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.

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.


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.


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


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.


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