Irish Last Names Beginning With N (With Meanings)

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

This article lists Irish surnames that had birth registrations in early 20th century Ireland and also appear in the 2010 American census.

We’ll also give the origins and meanings of the most popular names.

Most Common Irish Surnames Starting With N

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

We’ve also included how many people had the name in the 2010 U.S. census.

Here is a summary of the numbers. We’ll explain the origins and meanings in the next section.

Last NameIrish Births 1923-32US Census 2010

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, I would have a lot of work filtering out English and Scottish names for this list.

Names in the U.S. census

Bear in mind that many names have different origins and are from different regions.

So, one Nugent family may be the descendants of Irish ancestors. But other families may descend from English ancestors with different origins.

Origins And Meanings Of Irish Surnames Starting With N

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


This is an Anglicized form of the Gaelic name Ó Nualláin. 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 Nualláin means “descendant of”, so this name means the descendant of Nuallán.

So, what does Nuallán mean? The meaning comes from the Irish word for a famous noble (nuall).

The syllable at the end is the diminutive. So, when used as a personal or first name, it represented a younger family member of a well-known and highly regarded person (famous noble).


This is an Anglicized form of the Gaelic name Ó Nuanáin or descendant of Ionmhain.

The meaning comes from an Irish word for beloved.


This is an Anglicized form of the Gaelic name Ó Neachtain, or descendant of Neachtan.

The meaning comes from Irish words for bright and pure.

The Rev Patrick Woulfe wrote in 1923 that an O’Neachtain family were chiefs of territory near Loughrea in County Galway.


This name is also an early name in England. The Irish and English name comes from Norman origins.

The Norman name was conferred on people from towns in Northern France with “Nogent” as part of the placename. Nogent-sur-Eure is one example.

The name was brought to England through the Norman Conquest, and later into Ireland with the Anglo-Norman Invasion of 1169.

Norman Knight


This is a variant of O’Neill, by simply dropping the O.

Both variants are Anglicized forms of the Gaelic name Ó’Néill, or descendant of Niall.

The meaning comes from an Old Irish word for a warrior or champion (niadh).

Some of the most prominent and powerful families in Ireland bore this name.

One of these clans are the descendants of Niall of the Nine Hostages, a legendary king whose reign was from  379 to 405 (according to later texts).

His descriptive name comes from his practice of ensuring loyalty from conquered districts by taking hostages.

O’Neill is now a very common name across Ireland. Many claim descent from Niall of the Nine Hostages, although there were separate clans of the same name as well.


This is an Anglicized form of the Gaelic name Ó Náradhaigh, or descendant of Náradhach.

The meaning comes from the Irish word for modest or noble.


This is an Anglicized form of the Gaelic name Ó Nuadhan, or descendant of Nuadha.

Nuadha is the mythical first king of the Tuatha Dé Danann, a pre-Christian set of supernatural beings.

He lost an arm in a great battle with the Fir Bolg (another mythical people). At first, he bore a replacement arm made of silver. Eventually he acquired a new arm of flesh.


This is an Anglicized form of the Gaelic name Mac an Óglaigh, or ”son of the soldier”.

“Mac an” means “son of”, while “óglaoch” refers to a soldier.


The origins of this name are Norman, as with the same name found in England. The early Norman bearers came from places such as Néville in Normandy in northern France.

The name arrived in England with the Norman Conquest and later in Ireland with the Anglo-Norman Invasion in 1169.


This is an Anglicized form of the Gaelic name Mac Naoimhín. or son of Naoimhín.

The meaning comes from the Irish word for a saint (naomh).  The second syllabile is the diminutive. So, the full family name means son of the little saint.


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.

Here are the other names. Remember that many of these names were brought to America from different regions where they had different meanings.

From twenty to two hundred births

Last NameIrish Births 1923-32US Census 2010

Under twenty births

Last NameIrish Births 1923-32US Census 2010

Index To Other Letters

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

Index to Irish Last Names


Margaret created a family tree on a genealogy website in 2012. She purchased her first DNA kit in 2017. She created this website to share insights and how-to guides on DNA, genealogy, and family research.

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