Ryan is in the top ten of most common Irish surnames. There are over 30,000 people of the name all around Ireland. The Ryan name has spread across the globe as Irish emigrants left home to seek adventure or a new life.
The exact origins of the name are lost in the highways and byways of time, but there are many suggestions regarding how, when and where it originated.
My Ryan born mother told us that her Wexford branch of the family was the ‘royal Ryans’. We scoffed and smirked at this, but there may be some truth in this aspiration to nobility. The Leinster family of this name is said to be the descendants of Cathaoir Mor a King of Leinster from the second century or Cormac the son of King Nathi of Leinster in the 4th century. The location associated with the Leinster Ryans is the barony of Idrone in County Carlow, but to-day they are to be found throughout the province including the neighbouring county of Wexford. In Irish Gaelic the name is O’Riain, which may derive from ‘rí’ meaning king which fits with its noble origins.Back