Irish Family Crests: Top Ten Common Irish Coat of Arms

Symbols and emblems have been consistently used to distinguish different regions. The use of Irish Family Crests are no different. Heraldry allowed those who were fighting in battle to know who their opponents were. It also helped identify the men who died in battles. In the 21 century, Irish Coat of Arms are used to know about one's past and connect to their roots. Those of Irish descent display the coat of arms to show pride in their heritage by showing the distant emblems of their family. Here are the Family Crests of the Top Ten Most Common Irish Surnames. 

1. Murphy Family Crest

The surname Murphy is without a doubt the most common surname in Ireland. The name has been found in the majority of the country, however some can still trace it back to particular religions of the Emerald Isle. Murphy is believed to have been derived from either O’Murchadha or MacMurchadha. 

The motto found on the coat of arms is “Fortis Et hospitalis” meaning  “Brave and Hospitable.”

There are a couple versions of the crest. Some differences in the colors used as well. In our Heraldry Collection, the symbols used on our prints are a fruit tree and a lion. 

Murphy Crest

2. Kelly Family Crest

The second most common surname in Ireland, Kelly is believed to be derived from the Anglicized version of the Gaelic name, Ó Ceallaigh. 

The motto found on the family crest, “Turris Fortis Mihi Deus”, meaning “God is my Tower.”

The Kelly family crest is usually depicted using blue and gold. These colors respectively signified loyalty, truth and generosity. 

Kelly Family Crest

3. Byrne Family Crest

Ranked third, the surname Bryne is the gaelic form of the surname O'Broin, meaning son of Broen. The surname originates from Co.Kildare. 

The motto that is found on the Byrne Coat of Arms is  “Certavi et vici” which has the meaning of "I have fought and conquered.”

The larger known crest of the Byrne Coat of Arms is made up of three hands to symbolize justice.  The colors of the crest are white and red. The white is symbolic of peace and sincerity. The red is used to represent the “Martyr’s color”. 

4. Ryan Family Crest

At number four on the list is the surname Ryan. The surname originates from counties Limerick as well as Tipperary in the Emerald Isle. It is said that Ryan is anglicized from the Gaelic name that is O Maoilriaghain. 

The motto that labels the Ryan family crest is “Malo Mori Quam Foedari”, meaning “I would rather die than be disgraced.”  

The crest found in the coat of arms is adorned with griffin heads on a field of red. The giffin heads represent vigilance and bravery. Whereas the red signifies military strength. 

Ryan family Crest

5. O’Brien Family Crest

The O’Brien surname comes from great ancient roots. In history the O’Brien family was among the greatest and most influential families of Ireland.

The motto of the ancient family is “ lamh laidir an uachtar” which has the meaning of “ the strong hand from above.”

The crest is adorned with three lions, the colors of all three split between gold and white. The white is symbolic of peace and sincerity. The gold signifies generosity as well as deathless courage. The symbolic Martyr’s color is found in the red field. 

O'Brien Crest

 6. Walsh Family Crest

The fifth most common surname; Walsh, comes from the anglo-saxon word “waelisc.” The name originates from the Norman Invasion of Ireland.  Walsh has the meaning of foreigner or quite literally Welshman. The name can be found widely across the Emerald Isle, however more concentrated pockets are found in Mayo and Co.Kilkenny where the Walsh Mountains stand. 


The Walsh family have two variations of a mottos on their coat of arms: the first “Transfixus sed non mortuus” meaning “pierced but not dead.” The second “noli irritare Leonem” meaning “ do not rouse the lions.” The variation found on the parchment in our Heraldry Collection is Noli Irritare Leonem

The crest is colored red, white and black. The black is found in the spearheads, a symbol of the readiness for military service. The red is the symbolism for the Martyr’s color. 

Walsh Crest

7. O’Sullivan Family Crest

The O’Sullivan name can be traced throughout  history all the way back to the 3rd century. The O’Sullivans are descended from King Eoghan Mór who ruled over the province of Connaught and founded the Eóganachta dynasty. 

The motto of the O’Sullivans is  “lamh foistenach abú” which has the meaning of “steady hand to victory.” 

The crest has many different symbolic designs. A boar to represent warrior spirit. A snake to signify wisdom. A Stag to denote peace. A sword to symbolize justice. 

O'Sullivan Family Crest

8. O’Connor Family Crest

Over time the O’Connor surname has had many variations. The name is derived from the gaelic  Conchodar the King of Connaught in the mid-tenth century. The last two kings of Ireland before the Anglo-Norman invasion were a part of the O’Connor family. 


The family motto of the O’Connor’s is “ Ó Dhia gach aon Cabhair” meaning “from god come every help.”

The symbol on the crest is an oak tree to symbolize the deep and ancient origins of the family and the green in the crest symbolizes joy, hope, and loyalty in love. 

O'Connor Crest

9. Doyle Family Crest

The Gaelic form of the name is O’Dubhghaill, which comes from“dubh ghall” or “ dark foreigner”. These words often were used in ancient times to denote horsemen. The origins of the name have been found to lay with Nordic Invaders. The name was in the Southeast where Nordic settlements were raised. 

The motto of this family is “fortitudine vincit” meaning “ he conquers by fortitude.”

The crest is adorned with three stag heads, these represent peace and harmony.  Red, blue and yellow were the colors of this crest. The Interlinking blue and yellow signified the two factions within one family. 

Doyle Crest

10. McCarthy Family Crest

The McCarthy or McCarty sept is one of the largest and most ancient septs of Ireland. In their long and ancient history the McCarthy/ McCarty clan was known for their disputes between their neighbors. Mac Carthaigh is the Gaelic Origin of this name. Mac Carthaigh is also derived from the word Carthach which means loving.

The motto of the family is “Fortis, ferox et Celer” which has the meaning of  “Strong, Courageous and Swift. ”

A red stag adorns the McCarthy family crest, the meaning is representative of the ancestors of the Celtic race. The red color also finds its symbolism in the stag as well.

McCarthy/McCarty Crest
If you would like a deeper history lesson check out this blog for more historical fact about Heraldry, Irish Family Crests and Irish Coat of Arms. 
If you would like to check out a video of our exclusive parchments you can do so clicking here or going to our YouTube Channel to see the parchments and more  other gifts we offer at Giftsofireland.com 


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