey
  • Namesakes: Jack Carey, an American jazz musician and leader of the Crescent City Orchestra. Peter Carey, an Australian novelist who, won the Booker Prize twice.
  • Popularity: Carey is uncommon worldwide, primarily used in the U.S., and ranked 111th in Ireland in 2014.
Traditional, Nicknames

Carmody

Carmody derives from the Gaelic Ó’Cearmada, meaning “descendant of Cearmad.” It’s also associated with “cearmadach,” meaning “industrious,” and occurs most in Counties Clare and Limerick.

  • Origin: Celtic, Irish
  • Meaning: Industrious
  • Pronunciation: KAAR-mah-Diy
  • Namesakes: Robert Carmody, an American boxer and bronze medalist at the 1964 Summer Olympics. Donald Carmody, an American-Canadian film producer and winner of an Academy Award in 2002 for Chicago.
  • Popularity: Carmody is rare worldwide, primarily used in the U.S., and ranked 580th in Ireland in 2014.
Patronymic, Uncommon
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Casey

Casey is based on the Irish O’Cathasaigh, meaning “vigilant.” It was used by multiple rulers in Irish history, like O’Casey and MacCasey.

  • Origin: Celtic, Irish
  • Meaning: Watchful
  • Pronunciation: KEY-Siy
  • Variations: Casie, Cacey
  • Namesakes: Kenneth Casey, an American musician, and member of the Dropkick Murphys. William J. Casey, the Director of Central Intelligence from 1981 to 1987.
  • Popularity: Casey is uncommon worldwide, mainly used in the U.S., and ranked 55th in Ireland in 2014.
Common, Strong

Cavanagh

Cavanaugh is an Anglicized version of Caomhanach, meaning “follower of St. Caomhan.” It was first used by Domhnall, the son of a 12th-century Irish king.

  • Origin: Celtic, Irish
  • Meaning: Follower of Kevin
  • Pronunciation: KAEV-ah-Nao
  • Variations: Kavanagh, Kavanaugh
  • Namesakes: Megan Cavanagh, an American actress known for A League of Their Own. Seán Cavanagh, an Irish Gaelic footballer for Tyrone.
  • Popularity: Cavanaugh is rare worldwide, primarily used in the U.S., and ranked 833rd in Ireland in 2014.
Ancient, Unique

Cleary

Cleary is an Anglo form of the Irish Ó’Cléirigh, meaning “descendant of Cléireach.” It was a surname given to a “cleric,” while McCleary was used for the “son of the cleric.”

  • Origin: Celtic
  • Meaning: Cleric
  • Pronunciation: KLIH-Riy
  • Variations: Clearey, Clearie
  • Namesakes: Beverly Cleary, an American children’s book writer known for the Ramona Quimby character. Bill Cleary, an American ice hockey player and gold medalist at the 1980 Winter Olympics.
  • Popularity: Cleary is rare worldwide, primarily used in the U.S., and ranked 21st in Ireland in 2014.
Traditional, Patronymic

Collins

Collins is the English equivalent of the Irish Cullane, dating back to Ó’Coileáin. Though some believe it to mean “holly,” others see the root of Collins as a word meaning “young dog.”

  • Origin: Celtic, Irish
  • Meaning: Holly
  • Pronunciation: KAAH-Lihnz
  • Variations: Colin, Collin
  • Namesakes: Michael Collins, an Irish revolutionary and Director of Intelligence of the Irish Republican Army (IRA). Phil Collins, an English musician, and member of Genesis.
  • Popularity: Collins ranked 820th worldwide, is primarily used in the U.S., and ranked 26th in Ireland in 2014.
Traditional, Popular

Corcoran

Corcoran derives from Ó’Corcráin, meaning “descendant of Corcrán.” It’s based on the Irish “corcair,” meaning “purple.” Corcoran was once given to someone with a “red (or ruddy) complexion.”

  • Origin: Celtic, Irish
  • Meaning: Red complexion
  • Pronunciation: KAOR-ker-Ahn
  • Variations: Cochran
  • Namesakes: Barbara Corcoran, an American businesswoman who founded The Corcoran Group. Fred J. Corcoran, a golf tournament director and one of the first non-players inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1975.
  • Popularity: Corcoran is rare worldwide, mostly used in the U.S., and ranked 103rd in Ireland in 2014.
Nicknames, Unique

Cosgrove

Cosgrove is one of many geographically-based Celtic surnames, meaning “of Cosgrove,” in Northamptonshire, England. Many towns and villages ending in “-grove” denote a “thicket” or a “small wood.”

  • Origin: Celtic, Irish
  • Meaning: Victorious champion
  • Pronunciation: KAAS-Grohv
  • Variations: Cosgrave
  • Namesakes: Stephen E. Cosgrove, a children’s author known for the Serendipity series of books. Michael Cosgrove, an American baseball player with the Houston Astros.
  • Popularity: Cosgrove is rare worldwide, mainly used in the U.S., and ranked 418th in Ireland in 2014.
Geographical, Strong

Cotter

Cotter comes from the Celtic MacOitir, a Norse reference to Ottar, an 8th-century Viking chieftain. Its English origins lead to an occupational use for a “peasant farmer.”

  • Origin: Celtic, English
  • Meaning: Cottager
  • Pronunciation: COTT-ehr
  • Variations: McCotter, Cottar
  • Namesakes: Imogen Cotter, an Irish racing cyclist for UCI Women’s Continental Team Ciclotel. Wayne Cotter, an American comedian who hosted Comic Strip Live from 1991 to 1994.
  • Popularity: Cotter is rare worldwide, primarily used in the U.S., and ranked 224th in Ireland in 2014.
Ancient, Viking

Coughlan

Coughlan comes from the Irish O’Cochlain, taken from “cochal,” meaning “cloak” or “hood.” It’s famous for Dealbha, the brother of King Blad of Munster, in Ireland.

  • Origin: Celtic, Irish
  • Meaning: Son of the one with the cloak
  • Pronunciation: KOH-Luhn
  • Variations: Coghlan, Coughlin
  • Namesakes: Nicola Coughlan, an Irish actress known for the sitcom Derry Girls (2018 to 2022). Richard Coughlan, an English musician and drummer for the band Caravan.
  • Popularity: Coughlan is rare worldwide and mainly used in Ireland, where it ranked 133rd in 2014.
Unusual, Uncommon

Cunningham

Cunningham consists of the Gaelic “cuinneag,” meaning “milk pail,” and “ham,” meaning “village.” It also means “descendant of Cuinneagán” based on “conn,” meaning “chief.”

  • Origin: Celtic, Irish
  • Meaning: Village of the milk pail
  • Pronunciation: KAHN-ing-Haem
  • Variations: Cuningham, Cunnyngham
  • Namesakes: Michael Cunningham, an American novelist, and winner of the 1998 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. Stacey Cunningham, the 67th president of the New York Stock Exchange from 2018 to 2022.
  • Popularity: Cunningham is uncommon worldwide, mostly used in the U.S., and ranked 53rd in Northern Ireland in 2014.
Traditional, Geographical

Daley

Daley is taken from the Celtic Ó’Dálaigh, which uses the root “dál,” meaning “gathering.” It refers to any “meeting” or “assembly.” One of the first Celtic figures using Daly was Eanna Ceannselach, the 5th-century king of Leinster.

  • Origin: Celtic, Welsh
  • Meaning: Meeting
  • Pronunciation: DEY-Liy
  • Variations: Daily, Daly
  • Namesakes: Michael Daley, the Attorney-General of New South Wales since 2023. Brian Daley, an American science fiction novelist known for adapting Star Wars radio dramas.
  • Popularity: Daley is rare worldwide, mainly used in the U.S., and ranked 837th in Wales in 2014.
Common, Patronymic
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Delaney

Delaney was originally the Gaelic Ó’Dubhshláine and is made up of “dubh,” meaning “black,” and “sláine,” meaning “River Sláine.” Delaney also means “from the alder grove.”

