Irish Last Names Beginning With A (With Meanings)

Are you interested in the origins and meaning of an Irish last name that begins with A?

Here are the meanings of Irish surnames that had birth registrations in early 20th century Ireland.

We also explain the Norman and British influence on Irish names over centuries.

Summary Of Irish Last Names Beginning With A

If you’re interested in numbers, this table has some statistics to go with these names.

Last NameIrish Births 1923-32U.S. Census 2010
Abraham2831,303
Agnew609,856
Ahearn354,628
Ahearne85140
Ahern6978,221
Aherne269281
Allen713482,607
Ambrose7217,178
Andrews161133,799
Ardiff10Under 100
Ardill11Under 100
Armstrong393135,044
Ashe1307,756
Attridge41519
Aughey15141
Aughney12Under 100
Aylward1302,074

Irish birth registrations from 1923 to 1932

I chose a ten-year period for birth registrations starting in 1923 in order to restrict the birth locations to the Republic of Ireland (excluding Northern Ireland).

This is only because when I took earlier dates, the number of English and Scottish names registered in districts like Belfast made the list too arduous for me to filter down to Irish origins.

Irish names in the U.S. census

You’ll see some numbers represented as “Under 100”.

The name could have had ninety-nine bearers in the census that year. But it also means that the name may not have appeared in the U.S. census at all in 2010.

Who Were The Normans And What Is “Anglicization”?

Norman Knight

In the next section on the origins and meanings of these names, I’m going to mention Norman influences and Anglicization.

The use of surnames in Ireland dates back to the tenth century. Children adopted the first name of their father and prefixed it with “Mac” or “O”, which means “son” and “descendant of”.

These names were in the Gaelic language.

Anglo-Normans and Norman names

After William the Conqueror led the Norman Conquest of Britain, the Anglo-Normans spread to Ireland from 1169.

They introduced Norman names to the island that we now consider to be very Irish. I’ve pointed out Norman origins in the next section.

Anglicization of Irish names

In later centuries when Ireland was under British rule, the use of the Gaelic language was curbed.

This led to the Irish making their names look and sound more English i.e. Anglicization.

The simplest way was to drop the O and Mac in front of a name.

Another way was to pick the nearest sounding English name.

Some of the names on this list may not seem very “Irish” to you. But they are prevalent in Ireland because they were phonetically similar to a Gaelic name.

The third way was to pick an English name that has the same meaning as the Gaelic name. The two names may sound completely different.

Origins And Meanings Of Irish Surnames Starting With A

If you would like to hear pronunciations of the Gaelic names mentioned below, they are in this quick video in the order of where they appear in this article.

Abraham

In most parts of the world, the origins of this name come directly from the Hebrew name Avraham or the Arab name Ibrahim.

Abraham was in use as a personal name in England in the Middle Ages and was adopted as a family name.

So, why would it have different origins in Ireland?

The “Dictionary of American Family Names” suggests that it is an Anglicization form of the Gaelic name Mac an Bhreitheamhann.

That last word sounds like “brehon” in English. Brehons were judges in ancient Ireland. The name Mac an Bhreitheamhann means “son of the judge”.

When this surname was Anglicized by meaning, it became Judge.

Phonetically, the name could also be changed to the similar-sounding Browne.

Agnew

Elsewhere, this name is of Norman origin.

In Ireland, it can be an Anglicization of Ó Gnímh. The Gaelic word gníomh means action or deed.

One notable O’Gnímh was a poet who accompanied Shane O’Neill, chief of the Tyrone O’Neills, to the court of Queen Elizabeth in 1562.

Ahern, Aherne, Ahearn or Ahearne

Ahern and its variants are more recognizable Irish names.

They are Anglicized forms of Ó hEachthigheirn, or descendant of Eachthigheirn.

The meaning comes from the Gaelic words for horse (each) and lord (tiarna). The name literally means “descendant of the horse lord”.

The name dates back to a Dalcassian family.

The Dalcassians were a powerful Gaelic tribe in Munster (the southwest of Ireland).

The Ahern/Ó hEachthigheirn branch were lords of an area near what is now known as Sixmilebridge.

Allen

Allen is the most common name in this list of Irish names starting with A. There were 713 births with that name in Ireland between 1923 and 1931.

This is considered to be of Breton origins. Saint Alanus of Quimper was revered in Brittany in the Middle Ages.

The Dictionary of American Family Names suggests that its spread in Ireland was due to the influence of Breton followers of William the Conqueror.

Ambrose

bishop

Saint Ambrose became Bishop of Milan in the year 374 AD and exerted considerable influence on Christian theology. He also converted Saint Augustine.

The name of Ambrose spread through Christian Europe in the Middle Ages, in part due to reverence for the Saint.

The Irish form is Mac Ambróis, which means “son of Ambrose”.

Andrews, MacAndrew

MacAndrew is the English spelling for Mac Aindriú, which means “son of Andrew”.

The book “Surnames of Ireland” says that the name MacAndrew was taken by a branch of the Barrett family. But who were these Barretts?

They were an Anglo-Norman family that settled in northeastern Mayo.

Ardiff

This name is considered to be a variant of Cardiff, which is a Welsh name.

Cardiff arrived into Ireland with the Anglo-Norman Invasion in 1171. In a trend that would be reversed later, the Welsh name was transformed into Gaelic as de Carduibh (“person of Cardiff”).

