Irish Last Names Beginning With B (With Meanings)

Are you interested in learning the origin and meaning of an Irish last name that begins with B?

Here are the meanings of many Irish surnames that had birth registrations in early 20th century Ireland and also appear in the 2010 American census.

We also explain the Norman and British influences on these names over centuries.

Most Common Irish Last Names Beginning With B

Let’s start with Irish names that had at least a thousand births in Ireland between 1923 and 1932.

We’ve squeezed “Brown” in at the bottom as a variant of Browne. This is one of those names that have different origins depending on the region. Many American bearers will be of English or other European descent, which we’ll explain later.

Last NameIrish births 1923-32U.S. Census 2010
Byrne7,22929,503
Burke3,365122,877
Brennan3,34349,238
Brady2,16073,145
Barry1,81247,274
Buckley1,80941,348
Boyle1,64339,921
Butler1,588218,847
Browne1,46422,289
Brown9461,437,026

Why take Irish birth registrations from 1923 to 1932?

The second column is the number of Irish birth registrations over ten years starting in 1923.

The reason I chose that start date was that the Republic of Ireland was established the previous year. Starting in 1923 excluded birth locations in Northern Ireland.

Otherwise, the number of English and Scottish names would take longer to filter out of this list.

Origins And Meanings Of Irish Surnames Starting With B

Let’s run through the origins and meanings of these top names.

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.

Byrne

This is an Anglicized form of the Gaelic name Ó Broin. I explain “Anglicization” more fully in a later section.

Here, I’ll simply say that it’s a way of taking an old Gaelic surname and turning it into a name that sounds or seems English.

The “Ó” in Ó Broin means “descendant of”, so this name means the descendant of Bran.

But who was Bran? He was the son of a powerful King of Leinster in the early 11th century. Bran took his name from the Irish word for a raven.

His father, Mael Morda, led the losing side at the Battle of Clontarf. When he was killed, Bran was recognized as the new King of Leinster.

But when an enemy blinded Bran four years later, the old laws meant that he had to relinquish the crown.

The descendants who took his name would become some of the strongest families in the land. You can read more in a history of the O’Byrne clan.

Burke

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 being very Irish. Burke is one such name.

The meaning comes from how the Normans pronounced the Old English word burg. The word means a fortification or castle.

Brennan

This is an Anglicized form of the Gaelic names Mac Branáin or Ó Branáin. “Mac” means son and “Ó” means a descendant.

We’ve encountered a form of the Irish word already. Branán is a pet name or diminutive of Bran, which we said means a raven. So, Branan refers to a little raven.

Brady

This is an Anglicized form of the Gaelic names Ó Brádaigh or Mac Brádaigh, the descendant or son of Brádach.

The meaning comes from the Irish word for someone who is highly spirited.

Barry

This name has different origins depending on the region. Some American bearers will descend from English or other European ancestors.

The Irish name is the Anglicized form of the Gaelic name Ó Beargha, or descendant of Beargha.

“Beargha” means “like a spear”.

Buckley

The Irish name is an Anglicized version of the Gaelic name Ó Buachalla, or descendant of Ó Buachaill.

The word “buachaill” means “boy” and would have referred to a serving boy.

Boyle

This is the Anglicized version of the Gaelic name Ó Baoighill, or descendant of Baoighill.

The meaning may refer to a promise or pledge (gheall). The early families were strong in Donegal. Later, the name would spread across the island.

Butler

You’d be right if you’re thinking that the earliest origins of this name are English.

It came to Ireland after the Anglo-Norman invasion of 1169. King Henry II appointed Theobald Fitzwater as the Chief Butler of Ireland.

His descendants took the name of Butler, and also the Gaelicized form of de Buitléir.

Browne and Brown

Brown is now one of the most common names in America. There is no single origin, as so many regions have their version of this nickname for someone of brown hair.

The Irish version is an Anglicized translation of the Gaelic name Ó’Duinn. This comes from the Irish word for brown (donn).

The nearest phonetic (sounding) name for the Gaelic name is Dunne.

More About The Anglicization Of Irish Surnames

You’ll find it easier to understand how Irish families changed their names with a bit more background.

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 “descendent of”.

These names were in the Gaelic language.

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.

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.

Other Irish Last Names From 1923 To 1932

We’ve covered the meanings and origins of the most common names in Ireland through the 1920s.

Now, I’ll list them in order of how frequent they are in the 2010 U.S. census. Remember that many of these names were brought to America from different regions.

Over 100,000 bearers in the U.S. census

We’ve already explained the Irish origins of several of the names in this section.

Last NameIrish Births 1923-32US Census 2010
Brown9461,437,026
Butler1,588218,847
Bryant26192,773
Burns643165,925
Black208154,738
Boyd242153,469
Bradley531136,720
Berry178132,812
Burke3,365122,877
Bishop86116,618

Over fifty thousand bearers in the census

Last NameIrish Births 1923-32US Census 2010
Byrd1092,904
Bowen10378,822
Blair4278,026
Blake45473,797
Brady2,16073,145
Buchanan6366,648
Brock1861,369
Burnett1760,791
Bryan15057,143

Over twenty thousand bearers in the 2010 census

Last NameIrish Births 1923-32US Census 2010
Booth8049,402
Brennan3,34349,238
Barry1,81247,274
Buckley1,80941,348
Boyle1,64339,921
Best4237,923
Bray14134,906
Baird4934,721
Bird12033,457
Byrne7,22929,503
Boyce22726,376
Brandon2226,284
Bingham2525,941
Bowden7224,560
Browne1,46422,289

Over ten thousand bearers

Last NameIrish Births 1923-32US Census 2010
Bryson1018,486
Bain117,371
Brannon216,136
Burk1115,500
Boles4114,946
Breen80914,170
Braden113,603
Bowie1211,786
Boland62911,631
Boyles111,156
Byrnes16211,039
Broderick39910,504

Over five thousand bearers

Last NameIrish Births 1923-32US Census 2010
Bohannon49,663
Bowens159,188
Begley2498,435
Bracken2768,265
Bogan168,034
Brogan2257,754
Brannan17,452
Baskin117,389
Bowe1776,628
Brodie76,585
Birmingham1326,577
Brophy4756,557
Boylan4136,280
Browder16,249
Bogle235,851
Blood205,770
Brazil1695,343

Over one thousand bearers

Last NameIrish Births 1923-32US Census 2010
Bowes734,967
Bannon2174,921
Breslin3204,490
Boden34,445
Bloomer224,231
Brian124,214
Brannen24,101
Bergin5033,996
Beery33,421
Behan4612,862
Beirne3701,642
Baine21,568

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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