  • Origin: Celtic, Irish
  • Meaning: Dark challenger
  • Pronunciation: Deh-LEY-niy
  • Variations: Delany, Dulaney
  • Namesakes: Edward Delaney, an Irish sculptor known for the 1967 statue of Wolfe Tone. Rob Delaney, an American comedian and co-writer of the series Catastrophe.
  • Popularity: Delaney is rare worldwide, primarily used in the U.S., and ranked 79th in Ireland in 2014.
Unique, Strong

Devlin

Devlin derives from the Gaelic O’Dobhailen, meaning “descendant of Dobhalen,” plus “raging valor.” It’s made up of the Irish “dobh,” meaning “boisterous,” “al,” meaning “valor,” and the suffix “-en.”

  • Origin: Celtic, Irish
  • Meaning: Fierce courage
  • Pronunciation: DEHV-Lihn
  • Variations: Develin
  • Namesakes: Janet Devlin, a Northern Irish singer-songwriter who competed in The X Factor in 2011. Ben Devlin, a British TV executive producer for the BBC.
  • Popularity: Devlin is rare worldwide, mostly used in the U.S., and ranked 49th in Northern Ireland in 2014.
Royal, Patronymic

Dillon

Dillon is based on the Irish Díolmhain, meaning “faithful” and “true.” It’s been associated with Norman surnames since the 12th century and means “like a lion” and “loyalty.”

  • Origin: Celtic, Irish
  • Meaning: Like a lion
  • Pronunciation: DIHL-ahn
  • Variations: Dylan, Dylon
  • Namesakes: Matt Dillon, an American actor known for The Outsiders (1983). Richard C. Dillon, the eighth governor of New Mexico from 1927 to 1931.
  • Popularity: Dillon is rare worldwide, mainly used in the U.S., and ranked 137th in Ireland in 2014.
Traditional, Common

Doherty

Doherty is one of the best-known Celtic last names, taken from the Gaelic O’Dochartaigh. It first referred to a “descendant of Dochartach,” also meaning “unlucky” or “hurtful.”

  • Origin: Celtic, Scottish
  • Meaning: Unlucky
  • Pronunciation: DOW-er-Tiy
  • Variations: O’Doherty, Dougharty
  • Namesakes: Kathleen A. Doherty, the U.S. Ambassador to Cyprus from 2015 to 2019. Paddy Doherty, a Gaelic footballer and the captain for Down.
  • Popularity: Doherty is rare worldwide, primarily used in the U.S., and ranked 17th in Northern Ireland in 2014.
Nicknames, Popular

Donnelly

Donnelly derives from the Gaelic Donnghalach, meaning “dark brave one.” It was a surname for a “descendant of Donnghal,” which became Donnelly for today’s courageous ones.

  • Origin: Celtic, Irish
  • Meaning: Dark valor
  • Pronunciation: DAAN-eh-Liy
  • Variations: Donally, Donelly
  • Namesakes: Fin Donnelly, a Canadian member of the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia since 2020. Scott Donnelly, an English footballer for Hayes & Yeading United.
  • Popularity: Donnelly is rare worldwide, mainly used in the U.S., and ranked 21st in Northern Ireland in 2014.
Strong, Traditional

Donohue

Donohue comes from the Gaelic Ó’Donnchadha, meaning “descendant of Donnchadh.” Donohue was a given name in the 9th century but became a common surname during the 10th-century.

  • Origin: Celtic
  • Meaning: Brown-haired
  • Pronunciation: DAA-nah-HHyuw
  • Variations: Donaghue, Donahugh
  • Namesakes: Phil Donahue, an American host of The Phil Donahue Show (1967 to 1996). Elinor Donahue, an American actress known for the sitcom Father Knows Best.
  • Popularity: Donohue is rare worldwide, mostly used in the U.S., and ranked 532nd in Ireland in 2014.
Ancient, Nicknames

Doyle

Doyle once referred to a place name “de Oilgi,” in Normandy, France. It stems from the Irish Ó Dubhghaill, meaning “descendant of Dubhghall,” and became one of the coolest Irish surnames today.

  • Origin: Celtic, Irish
  • Meaning: Dark stranger
  • Pronunciation: DOYL
  • Variations: Doyal, Doyel
  • Namesakes: Arthur Conan Doyle, a British writer who created Sherlock Holmes in 1887. Brian Doyle-Murray, an American actor known for Ghostbusters II (1989).
  • Popularity: Doyle is uncommon worldwide, primarily used in the U.S., and ranked 9th in Ireland in 2014.
Geographical, Popular

Duffy

Duffy is the Anglo variation of the Irish Dubhthach, made up of “dubh,” meaning “dark,” and the suffix “-thach.” It’s best associated with the 5th-century king Laeghaire’s poet Dubhthach.

  • Origin: Celtic, Irish
  • Meaning: Dark complexion
  • Pronunciation: DAHF-iy
  • Variations: Duffey, O’Duffy
  • Namesakes: Keith Duffy, an Irish singer, and member of the Irish boy band Boyzone. Carol Ann Duffy, a Scottish poet and Poet Laureate in 2009.
  • Popularity: Duffy is uncommon worldwide, mostly used in the U.S., and ranked 36th in Ireland in 2014.
Ancient, Nicknames

Dunne

Dunne is associated with the Irish Ó’Duinn, meaning “brown.” It also means “at the dun” (or “at the hill”) in Middle English.

  • Origin: Celtic
  • Meaning: Dark
  • Pronunciation: DUN
  • Variations: Dunn, Donne
  • Namesakes: Griffin Dunne, an American actor known for An American Werewolf in London (1981). Ross Dunne, an Australian rules footballer for the Collingwood Football Club.
  • Popularity: Dunne is rare worldwide and mainly used in Ireland, ranking 14th in 2014.
Popular, Geographical

Farrell

Farrell means “champion,” as based on the Irish Ferghal, made up of “fer,” meaning “man,” and “gab,” meaning “valor.” It also means “descendant of Fearghal” and “man of valor,” to boot.

  • Origin: Celtic, Irish
  • Meaning: Champion
  • Pronunciation: FAH-Rehl
  • Variations: Farell, Farrel, Farryll
  • Namesakes: Colin Farrell, an Irish actor named Ireland’s fifth-greatest film actor by Time Magazine in 2020. Craig Farrell, an English footballer for Carlisle United.
  • Popularity: Farrell is uncommon worldwide, primarily used in the U.S., and ranked 29th in Ireland in 2014.
Strong, Patronymic
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Ferguson

Ferguson represents the English spelling for the Scottish-Gaelic Macfhearghus. It was a patronymic surname for the “son of Fergus” or “son of the angry (one).”

  • Origin: Celtic, Scottish
  • Meaning: Son of the angry one
  • Pronunciation: FER-gah-Sahn
  • Variations: Fergusson
  • Namesakes: Craig Ferguson, a Scottish-American host of The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson (2005 to 2014). Patricia Ferguson, a member of the Scottish Parliament from 2011 to 2016.
  • Popularity: Ferguson ranked 1,744th worldwide, is mostly used in the U.S., and ranked 36th in Scotland in 2014.
Common, Unusual

Finn

Finn originally appeared as the Irish Ó Finn, meaning “descendant of Fionn.” It means “fair-haired” when taken from the Old Norse Finnr, making Finn one of the Celtic family names with Viking origins.

