What is the origin of the last name Donnelly?

The last name Donnelly has its origins in Ireland, specifically stemming from the Gaelic surname "Ó Donnghaile," meaning "descendant of Donnghal." The name Donnghal derives from the Gaelic words "donn" meaning "brown" and "gal" meaning "valour." Thus, Donnelly can be interpreted to mean "descendant of the brown-haired warrior." This surname has deep historical roots in Ireland, particularly in the western regions such as County Tyrone and County Donegal.

Countries of origin for the last name Donnelly

The last name “Donnelly” has a rich history and interesting etymology. It is primarily found in Ireland and Scotland, although it has spread to other parts of the world through migration. The name is believed to be of Gaelic origin and has variations such as “Donnelly,” “O’Donnelly,” and “Ó Donnghaile” in Irish, and “Mac Donnchaidh” in Scottish Gaelic.

One of the possible meanings of the name “Donnelly” is derived from the Gaelic words “donn,” meaning “brown,” and “ghaile,” meaning “valor” or “stoutness.” This suggests that the original meaning of the name could be “brown-haired warrior” or “brave person with brown hair.” Another interpretation is that it could mean “descendant of the brown one.”

Historical records show that the Donnelly name has long been associated with the province of Ulster in Ireland. It is particularly associated with Counties Tyrone and Armagh, where it has been prominent for centuries. The Donnelly clan is believed to have originally resided near the River Dungannon in County Tyrone.

In Irish history, the Donnelly name is often linked to the legendary “Red Hugh” O’Donnell, who was the Earl of Tyrconnell during the late 16th century. Red Hugh was a prominent figure in the resistance against English rule, and his bravery and leadership made him a folk hero among the Irish people. While it is uncertain if there is a direct ancestral connection between Red Hugh O’Donnell and the Donnelly surname, the association with such a renowned figure adds to the name’s historical significance.

The Donnelly name has also gained notoriety through various historical events and individuals. One of the most infamous incidents involving the Donnelly surname is the “Donnelly Massacre” in Canada. In 1880, the Donnelly family, who had emigrated from Ireland, was brutally attacked and murdered in their Ontario farmhouse. The massacre remains a subject of fascination and study, encompassing themes of prejudice, suspicion, and the vulnerability of immigrant communities in a new land.

Given the historical importance and widespread distribution of the Donnelly name, it is no surprise that many individuals with this surname have accomplished notable achievements. From politicians and writers to artists and athletes, the Donnelly name can be found in various fields of endeavor. Through their accomplishments, these individuals have contributed to the legacy and reputation of the Donnelly surname.

While the origins and meanings of the Donnelly last name have been explored, it is important to note that any analysis of a surname can only provide a glimpse into its historical context. The full story of the name and its bearers is likely far more intricate and diverse than can be captured in a single analysis. As with any surname, the name “Donnelly” holds the potential for further discovery and understanding, revealing new layers of meaning and connection.

Interesting facts about the last name Donnelly

  • The surname Donnelly is of Irish origin and is derived from the Gaelic name Ó Donnghaile, meaning “descendant of Donnghal” or “descendant of the dark stranger.”
  • The name Donnelly is primarily associated with County Tyrone in Northern Ireland, where the majority of Donnelly families are concentrated.
  • The Donnelly surname is particularly prominent in Irish history and folklore due to the infamous Donnelly family, also known as the “Black Donnellys” or the “Donnelly Outlaws,” who lived in Ontario, Canada in the 19th century and became known for their violent feuds and criminal activities.
  • The Donnelly family motto is “Vincit Veritas,” which translates to “Truth Conquers.”
  • Notable individuals with the surname Donnelly include British journalist and TV presenter Jasper Donnelly, American politician Joe Donnelly, Australian footballer Scott Donnelly, and Canadian ice hockey player Shayne Donovan Donnelly.
  • The variant spelling “Donley” is also common, especially in the United States.
  • The Donnelly surname has a strong association with the Catholic faith, as many Donnelly families are of Irish Catholic descent.
  • According to census data, the highest concentration of people with the Donnelly surname in the United States is in Pennsylvania, followed by Illinois and New York.

Name Rank


There are around 31505 people with the last name Donnelly in the US

Related Names

    Related Regions