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Irish Surname - Quinn

The surname Quinn is believed to be of Irish origin, coming from the Gaelic 'Ó'Cuinn' (descendants of Conn) meaning 'wisdom' or 'chief'. Other origins sometimes found mention that it derives from 'Ceann' meaning head; or from 'Conn' meaning counsel. It occupies 19th place in the list of commonest surnames in Ireland as a whole and first place in County Tyrone, as well as being widespread in other counties such as Antrim, Clare, Longford.

In early Ireland the surname arose separately amongst unrelated families, such as those of Thomond and Tir Eoghan. One of the most notable of these was the Dalcassian sept of Thomond, whose territory lay around Corofin in the barony of Inchiquin, County Clare, and that of Antrim, where the Quinns have long been associated with the Glens of Antrim. The first of the Dalcassian sept to bear the name was Niall O'Cuinn, who was killed at the battle of Clontarf in 1014. In County Longford O'Cuinn was also a principal chief of Teffia and their chief stronghold was at their castle in Rathcline, County Longford, as found in Keatings History.

Families of O'Quinn settled in France and became leading citizens both in Bordeaux and Pau. There is a street called Rue O'Quinn in Bordeaux, indicating the importance of the family, which is still existent in that part of France.

In general, Catholics spell the name with two "n"s while Protestants spell it with one. The name can be found as O'Quinn or Mac Quinn (the 'O' and 'Mac' denoting "son of") - O'Quinn is common all over Ireland especially in County Tyrone, while Mac Quinn is more popular in County Kerry.

It is worthy of note that place names such as Inchiquin, Ballyquin etc are spelt with only one final 'n'.

In Griffiths Valuation c1850s, a total of 4442 Quin/Quinn households were recorded, the most numerous were Tyrone (663), Galway (297) and Tipperary (265).

Famous People

The Franciscan Thomas O'Quinn was bishop (1252 - 1279) of the monastery at Clonmacnoise, the famed Irish centre of medieval learning.

In the early 16th century, during severe religious strife, John Quinn, a Dominican, was Bishop of Limerick.

Walter Quin (1575-1634), the Dublin born poet was tutor and lifelong associate of Charles Ist. On Charles I's marriage in 1625, Quin published a congratulatory poem in four languages, Latin, English, French, and Italian.

James Quin (1693-1766) was a famous actor of Irish descent who was greatly admired as the best actor of his time on the London stage.

Another famous actor, Anthony Quinn (1915 - 2001) was born in Mexico to a Mexican mother and an Irish father. Quinn was born and raised in a Catholic family. He starred in numerous critically acclaimed and commercially successful films, including Zorba the Greek, Lawrence of Arabia, The Guns of Navarone, The Message and others. He won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor twice; for Viva Zapata! in 1952 and Lust for Life in 1956.

Alternate Surname Spellings

O’Quinn, Quin, MacQuin, MacQuinn, McQuin, McQuinn, MacCuin, Cuinn, Cuin and more.

Researching Irish Surnames

We have researched many sources for the origins of Irish surnames and extracted a fair representation of the origins of each. As there are many variations we have compiled a representative, but by no means exhaustive, selection.

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