  • Origin: Celtic, Irish
  • Meaning: White-haired
  • Pronunciation: FIHN
  • Variations: Finn, Fynn
  • Namesakes: Mali Finn, an American casting director known for casting Leonardo DiCaprio and Russell Crowe. Chris Finn, a Canadian comedian who won the 2001 Canadian Comedy Award.
  • Popularity: Finn is rare worldwide, mainly used in the U.S., and ranked 155th in Ireland in 2014.
Viking, Patronymic

Fitzpatrick

Fitzpatrick was originally the Gaelic Mac Giolla Phádraig, meaning “son of the Devotee of (St.) Patrick.” This very badass clan ruled one of the oldest Irish kingdoms, including Laois and Kilkenny.

  • Origin: Celtic, Irish
  • Meaning: Son of Patrick
  • Pronunciation: Fihts-PAEH-triyk
  • Variations: Fitzpatric, Fitzpatrik
  • Namesakes: Colette Fitzpatrick, an Irish news anchor at TV3 News since 2006. J. R. Fitzpatrick, a Canadian stock car racing driver and the youngest to win the 2006 CASCAR Super Series championship.
  • Popularity: Fitzpatrick is rare worldwide, primarily used in the U.S., and ranked 42nd in Ireland in 2014.
Royal, Patronymic

Fitzsimmons

Fitzsimmons is one of many Celtic surnames with Norman origins. It also appeared as Sigmundsson, meaning “son of Sigmund,” and was once Mac Síomóin.

  • Origin: Celtic, Irish
  • Meaning: Son of Sigmund
  • Pronunciation: Fiht-SIH-Mahnz
  • Variations: Fitzsimons, Fytzsimmons
  • Namesakes: Stuart Fitzsimmons, a British alpine skier who competed at the 1976 Winter Olympics. Greg Fitzsimmons, an American host of The Greg Fitzsimmons Show.
  • Popularity: Fitzsimmons is rare worldwide, primarily used in the U.S., and ranked 614th in Northern Ireland in 2014.
Patronymic, Unique

Flanagan

Flanagan derives from the Gaelic Ó’Flannagáin, composed of “flann,” meaning “red or ruddy complexion.” It also means “descendant of Flannagán” for those with the motto “I have fought and conquered.”

  • Origin: Celtic, Irish
  • Meaning: Ruddy
  • Pronunciation: FLAH-naa-Gan
  • Variations: Flannagan
  • Namesakes: Edward J. Flanagan, an Irish-American Catholic priest who founded Boys Town. Fionnula Flanagan, an Irish actress known for The Others (2001).
  • Popularity: Flanagan is very rare worldwide, mainly used in the U.S., and ranked 94th in Ireland in 2014.
Traditional, Nicknames

Flynn

Flynn is a simplified version of the Irish Ó’Floinn, meaning “descendant of Flann.” It was used for someone with a particularly “reddish or ruddy complexion.”

  • Origin: Celtic, Irish
  • Meaning: Red
  • Pronunciation: FLIHN
  • Variations: Flinn, Flyn, Flyne
  • Namesakes: Errol Flynn, an Australian-American actor known for The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938). Pádraig Flynn, the Irish European Commissioner for Social Affairs from 1993 to 1999.
  • Popularity: Flynn is uncommon worldwide, primarily used in the U.S., and ranked 25th in Ireland in 2014.
Nicknames, Popular

Foley

The Foley surname originates in the Irish counties of Cork, Kerry, and Waterford. It’s based on the Gaelic Ó’Foghladha, meaning “pirate” or “marauder,” for a uniquely adventurous spirit.

  • Origin: Celtic, Irish
  • Meaning: Pirate
  • Pronunciation: FOW-liy
  • Variations: Foaley, Fowley
  • Namesakes: Dave Foley, a Canadian actor and co-founder of The Kids in the Hall comedy group. James Foley, an American film director known for Glengarry Glen Ross (1992).
  • Popularity: Foley is uncommon worldwide, mostly used in the U.S., and ranked 50th in Ireland in 2014.
Unique, Viking

Friel

Friel comes from the Gaelic O’Firgil, meaning “man of valor.” It first appeared as the Gaelic O’Firghil, made up of “fear,” meaning “man,” and “gal,” meaning “valor.”

  • Origin: Celtic
  • Meaning: Man of valor
  • Pronunciation: FREEL
  • Variations: O’Friel
  • Namesakes: Anna Friel, an English actress appearing on ABC’s Pushing Daisies (2007 to 2009). Brian Friel, an Irish dramatist who co-founded the Field Day Theatre Company in 1980.
  • Popularity: Friel is rare worldwide, mainly used in the U.S., and ranked 437th in Northern Ireland in 2014.
Strong, Ancient

Fylan

Fylan was first Faolan, based on the Gaelic “fael,” meaning “little wolf.” It’s also related to O’Faolain and O’Fialain, which became the Anglicized Phelan today.

  • Origin: Celtic, Irish
  • Meaning: Little wolf
  • Pronunciation: FAEY-lan
  • Variations: O’Faolain
  • Popularity: Fylan is extremely rare worldwide, with 120 known occurrences in 2014, primarily in England.
Rare, Unusual

Gallagher

Gallagher is taken from the Gaelic “gallchobhair,” meaning “foreign help.” It also means “eager help” and originated with Irish royalty in the 8th-century.

  • Origin: Celtic, Irish
  • Meaning: Foreign help
  • Pronunciation: GAHL-ah-Gher
  • Variations: O’Gallagher, Gallager
  • Namesakes: Peter Gallagher, an American actor appearing in the series Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. Noel Gallagher, an English musician, and co-founder of the rock band Oasis.
  • Popularity: Gallagher is uncommon worldwide, primarily used in the U.S., and ranked 23rd in Ireland in 2014.
Royal, Ancient
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Guinness

Guinness derives from the Gaelic Mag Aonghuis, meaning “son of Angus.” It’s most typical as the famously dark Irish stout beer created by Arthur Guinness in the late 18th century.

  • Origin: Celtic, Irish
  • Meaning: Son of Angus
  • Pronunciation: GIH-nihs
  • Variations: McGuinness
  • Namesakes: Alec Guinness, an English actor known for the Star Wars trilogy. Arthur Guinness, an Irish brewer who founded the Guinness Brewery in 1759.
  • Popularity: Guinness is very rare worldwide and mainly used in England.
Patronymic, Famous

Hannigan

Hannigan has Norman origins derived from Johann, meaning “son of Hann.” It’s associated with the Gaelic Ó’Annagáin, meaning “descendant of Annagán,” so all names are covered here.

  • Origin: Celtic, Irish
  • Meaning: Son of Hann
  • Pronunciation: HAA-nah-Gahn
  • Variations: O’Hannigan
  • Namesakes: James Hannigan, a British composer known for The Lord of the Rings. Ray Hannigan, a Canadian ice hockey player for the Toronto Maple Leafs.
  • Popularity: Hannigan is rare worldwide, primarily used in the U.S., and ranked 612th in Ireland in 2014.
Unique, Patronymic

Hawkins

Hawkins means “the son of Henry or Harry,” related to the nickname Halkin. It means “lord” and “brown” and is one of the less common names on the list with Welsh connections.

  • Origin: Celtic, Welsh
  • Meaning: Lord
  • Pronunciation: HHAO-Kihnz
  • Variations: Hawk
  • Namesakes: Jennifer Hawkins, an Australian model and Miss Universe 2004. Tianna Hawkins, an American basketball player for the Washington Mystics.
  • Popularity: Hawkins is uncommon worldwide, mostly used in the U.S., and ranked 117th in Wales in 2014.
Traditional, Unique

Hayes

Hayes derives from the Gaelic O’Aodha, meaning “descendant of Aodh,” the Celtic god of fire. It also means “at the hay (or hedge),” meaning “an enclosure,” and is related to the names Hayward and Haig.

