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Irish Surname - Murphy

The surname Murphy is the most common of all Irish names and is to be found in all four provinces. It is also popular in the USA where it was the 58th most common surname based on the 2000 census. In 1990 the Irish telephone directory had over 52,500 Murphy subscribers.

Murphy is the anglicised version of two Irish surnames, MacMurchadha and O'Murchadha, both derived from the early Irish personal name Murchadh, meaning 'sea-warrior'. As Ireland was under Viking control for several centuries, the name meaning 'sea warrior' is probably more than a coincidence.

The name derives from a number of Gaelic O'Murchadha septs, the main ones of which were located in Cork, Carlow, Armagh and Wexford. The most prominent of these were the Wexford Ui Murchadha who took their surname from Murchadh or Murrough, grandfather of Dermot MacMurrough, King of Leinster. A section of this clan moved west to Counties Cork and Kerry in the early 17th century, and is particularly associated with the barony of Muskerry. John Murphy (1700 - 1770), better known as Sean O' Murchadha na Raithineach, was the last chief of the famous bards of Blarney Castle. The majority of those Murphy descendants now hail from County Cork.

In Ulster the MacMurchadha sept were part of the Cineal Eoghain, who claimed descent from Eoghan, a son of the 5th century Niall of the Nine Hostages, who was reputedly responsible for the kidnapping of St Patrick to Ireland. The Ulster Murphys (or MacMurphys) were originally based in County Tyrone, but were driven out by the O'Neills and settled in south Armagh, where they were subjects of the O'Neills of the Fews. A chief from this section was Flaherty O' Murphy, recorded in the Annals of Tir Boghainne, County Donegal. From this it is evident that that the Murphys were and are widespread in Ulster and today the surname is most numerous in County Armagh, but can also be found in great numbers in Fermanagh and Monaghan.

In Griffiths Valuation c1850s, a total of 13,539 Murphy households were recorded in Ireland, making it the most numerous of Irish surnames in the mid-19th century. The surname was most prevalent in Cork, Wexford and Kilkenny, whilst the least occurence of the name at that time was in Donegal and Derry.

Britain’s prime minister, Boris Johnson, is quoted as saying ‘Why isn’t he called Murphy like all the rest of them’, referring to the Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar. Needless to say that went down very badly in Ireland.

Noteable People with Murphy as their Surname

Marie Louise O'Murphy (1737-1814), was the daughter of an Irish soldier who settled at Rouen. She was an influential mistress of Louis XV and was a model for Boucher who immortalized her beautiful features in many of his paintings.

Two Catholic priests from County Wexford lost their lives in the 1798 Rising. They were Rev John Murphy (1753 - 1798), and Rev Michael Murphy (1767 - 1798).

William Martin Murphy (1844-1921), business magnate and leader of the employers in the great Dublin strike of 1913.

Murphy Family Motto

"Fortes et Hospitatis", meaning "Strong and Hospitable"

Alternate Surname Spellings for Murphy




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