MA Is Wicked Irish! Here Are The Top 10 Irish Last Names & Their Meanings

If you are from Massachusetts it should come as no surprise to learn that it is the most Irish state in the country with 21.6% claiming Irish ancestry – and proud of it!

#stpatricksdayparadeboston #bostonparade2017 #southbostonparade @bobbyguliani @corporatephotography

A post shared by Bobby Guliani (@gulianibobby) on

Data from the U.S. Census Bureau obtained by The Boston Globe has confirmed this information and made it official, with the rest of New England not too far behind.

  • New Hampshire (21 percent)
  • Rhode Island (18 percent)
  • Vermont (17.9 percent)
  • Maine (17.6 percent) rounding out the top five
  • Connecticut (15.8 percent) finished eighth

Pennsylvania and Delaware each reported 16.7% Irish ancestry, making them numbers 6 & 7, and keeping with the East coast trend.

Image Credit: Wikimedia/ Lauren Siegert

The most Irish towns in Massachusetts should also come as no surprise. The south shore of Massachusetts has long been known as a haven for the O’Briens and Murphys of the world!

Image Credit: Flickr/John Hoey

46.4% of Marshfield residents claim Irish ancestry, making it officially the state’s most Irish town. Nearby Hanover (46.3 percent), Scituate (46.2 percent), Whitman (44 percent), and Norwell (42.3 percent) round out the top five.

So what are the most common Irish surnames? The top 10 in Ireland haven’t changed much in the last 100 years, and residents of the South Shore will agree that these last names are also quite prevalent in America’s most Irish state!

1. Murphy — means “sea warrior.”

2. Kelly — means “white-headed,” “frequenting churches,” or “descendant of Ceallach.

3. O’Sullivan — may mean “one-eyed,” “hawk-eyed,” “black-eyed,” but the true meaning is unknown.

4. Walsh — means “from Wales.”

5. Smith — derived from Gabhann.

6. O’Brien — This name came down from Brian Boru (941-1014) who was king of Munster; his descendants took the name Ó Briain.

7. Byrne (also Byrnes; O’Byrne) — from the Irish name Ó Broin which means “raven” or descendant of Bran.

8. Ryan —  means “little king.”

9. O’Connor — From Ó Conchobhair, the “O” indicates grandson or descendant of Conchobhar which means “lover of hounds”.

10. O’Neill — means “vehement” or “champion.”

Did we miss any common Irish last names that have made their way to Massachusetts over the years? Let us know!

Back to blog