  • Origin: Celtic, English
  • Meaning: Descendent of Aodh
  • Pronunciation: HHEYZ
  • Variations: Hays, Hayse
  • Namesakes: Stephen Hayes, an Irish hurler and the Cork captain as All-Ireland Hurling Champions in 1894. Richard Hayes, an Irish politician who fought in the Easter Rising in 1916.
  • Popularity: Hayes ranked 1,520th worldwide, is mainly used in the U.S., and ranked 51st in Ireland in 2014.
Traditional, Geographical

Healy

Healy means “the high clearing or wood,” taken from the Old English “heah,” meaning “high,” and “leah,” meaning “glade.” It’s ranked in the top 50 Irish surnames regularly.

  • Origin: Celtic, English
  • Meaning: High clearing
  • Pronunciation: HEE-liy
  • Variations: Healey, O’Healey
  • Namesakes: Felix Healy, a Northern Ireland footballer for Coleraine. Siobhan Healy, a Scottish glass artist with work in The Scottish Parliament Art Collection.
  • Popularity: Healy is rare worldwide, primarily used in the U.S., and ranked 34th in Ireland in 2014.
Geographical, Common

Hewson

Hewson is one of many Celtic last names with roots in Scotland. It’s based in the ancient kingdom of Dál Riata and is most well-known today as the birth surname of U2’s Bono.

  • Origin: Celtic, English
  • Meaning: Son of (little) Hugh
  • Pronunciation: HHEW-sohn
  • Variations: Hewison
  • Namesakes: Paul Hewson (known as Bono), an Irish musician and lead singer of U2. Dominic Hewson, an English cricketer for Gloucestershire.
  • Popularity: Hewson is rare worldwide, primarily used in England, and ranked 1,057th in New Zealand in 2014.
Unique, Ancient

Hickey

Hickey originated as the Gaelic Ó’HÍceadha, from “iceadh,” meaning “healer.” The top Irish family is descended from Mac Conmara to produce a long line of helpers.

  • Origin: Celtic, Irish
  • Meaning: Physician
  • Pronunciation: HHIH-Kiy
  • Variations: Hickie
  • Namesakes: James Harden-Hickey, a Franco-American founder of the self-proclaimed Principality of Trinidad. Cheryl Hickey, the Canadian host of ET Canada on Global Television Network.
  • Popularity: Hickey is rare worldwide, mainly used in the U.S., and ranked 70th in Ireland in 2014.
Unusual, Patronymic

Higgins

Higgins represents the English spelling of the Gaelic O’Huigin, based on “uiginn,” a term for a “Viking.” It also means “the son of Richard” and “the son of Hick.”

  • Origin: Celtic
  • Meaning: Viking
  • Pronunciation: HHIH-Gihnz
  • Variations: O’Higgins
  • Namesakes: F. E. Higgins, an Irish children’s author known for The Black Book of Secrets. Frank W. Higgins, the 35th Governor of New York from 1905 to 1906.
  • Popularity: Higgins is uncommon worldwide, primarily used in the U.S., and ranked 84th in Ireland in 2014.
Nicknames, Viking

Jennings

Jennings doesn’t look much like its original Gaelic form of MacSheoinin or MacJonin, “son of little Sean.” It’s sometimes called the “son of Jenin,” a medieval form of John.

  • Origin: Celtic, English
  • Meaning: Son of little Sean
  • Pronunciation: JEH-nihngz
  • Variations: Jenning
  • Namesakes: Peter Jennings, a Canadian-American TV journalist and anchor of ABC World News Tonight from 1983 to 2005. William Sherman Jennings, the 18th governor of Florida from 1901 to 1905.
  • Popularity: Jennings is uncommon worldwide, mostly used in the U.S., and ranked 260th in England in 2014.
Traditional, Patronymic

Keely

Kelly is based on the Gaelic “caoil,” meaning “slender.” Keely also points to a location for someone “from Keighley.”

  • Origin: Celtic, Irish
  • Meaning: Beautiful
  • Pronunciation: KIY-lee
  • Variations: Keeley
  • Namesakes: Dermot Keely, an Irish Gaelic footballer for Home Farm FAI Cup. Patrick Keely, an Irish-American architect who designed every 19th-century Catholic cathedral in New England.
  • Popularity: Keely is very rare worldwide, mainly used in the U.S., and ranked 1,360th in Ireland in 2014.
Geographical, Nicknames
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Kelly

Kelly is the second-best-known Irish surname and dates back to the Gaelic Ó’Ceallaigh, meaning “descendant of Ceallach.” It can also mean “warrior,” “fighter,” or “strife.”

  • Origin: Celtic, Irish
  • Meaning: Fighter
  • Pronunciation: KEH-Liy
  • Variations: Kelley, Kelli, Kellie
  • Namesakes: Moiya Kelly, a British actress known for the film Scrooge (1951). Todd Kelly, an Australian racing driver for the Holden Racing Team from 2003 until 2007.
  • Popularity: Kelly ranked 828th worldwide, is primarily used in the U.S., and ranked 2nd in Ireland in 2014.
Popular, Famous

Kennedy

Kennedy comes from the Irish O’Cinnéide, meaning “grandson of Cinnédidh.” Kennedy is the surname of the most powerful Irish immigrant families, including President John F. Kennedy.

  • Origin: Celtic, Irish
  • Meaning: Helmeted leader
  • Pronunciation: KEH-neh-Diy
  • Variations: Kennadey, Kennedey
  • Namesakes: John F. Kennedy, the 35th president of the U.S. from 1961 until his assassination in 1963. Kathleen Kennedy, an American film producer and president of Lucasfilm.
  • Popularity: Kennedy ranked 1,301st worldwide, is mostly used in the U.S., and ranked 21st in Ireland in 2014.
Famous, Popular

Kilduff

Kilduff is the Anglo spelling for the Gaelic Mac Giolla Duibh, meaning “son of Giolla Dubh.” It also means “son of Gilduff,” meaning “the disciple of the dark one.”

  • Origin: Celtic, Irish
  • Meaning: The black-haired lad
  • Pronunciation: KIHL-duff
  • Variations: Duff
  • Namesakes: Marshall Kilduff, an American journalist for the San Francisco Chronicle since 1971. Mitchell Kilduff, an Australian Paralympic swimmer who competed at the 2012 Summer Paralympics.
  • Popularity: Kilduff is very rare worldwide, mainly used in the U.S., and ranked 1,204th in Ireland in 2014.
Unusual, Nicknames

Lynch

Lynch is a much-simplified version of the Gaelic Ó’Loingsigh, meaning descendant of Loingseach.” It means “at the linch,” a place where mariners and long ships would be found.

  • Origin: Celtic, Irish
  • Meaning: Mariner
  • Pronunciation: LIHNCH
  • Variations: Linch
  • Namesakes: David Lynch, an American filmmaker, and an Honorary Academy Award recipient in 2019. Ross Lynch, an American actor appearing in My Friend Dahmer in 2017.
  • Popularity: Lynch is uncommon worldwide, primarily used in the U.S., and ranked 11th in Ireland in 2014.
Traditional, Geographical

Lyons

Lyons has obvious geographical connections to Lyon in central France. It made its way to Celtic peoples through the Norman invasion of England and first meant “of Leone.’

  • Origin: Celtic, English
  • Meaning: Raven fort
  • Pronunciation: LAEY-ons
  • Variations: Lyon, Lions
  • Namesakes: Shelby Lyons, an American figure skater and winner of the 1996 Figure Skating Championship. Ken Lyons, an American musician, and member of 38 Special.
  • Popularity: Lyons is uncommon worldwide, mostly used in the U.S., and ranked 76th in Ireland in 2014.
Unique, Geographical

Macaulay

Macaulay dates back to the Scottish-Gaelic MacAmhlaidh, meaning “son of Amhalghadh.” Unlike other Celtic surnames with Mac prefixes, this version of Macaulay creates a one-word name.