Centuries later, this name was Anglicized as Cardiff or Ardiff.

If you’re wondering about the original Welsh meaning, it comes from the Welsh words for fort (caer) and river (taf). This was the name given to what is now the city of Cardiff in Wales.

Ardill

This name is a variant of McArdle. The variants are Anglicized form of the Gaelic name Mac Árdghail, or son of Árdghal.

The meaning comes from the words for high or tall (ard) and warlike valour (gal). In other words, the name means the son of the tall warrior.

One of the chiefs of the McMahon clan was named Árdghal. He was a King of an Ulster region (Oriel) in the early fifteenth century. His descendants took the name Mac Ardghail.

Armstrong

This name was taken as a roundabout translation of the Gaelic name Ó Labhradha Tréan.

Labhradha was the ancestor of a clan in Ulster that is known in English now as Lavery or Lowry. There were three branches of the Labhradha family that adopted different names:

  • Baun-Lavery (Ó Labhradha Bán)
  • Roe-Lavery ((Ó Labhradha Rua)
  • Trin-Lavery (Ó Labhradha Tréan)

The three words Bán, Rua, and Tréan, translate into English as white, red, and strong.

So, Trin-Lavery or Ó Labhradha Tréan literally means “descendants of the strong Lavery”.

The Trin-Lavery families sometimes Anglicised their name to Armstrong to denote their strength

Attridge

This name is English in origin but was found in Ireland as far back as the sixteenth century.

It comes from the Old English words for someone living by a ridge or a hill. It was brought to Cork in the fifteen hundreds.

Aughey

This is one Anglicized form of O’hEochaidh, or descendant of Eochadha.

The meaning comes from the Gaelic word for a horse (each).

These are some other forms:

  • Haughey
  • O’Hoey
  • Hoye

It’s well worth looking up the legends around the many High Kings that bore the name Eochadha.

Aughney

This is the Anglicized form of Mac Fhactna, which means “son of Fachtna”. There are several theories as to the origins of Fachtna.

Woulfe’s “Irish Names and Surnames” points to several Irish saints of this name. The most well-known was an Abbot of a monastery in Cork in the sixth century.

This Saint Fachtna established a school at Ross. Perhaps some of his students took the name.

Aylward

This name is English in origin but appeared in Ireland as far back as the sixteenth century.

The meaning comes from the Old English words for “noble” and “guardian”.

Other Last Names In Ireland From 1923 To 1932

The surnames I’ve already gone through are Irish in origin or were brought into the country centuries ago.

But there are many other names that had significant numbers in early twentieth-century Ireland. These are mostly of English or Scottish origins.

In this section, I arrange these surnames based on the number of births in the Republic of Ireland between 1923 and 1932.

One hundred or more births

Last NameOriginsBirths 1923-1931
AdamsEnglish169
AllenEnglish713
AndersonScottish372
AndrewsEnglish161
AtkinsonEnglish123
AustinEnglish107
AylwardEnglish130

Between fifty and ninety-nine birth registrations

Last NameOriginsBirths 1923-1931
AbbottEnglish67
AgnewScottish60
AlexanderScottish71
AmbroseEnglish72
ArchboldEnglish57
ArnoldEnglish69
ArthurScottish62

Between thirty and forty-nine birth registrations

Last NameOriginsBirths 1923-1931
ActonEnglish42
AdairScottish39
AdamsonAcross Europe32
AlcornScottish35
AlfordEnglish40
ArcherEnglish40
Arkinsvariant33
ArmitageEnglish32
AspellEnglish33
AtkinsEnglish44
AttridgeEnglish41

Between twenty and twenty-nine birth registrations

Last NameOriginsBirths 1923-1931
AbbeyEnglish22
AgarEnglish29
AikenScottish20
AldridgeEnglish27
AllisonEnglish28
AllmanEnglish24
AnthonyEnglish25
ApplebyEnglish24
ArthursEnglish25
AshmoreEnglish26
AyresEnglish22

Between ten and nineteen birth registrations

Last NameOriginsBirths 1923-1931
AbbeyEnglish22
AgarEnglish29
AikenScottish20
AldridgeEnglish27
AllisonEnglish28
AllmanEnglish24
AnthonyEnglish25
ApplebyEnglish24
ArthursEnglish25
AshmoreEnglish26
AyresEnglish22

Under ten birth registrations

Last NameOriginsBirths 1923-1931
AbernethyScottish7
AcklandEnglish2
AirdScottish6
AireyGerman8
AitkenScottish3
AldrittEnglish3
AldworthEnglish9
AlexandraEnglish2
AlfredEnglish6
AllisEnglish7
AlveyEnglish1
AmblerEnglish2
AndrewEnglish4
AngleyEnglish3
AnkersEnglish7
AnslowEnglish3
ArbuthnotScottish4
ArchiboldScottish9
ArnottScottish9
ArrowsmithEnglish5
AshEnglish6
AshtonEnglish8
AtkinEnglish8
AttwoodEnglish1
AudleyEnglish8
AuldScottish5
AyersEnglish9

Surprised not to see a name you expected?

You’ll probably find it in our big list of names in the American census starting with A.

If you really think it should be in the Irish list, drop us a comment with it.

Index To Other Letters

Looking for lists related to other letters? Check these out:

ABCDE
FGHIJ
KLN
PQ
Index to Irish Last Names

Sources

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