What Does Your Irish Surname Say About You?

Family History
16 March 2017
by Leslie Lang

 

Are you one of the over 33 million Irish Americans? Whether you’ve got one of the most common types of Irish surnames or a more obscure one, your surname could hold interesting clues about you.


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Until about the 10th century in Ireland, surnames were not passed down from generation to generation. Instead, surnames were patronymic, or based on someone’s father’s name.

Illustration of two fathers and sons explaining patronymic surnames.

Many surnames originated as occupational surnames. The earliest known Irish surname, O Cleirigh, is one example. The name was given to someone descended from a clerk.

Illustration of blacksmith with translations of occupational surnames around him.


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Descriptive names were names that described the first person to take them. The first person with the name Dunn (Donne) was probably brown-haired.

Illustration of descriptive surnames showing several people with different physical traits such as brown hair and curly hair.

Irish geographical (toponymic) surnames, deriving from a place where the original name bearer once lived, are more rare. But they’re an interesting type of surname.

Illustration of geographic surnames showing examples of the Irish landscape.


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What does your Irish surname say about you? Find out today!