  • Origin: Celtic, Irish
  • Meaning: Son of Amhalghaidh
  • Pronunciation: Mahk-CAWL-iy
  • Variations: McAuley, MacAuley, Macauley
  • Namesakes: Aulay Macaulay, an 18th-century English inventor of a shorthand system named “polygraphy.” Marc Macaulay, an American actor appearing in the series Burn Notice.
  • Popularity: Macaulay is rare worldwide, primarily used in Nigeria, and ranked 425th in Scotland in 2014.
Unique, Common

MacCormac

MacCormac originated as the Gaelic MacChormaig, using Cormac, meaning “charioteer.” The Mac prefix appears more in Scotland, while names with Mc accounted for two-thirds of Irish surnames.

  • Origin: Celtic, Scottish
  • Meaning: Son of Cormac
  • Pronunciation: Mahk-KAOR-Mahk
  • Variations: Cormack, Cormac
  • Namesakes: Richard MacCormac, an English architect and founder of MJP Architects. John E. McCormac, the mayor of Woodbridge Township, New Jersey, since 2006.
  • Popularity: MacCormac is very rare worldwide and mainly used in Canada.
Patronymic, Strong

Maguire

Maguire comes from the Gaelic Mac Uidhir, meaning “son of Odhar.” Maguire can mean “son of the dark one” or “son of the beige one.”

  • Origin: Celtic, Irish
  • Meaning: Son of the dark one
  • Pronunciation: Maa-GWIGH-uhr
  • Variations: McGuire, McGwire
  • Namesakes: Darragh Maguire, an Irish footballer for Newry Town F.C. Charles A. Maguire, the mayor of Toronto from 1922 to 1923.
  • Popularity: Maguire is rare worldwide, mostly used in the U.S., and ranked 39th in Northern Ireland in 2014.
Nicknames, Common

McAllister

McAllister has multiple variations, but all derive from the Gaelic Mac Alasdair, meaning “son of Alasdair.” Alasdair is the more interesting Gaelic variation of Alexander, also used as a boy’s name.

  • Origin: Celtic, Scottish
  • Meaning: Son of Alasdair
  • Pronunciation: Mah-KAEL-ehs-Ster
  • Variations: MacAlister, MacAlister
  • Namesakes: Nuala McAllister, a Northern Irish politician and member of the Legislative Assembly for Belfast North since 2022. Barbara Schenck (known as Anne McAllister), an American romance novel writer and winner of the 1997 Rita Award for Best Novel.
  • Popularity: McAllister is rare worldwide, mainly used in the U.S., and ranked 71st in Northern Ireland in 2014.
Unique, Patronymic

McAuliffe

McAuliffe is a lesser-known version of the Celtic last name starting with Mc. Amhlaoibh itself derives from the Old Norse personal name Olaf, making McAuliffe a Viking-inspired name.

  • Origin: Celtic, Norse
  • Meaning: Son of Amhlaoibh
  • Pronunciation: Mahk-KAWL-iff
  • Variations: MacAuliffe
  • Namesakes: Paul McAuliffe, the Lord Mayor of Dublin from 2019 to 2020. Tim McAuliffe, a Canadian comedy writer known for The Office.
  • Popularity: McAuliffe is rare worldwide, primarily used in the U.S., and ranked 438th in Ireland in 2014.
Ancient, Viking
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McCarthy

The McCarthys were a noble Irish clan in County Cork, Ireland. Because of Irish immigration to the U.S., fifty-seven percent of those named McCarthy are found in America.

  • Origin: Celtic, Irish
  • Meaning: Son of the loving one
  • Pronunciation: Mahk-KAAR-thiy
  • Variations: MacCarthy
  • Namesakes: Joseph McCarthy, an American member of the U.S. Senate from 1947 to 1957. Melissa McCarthy, an American actress named one of the 100 most influential people in the world by Time magazine in 2016.
  • Popularity: McCarthy is uncommon worldwide, primarily used in the U.S., and ranked 12th in Ireland in 2014.
Popular, Traditional

McCowan

McCowan, along with McGowan, use the original Irish root “gobha,” meaning “blacksmith.” The Gaelic Mac Gobhann became McCowan to denote a “son of the smith.”

  • Origin: Celtic, Irish
  • Meaning: Son of the smith
  • Pronunciation: Mahk-KOW-ahn
  • Variations: Cowan, MacCowan
  • Namesakes: George McCowan, a Canadian director for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Teaira McCowan, an American basketball player for the Dallas Wings.
  • Popularity: McCowan is rare worldwide, mainly used in the U.S., and ranked 108th in Norfolk Island in 2014.
Unique, Uncommon

McFarland

McFarland is based on the Gaelic Mac Pharlain, meaning “son of Parlan.” Parlan comes from Partholon, a rare Scottish version of Bartholomew.

  • Origin: Celtic, Irish
  • Meaning: Son of Parlan
  • Pronunciation: Mahk-FAHR-lahnd
  • Variations: MacFarlin, MacFarlane
  • Namesakes: Mark McFarland, an American NASCAR driver for Kyle Busch Motorsports. Rebecca McFarland, an American actress appearing in the series Working (1998 to 1999).
  • Popularity: McFarland is rare worldwide, primarily used in the U.S., and ranked 208th in Northern Ireland in 2014.
Traditional, Patronymic

McGowan

McGowan is linked to McCowan, meaning “one who is adroit.” McGowan comes from the Gaelic Mac Gobhan and would be represented in English by the surname Smith.

  • Origin: Celtic, Scottish
  • Meaning: Son of the smith
  • Pronunciation: Mah-GAOW-ahn
  • Variations: McGowen, McCowan
  • Namesakes: Jack McGowan, an American golfer and winner of the 1964 Mountain View Open. Rose McGowan, an American actress known for the horror film Scream (1996).
  • Popularity: McGowan is rare worldwide, mostly used in the U.S., and ranked 162nd in Scotland in 2014.
Common, Patronymic

McKinney

McKinney is one of many Celtic surnames with roots in Gaelic. Here, it’s based on Mac Coinnigh, meaning “son of Coinneach.”

  • Origin: Celtic, Irish
  • Meaning: Son of Cionaodh
  • Pronunciation: Mah-KIH-nee
  • Variations: McKinnie
  • Namesakes: Mark McKinney, a Canadian actor and member of the comedy troupe The Kids in the Hall. Louise McKinney, the first woman elected into the Legislative Assembly of Alberta from 1917 to 1921.
  • Popularity: McKinney is rare worldwide, mainly used in the U.S., and ranked 164th in Northern Ireland in 2014.
Common, Traditional

McManus

McManus is taken from the Gaelic Mac Mághnais, meaning “son of Magnus.” It was the name given to the emperor Charlemagne in the form of Carolus Magnus.

  • Origin: Celtic, Irish
  • Meaning: Son of Magnus
  • Pronunciation: Mahk-MAAN-uhs
  • Variations: MacManus, Manus
  • Namesakes: Doyle McManus, an American journalist appearing on PBS’s Washington Week program. Patrick McManus, a Scottish footballer for West Bromwich Albion.
  • Popularity: McManus is rare worldwide, primarily used in the U.S., and ranked 186th in Northern Ireland in 2014.
Unique, Common

Molloy

Molloy means “servant or disciple of the noble or good,” based on the Irish Ó Maolmhuaidh. Maolmhuadh means “proud chieftain” for a strong line of Celtic descendents.

