What is the origin of the last name Kelley?

The last name Kelley originates from the Gaelic Ó Ceallaigh, meaning "descendant of Ceallach." Ceallach, derived from the Old Irish "ceall," referred to a church or a cell, and the name likely denoted someone living near or associated with a church. The Kelley surname is most commonly found in Ireland and has ancient roots tracing back to the medieval Irish kingdom of Ui Maine. Over time, variations of the name emerged, including Kelly, Kelleher, and O'Kelly, reflecting regional influences and the anglicization of Gaelic names during British colonization.

Countries of origin for the last name Kelley

The last name Kelley is a common surname in the United States, with a rich history and diverse origins. It is derived from multiple sources, including Gaelic, Old English, and Old Norse. The name has several variations and spellings, such as Kelly, Kellie, Kelle, and Kealy.

One of the primary origins of the last name Kelley is from the Gaelic name Ó Ceallaigh, meaning “descendant of Ceallach.” Ceallach is derived from the Gaelic word “ceall,” meaning “church,” suggesting a possible association with religious or ecclesiastical connections.

Another possible origin of the surname is from the Old English word “cēol,” meaning “ship.” This suggests a potential association with seafaring or maritime activities. The medieval surname Kel(l)ey could have been used to denote someone involved in the shipping or fishing industry. The variant “Kelle” can be traced back to the Old Norse word “kellir,” which means “boiler” or “cauldron.”

The surname Kelley has been well-documented in historical records, with its earliest instances dating back to the 12th century. It has been found in various regions, including Ireland, Scotland, England, and the United States.

Due to its long history and multiple origins, the name Kelley is fairly common and can be found in different parts of the world. It is particularly prevalent in English-speaking countries, such as the United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.

The popularity of the last name Kelley can also be attributed to notable individuals who bear the name. Throughout history, there have been several influential figures with this surname, including politicians, musicians, athletes, and writers.

Despite the extensive research and knowledge surrounding the name Kelley, there are still some uncertainties and possible hidden meanings to explore. Further investigation into genealogical records, historical documents, and linguistic sources could potentially shed more light on the specific origins and significance of this surname. The study of name etymology remains an ongoing exploration of cultural identities and ancestral connections.

Interesting facts about the last name Kelley

  • The surname Kelley is of Irish origin and is derived from the Gaelic name “Ó Ceallaigh,” meaning “descendant of Ceallach.”
  • It is one of the most common surnames in Ireland, especially in County Galway and County Offaly.
  • The name Ceallach itself is thought to have originated from the Gaelic word “ceall,” meaning “church” or “monastery.”
  • The Kelley surname has various spellings, including Kelly, Kellie, Kealy, and Kelleher.
  • Due to Irish emigration, the Kelley name can be found in significant numbers in countries like the United States, Canada, Australia, and the United Kingdom.
  • Notable people with the surname Kelley include actress Genevieve Kelley, journalist Robert F. Kelley, and basketball player Tom Kelley.
  • The Kelley family motto is “Fortis et hospitalis,” which translates to “Brave and hospitable.”
  • According to genealogical records, the Kelley surname dates back to the 11th century in Ireland.
  • Legend has it that the first person to bear the Kelley name was a chief of the Eoghanacht Chaisil dynasty named Ceallachán of Cashel.
  • The popularity of the Kelley surname in Ireland can be attributed to the prominence and influence of the Kelly Clan throughout history.

Name Rank


There are around 140693 people with the last name Kelley in the US

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