  • Origin: Celtic, Irish
  • Meaning: Proud chieftain
  • Pronunciation: Mah-LOEY
  • Variations: Malloy, O’Molloy
  • Namesakes: Thomas Edmund Molloy, the Bishop of Brooklyn from 1921 to 1956. Francie Molloy, an Irish member of Parliament for Mid Ulster since 2013.
  • Popularity: Molloy is rare worldwide, mostly used in the U.S., and ranked 92nd in Northern Ireland in 2014.
Strong, Ancient

Mullins

Mullins derives from the Gaelic O’Meallain, from “meal,” meaning “pleasant.” It’s also associated with the French “moulin,” meaning “mill,” for someone who worked at a mill.

  • Origin: Celtic, Irish
  • Meaning: Miller
  • Pronunciation: MUH-lihns
  • Variations: Mullen, Mullin
  • Namesakes: Clarence H. Mullins, an American judge of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama from 1943 to 1957. Lisa Mullins, an American host for NPR’s All Things Considered for WBUR.
  • Popularity: Mullins is rare worldwide, mainly used in the U.S., and ranked 290th in Ireland in 2014.
Geographical, Unique

Murdoch

Murdoch is based on the Gaelic “mur,” meaning “sea” and “murchadh,” meaning “sea warrior.” When taken from the Scottish Murdo, it means “the son of Murdoch.”

  • Origin: Celtic, Scottish
  • Meaning: Sea warrior
  • Pronunciation: MER-Dahk
  • Variations: Murdagh
  • Namesakes: Rupert Murdoch, an Australian-American businessman and owner of News Corp. Bobby Murdoch, a Scottish footballer for Middlesbrough.
  • Popularity: Murdoch is rare worldwide, primarily used in Australia, and ranked 153rd in Scotland in 2014.
Patronymic, Strong

Murphy

Murphy is related to the Irish Ó Murchadh, meaning “descendant of Murchadh.” It also originated as the personal name Murchadh, meaning “sea-battler.”

  • Origin: Celtic, Irish
  • Meaning: Sea warrior
  • Pronunciation: MER-Fiy
  • Variations: Murphey, Murfey, Murfy
  • Namesakes: Eddie Murphy, an American stand-up comedian, ranked 10th on Comedy Central’s list of the 100 Greatest Stand-ups. Marc Murphy, an American chef and a judge on the series Chopped.
  • Popularity: Murphy ranked 800th worldwide, is mostly used in the U.S., and ranked number one in Ireland in 2014.
Popular, Traditional
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Murray

Murray was first a patronymic surname meaning “descendant of Ó’Muireadhaigh.” It has roots in Scotland’s Moray Firth, in Inverness, with the word “moireabh,” meaning “seaboard settlement.”

  • Origin: Celtic, Scottish
  • Meaning: Seaboard settlement
  • Pronunciation: MEHR-iy
  • Variations: Mury, Murrie
  • Namesakes: Bill Murray, an American actor awarded the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor in 2016. Arthur Murray, an American ballroom dancer and founder of Arthur Murray dance studios.
  • Popularity: Murray ranked 1,164th worldwide, is mainly used in the U.S., and ranked 11th in Scotland in 2014.
Nicknames, Geographical

Nevins

Nevins is based on MacNaomhin, meaning “little saint” in Scottish Gaelic. It’s also associated with the Irish MacCnáimhín, meaning “the son of Niven.”

  • Origin: Celtic, Scottish
  • Meaning: Little saint
  • Pronunciation: NEH-Vihnz
  • Variations: Nevin
  • Namesakes: Caitlyn Nevins, an Australian netball player and member of the 2016 ANZ Championship winning team. Jess Nevins, an American author known for the Encyclopedia of Fantastic Victoriana.
  • Popularity: Nevins is rare worldwide and primarily used in the U.S.
Uncommon, Patronymic

Nolan

Nolan derives from the Gaelic Ó’Nualláin, from “nuall,” meaning “noble” and “famous.” It also means “shout” or “howl” as a nickname for a loud person.

  • Origin: Celtic, Irish
  • Meaning: Champion
  • Pronunciation: NOW-Laen
  • Variations: Nollan
  • Namesakes: Christopher Nolan, a British-American filmmaker whose movies have grossed $5 billion worldwide. Katie Nolan, an American sports TV host for Apple TV+’s Friday Night Baseball.
  • Popularity: Nolan is uncommon worldwide, mostly used in the U.S., and ranked 19th in 2014.
Unique, Strong

O’Brien

O’Brien is the Anglo spelling for the Gaelic Ó’Briain, meaning “descendant of Brian.” Brian is inspired by the 10th-century Irish king, Brian Boru, and is the most popular of Celtic surnames, starting with O.

  • Origin: Celtic, Irish
  • Meaning: Son of the exalted one
  • Pronunciation: Oh-BRAEY-ahn
  • Variations: O’Bryan, O’Bryen, Brien
  • Namesakes: Edna O’Brien, an Irish writer and winner of the UK and Ireland Nobel David Cohen Prize in 2019. Larry O’Brien, the 58th mayor of Ottawa from 2006 to 2010.
  • Popularity: O’Brien is uncommon worldwide and mainly used in Ireland, where it ranked 6th in 2014.
Famous, Popular

O’Connor

O’Connor comes from the Irish Conchobhair, meaning “descendant of Conchobhar” and “lover of hounds.” The O’Connor clan ruled over the Irish Kingdom of Connacht until 1475.

  • Origin: Celtic, Irish
  • Meaning: Lover of hounds
  • Pronunciation: Oh-KAHN-ehr
  • Variations: O’Conor, O’Conner
  • Namesakes: Sinéad O’Connor, an Irish musician whose single Nothing Compares 2 U reached number one in 1990. Joseph O’Connor, an Irish novelist known for Star of the Sea (2002).
  • Popularity: O’Connor is uncommon worldwide and primarily used in Ireland, ranking 7th in 2014.
Royal, Unusual

O’Leary

O’Leary is based on the Gaelic O’Laoghaire, made up of “laogh,” meaning “calf” and “aire,” meaning “keeper.” Laoghaire was a 5th-century Irish king ruling during the life of St. Patrick.

  • Origin: Celtic, Irish
  • Meaning: Descendant of the keeper of the calves
  • Pronunciation: Oh-LEER-iy
  • Variations: Leary
  • Namesakes: Jeremiah O’Leary, an American newspaper reporter for The Washington Evening Star. Matt O’Leary, an American actor appeared in Domestic Disturbance (2001).
  • Popularity: O’Leary is rare worldwide and mostly used in Ireland, where it ranked 45th in 2014.
Royal, Patronymic

O’Loughlin

O’Loughlin is taken from the Irish Ó’Lochlainn, meaning “descendant of Lochlann.” It’s related to the similar McLoughlin, meaning “descendent of Lochlann.”

  • Origin: Celtic, Irish
  • Meaning: Descendent of Lochlann
  • Pronunciation: Oh-LACH-lin
  • Variations: Loughlin
  • Namesakes: David O’Loughlin, an Irish cyclist and winner of Ireland’s first UCI World Cup Track medal in 2009. Alex O’Loughlin, an Australian actor appearing in the CBS series Hawaii Five-0 (2010 to 2020).
  • Popularity: O’Loughlin is rare worldwide and mainly used in Ireland, ranking 245th in 2014.
Patronymic, Viking

O’Neill

O’Neill is based on the Irish Ua Néill, made up of “ua,” meaning “grandson,” and Niall, meaning “champion.” It uses the root “niadh” to honor the Uí Néill ruling clan of Ulster, Ireland.

  • Origin: Celtic, Irish
  • Meaning: Son of the champion
  • Pronunciation: Oh-NEEL
  • Variations: O’Neil, O’Neal, Neill
  • Namesakes: Ed O’Neill, an American actor known for the ABC sitcom Modern Family. Laurence O’Neill, the Lord Mayor of Dublin from 1917 to 1924.
  • Popularity: O’Neill is uncommon worldwide, primarily used in Ireland, and ranked 8th in Northern Ireland in 2014.
Patronymic, Royal

O’Reilly

O’Reilly originated with the Gaelic Ó’Raghallaigh, meaning “from Raghallach.” It’s composed of the Irish “ragh,” meaning “race,” and “ceallach,” meaning “sociable.”

  • Origin: Celtic, Irish
  • Meaning: From/of Raghallach
  • Pronunciation: Oh-RAEY-liy
  • Variations: Reilly, O’Reilly, Riley
  • Namesakes: Bill O’Reilly, an American host of The O’Reilly Factor from 1996 to 2017. Ryan O’Reilly, a Canadian ice hockey player for the Toronto Maple Leafs.
  • Popularity: O’Reilly is rare worldwide and primarily used in Ireland, ranking 20th in 2014.
Geographical, Unique

O’Sullivan

O’Sullivan comes from the Irish O’Suileabhain, meaning “one-eyed.” The vast majority of people named O’Sullivan can be found in the Irish counties of Cork and Kerry.

  • Origin: Celtic, Irish
  • Meaning: Hawk-eyed
  • Pronunciation: Oh-SUHL-ih-Van
  • Variations: Sullivan
  • Namesakes: Gilbert O’Sullivan, an Irish singer-songwriter known for the 1972 song Alone Again (Naturally). Michael O’Sullivan, an Irish poet who won The American Cloverdale Prize for Poetry in 1993.
  • Popularity: O’Sullivan is rare worldwide and mainly used in Ireland, where it ranked 8th in 2014.
Traditional, Patronymic
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Quigley

Quigley refers to a “’descendant of Coigleach.” It started as a nickname for an unclean or untidy person, which makes for a long line of messy family members.

  • Origin: Celtic, Irish
  • Meaning: Descendant of Coigleach
  • Pronunciation: KWIHG-Liy
  • Variations: Quiggley, Quigly
  • Namesakes: Michael Quigley, a U.S. representative for Illinois since 2009. Dana C. Quigley, an American golfer who competed at the 1980 Greater Milwaukee Open.
  • Popularity: Quigley is rare worldwide, primarily used in the U.S., and ranked 201st in both Ireland and Northern Ireland in 2014.
Unusual, Nicknames

Quinn

Quinn most plainly means “the son of Quin” and is based on O’Cuinn. It uses the Irish root “ceann,” meaning “chief” and “leader,” making this line one of the notable rulers.

  • Origin: Celtic, Irish
  • Meaning: Descendent of Conn
  • Pronunciation: KWIHN
  • Variations: Quinne, Qwinne
  • Namesakes: Aidan Quinn, an American actor known for Michael Collins (1996). Martha Quinn, an American video jockey for the first year of MTV.
  • Popularity: Quinn is uncommon worldwide, mostly used in the U.S., and ranked 14th in Northern Ireland in 2014.
Popular, Strong

Rafferty

Rafferty derives from the Irish Ó’Raighbheartaigh, meaning “prosperity wielder.” It’s also associated with Raftery, from “rath,” for the “one who will prosper.”

  • Origin: Celtic
  • Meaning: Prosperity
  • Pronunciation: RAEF-er-Tiy
  • Variations: Rafertey, Rafertie, Raferty
  • Namesakes: Gerry Rafferty, a Scottish musician and founding member of Stealers Wheel. Ronan Rafferty, a Northern Irish golfer and the leading European player of 1989.
  • Popularity: Rafferty is rare worldwide, mainly used in the U.S., and ranked 155th in Northern Ireland in 2014.
Unique, Nicknames

Regan

Regan first appeared as Ua Riagáin, meaning “king” or “sovereign.” It means “king” when based on the Latin “riy,” which is perfect since it means “descended from kings” in Gaelic.

  • Origin: Celtic, Irish
  • Meaning: King
  • Pronunciation: REY-Gaen
  • Variations: O’Regan, O’Regan, O’Reagan
  • Namesakes: Seamus O’Regan, the Canadian minister of labor since 2021. Brian Regan, an American comedian known for the 2018 sketch comedy series Standup and Away!
  • Popularity: Regan is rare worldwide, primarily used in the U.S., and ranked 259th in Ireland in 2014.
Royal, Famous

Riordan

Riordan is the Anglo variation of the Gaelic Ó’Ríoghbhárdáin, meaning “descendant of Rióghbhárdán.” It’s made up of “ríogh,” meaning “royal,” and “bárd,” meaning “bard poet.”

  • Origin: Celtic, Irish
  • Meaning: Royal bard
  • Pronunciation: RIHR-Dahn
  • Variations: Reardon, Riordon, Rordan, O’Riordan
  • Namesakes: Tim Riordan, an American football player for the New Orleans Saints. Maurice Riordan, an Irish poet whose book A Word from the Loki (1995) was shortlisted for the T. S. Eliot Prize.
  • Popularity: Riordan is rare worldwide, primarily used in the U.S., and ranked 354th in Ireland in 2014.
Unique, Royal

Ryan

Ryan is composed of the Gaelic “righ,” meaning “king,” and the diminutive “an,” meaning “little.” In 2022, Ryan ranked 74th as a boy’s name in the U.S. and 580th for girls.

  • Origin: Celtic, Irish
  • Meaning: Little king
  • Pronunciation: RAEY-aen
  • Variations: Ryann, O’Ryan
  • Namesakes: Eileen Ryan, an American actress, and wife of director Leo Penn. Tony Ryan, an Irish billionaire who co-founded the Ryanair airline.
  • Popularity: Ryan ranked 1,281st worldwide, is mainly used in the U.S., and ranked 5th in Ireland in 2014.
Common, Traditional

Seward

Seward began as an English occupational name for a “swineherd.” In Gaelic, it comes from Ó’Suaird, believed to mean “sword.”

  • Origin: Celtic, English
  • Meaning: Sword
  • Pronunciation: SUW-ahrd
  • Variations: Sewerd
  • Namesakes: William Henry Seward, the U.S. Secretary of State from 1861 to 1869. James Seward, an English cricketer for Oxford MCCU.
  • Popularity: Seward is rare worldwide, primarily used in the U.S., and ranked 820th in Liberia in 2014.
Unique, Uncommon

Shannon

Shannon is taken from the Gaelic “seanachaidh,” meaning “skilled storyteller.” It’s inspired by the River Shannon – the longest river in Ireland.

  • Origin: Celtic, Irish
  • Meaning: Skilled storyteller
  • Pronunciation: SHAE-Nahn
  • Variations: MacShannon, O’Shannon
  • Namesakes: Charles Westover (known as Del Shannon), an American musician known for the song Runaway (1961). Michael Shannon, an American actor known for Revolutionary Road (2008).
  • Popularity: Shannon is rare worldwide, mostly used in the U.S., and ranked 215th in Northern Ireland in 2014.
Traditional, Popular

Sheehan

Sheehan derives from the Gaelic Ó’Síodhacháin, meaning “descendant of Síodhachán.” In Irish, “síodhach” means “peaceful, while “séadhachan” means “courteous.”

  • Origin: Celtic, Irish
  • Meaning: The peaceful one
  • Pronunciation: SHIY-Ahn
  • Variations: Sheahan, Sheahan, O’Sheehan
  • Namesakes: Billy Sheehan, an American musician and bass player for David Lee Roth. Neil Sheehan, an American journalist, and Pulitzer Prize winner for his 1988 book A Bright Shining Lie.
  • Popularity: Sheehan is rare worldwide, mainly used in the U.S., and ranked 81st in Ireland in 2014.
Unique, Patronymic

Sheridan

Sheridan is based on the Gaelic O’Sirideáin, meaning “descendant of Sheridan.” The first name Sheridan means “the searcher” and may refer to Sheraton, a town located near the Pennines in England.

  • Origin: Celtic, Irish
  • Meaning: Searcher
  • Pronunciation: SHEH-rih-Dahn
  • Variations: Sheriden, Sherridan
  • Namesakes: Jim Sheridan, an Irish filmmaker known for My Left Foot (1989). Liz Sheridan, an American actress appearing on Seinfeld (1990 to 1998).
  • Popularity: Sheridan is rare worldwide, primarily used in the U.S., and ranked 91st in Ireland in 2014.
Geographical, Ancient
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Sloane

Sloane originally appeared as Ó’Sluaghhadáin, meaning “warrior.” The first name Slaughadhan is a diminutive of Sluaghadh, meaning “expedition” and “raid.”

  • Origin: Celtic, Scottish
  • Meaning: Raider
  • Pronunciation: SLOWN
  • Variations: Sloan, Slone
  • Namesakes: Barry Sloane, an English actor appearing in The Mark of Cain series. Harvey I. Sloane, the 54th Mayor of Louisville, Kentucky, from 1982 to 1986.
  • Popularity: Sloane is rare worldwide, mostly used in the U.S., and ranked 1,336th in Northern Ireland in 2014.
Uncommon, Strong

Storey

Storey is one of the Celtic last names with Norse origins. It’s based on Stóri, from a “storr,” meaning “big.” It dates back to the Danish Vikings of the 7th-century and was often used for a “cattle rancher.”

  • Origin: Celtic
  • Meaning: Large
  • Pronunciation: STAOR-iy
  • Variations: Story, Storie
  • Namesakes: Rob Storey, a New Zealand member of Parliament from 1984 to 1996. Sidney Storey, an English footballer for Huddersfield Town.
  • Popularity: Storey is rare worldwide, mainly used in the U.S., and ranked 474th in England in 2014.
Viking, Common

Sullivan

Sullivan evolved out of the Gaelic Ó’Súilleabháin. It uses the root “suil,” meaning “eye,” and means everything from “dark-eyed” to “one-eyed.”

  • Origin: Celtic, Irish
  • Meaning: Hawk-eyed
  • Pronunciation: SUH-lih-Vahn
  • Variations: O’Sullivan
  • Namesakes: Andrew Sullivan, a British-American author, and editor of The New Republic. Ed Sullivan, an American TV host of The Ed Sullivan Show from 1948 to 1971.
  • Popularity: Sullivan ranked 1,434th worldwide, is primarily used in the U.S., and ranked 149th in Ireland in 2014.
Nicknames, Common

Tierney

Tierney comes from the Gaelic Ó’Tíghearnaigh and refers to “the son of Tierney.” It uses the root “tiarna,” meaning “master.” St. Tigernach was a 6th-century Irish saint and the third bishop of Clogher.

  • Origin: Celtic, Irish
  • Meaning: Descendent of a lord
  • Pronunciation: TIHIYR-niy
  • Variations: Tiernie
  • Namesakes: Maura Tierney, an American actress known for the series NewsRadio (1995 to 1999). Andrew Tierney, an Australian musician, and member of the group Human Nature.
  • Popularity: Tierney is rare worldwide, mostly used in the U.S., and ranked 221st in Ireland in 2014.
Unique, Patronymic

Tighe

Tighe has geographical origins in Ireland, meaning “at the Tye.” As a first name, it also means “bard” and “philosopher.” Tighe relates to Timothy and was first found on the west coast of Ireland.

  • Origin: Celtic, Irish
  • Meaning: Handsome
  • Pronunciation: TIYG
  • Variations: Teague, Teige, Tiege
  • Namesakes: James Tighe, an English wrestler for Frontier Wrestling Alliance. Karen Tighe, a TV presenter for the ABC Radio Grandstand sports program.
  • Popularity: Tighe is rare worldwide, mainly used in the U.S., and ranked 431st in Ireland in 2014.
Geographical, Unusual

Tobin

Tobin is an Anglo version of the Gaelic Tóibín, meaning “Tobin’s town.” It’s also a Hebrew boy’s name meaning “God is good.”

  • Origin: Celtic, Irish
  • Meaning: Tobin’s town
  • Pronunciation: TOW-Bihn
  • Variations: Tóibín
  • Namesakes: George Tobin, an American illustrator for magazines like Harper’s Bazaar. Niall Tóibín, an Irish comedian awarded honorary lifetime membership of the Irish Film and Television Academy in 2011.
  • Popularity: Tobin is rare worldwide, primarily used in the U.S., and ranked 144th in Ireland in 2014.
Geographical, Unusual

Vaughn

Vaughn is one of many Celtic surnames taken from a nickname. It derives from the Welsh “vychan,” meaning “small.”

  • Origin: Celtic, Welsh
  • Meaning: Little
  • Pronunciation: VAON
  • Variations: Vaughan
  • Namesakes: Vincent Vaughn, an American actor known for Old School (2003). Greg Vaughn, an American baseball player for the Milwaukee Brewers.
  • Popularity: Vaughn is uncommon worldwide, primarily used in the U.S., and ranked 265th in Barbados in 2014.
Nicknames, Traditional

Wallace

Wallace is an ancient surname meaning “foreigner,” but specifically refers to a “Celt.” It’s associated with the Old English “wylisċ,” meaning “Welshman.”

  • Origin: Celtic, Scottish
  • Meaning: Celt, Welshman
  • Pronunciation: WAA-Lahs
  • Variations: Wallis
  • Namesakes: David Foster Wallace, an American writer best known for the 1996 novel Infinite Jest. Dee Wallace, an American actress known for E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982).
  • Popularity: Wallace ranked 1,427th worldwide, is mainly used in the U.S., and ranked 50th in Scotland in 2014.
Ancient, Famous

Walsh

Walsh comes from the Old English “welisc,” meaning “foreign,” and refers to someone from Briton. Walsh was used to describe Welsh soldiers during the Norman invasion of Ireland.

  • Origin: Celtic, Welsh
  • Meaning: Foreigner, Welsh
  • Pronunciation: WAHLSH
  • Variations: Walshe, Walshman
  • Namesakes: Joe Walsh, an American musician, and member of The Eagles. Shannon Walsh, a Canadian filmmaker who directed The Gig Is Up (2021).
  • Popularity: Walsh ranked 1,752nd worldwide, is primarily used in the U.S., and ranked 4th in Ireland in 2014.
Ancient, Common

Whelan

Whelan began as the Gaelic O’Faolain, meaning “descendant of Faolain.” It uses the Gaelic root “faol,” meaning “wolf,” and sometimes appears as Phelan among Celtic last names today.

  • Origin: Celtic, Irish
  • Meaning: Wolf
  • Pronunciation: WEHL-aen
  • Variations: Phelan, O’Whelan
  • Namesakes: Eugene Whelan, a Canadian member of the House of Commons from 1962 to 1984. Wendy Whelan, an American principal dancer with the New York City Ballet.
  • Popularity: Whelan is rare worldwide, primarily used in the U.S., and ranked 39th in Ireland in 2014.
Nicknames, Common
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About the Author

Maryana Vestic

Maryana Vestic is a Brooklyn-based writer, editor, and food photographer with a background in entertainment Business Affairs. She studied film at NYU, Irish Theatre Studies at Trinity College Dublin, and has an MFA in Creative Writing Nonfiction from The New School. She loves cooking, baking, hiking, and horror films, as well as running a local baking business in Brooklyn with her boyfriend.
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