Quinn: What’s in a name?

Quinn – You could be related to famous footballers, top businessmen, or Zorba Greek.


This popular Irish surname is a derivative of a familiar old Irish first name, Conn (or Cuinn), meaning ‘counsel’ or ‘wisdom’ and sometimes ‘chief’. Over years, numerous spelling variations have developed, from Quin to O’Quin, Quine and occasionally McQuinn or MacQuinn.

Niall Quinn

Niall Quinn

There were a number of families bearing Quinn/Quin name throughout Irish history, denoted by two very distinct coats of arms – one gold and green which represents Quinns of Annaly and one red and silver, arms of Quinns of Thomond.

The Ulster Quinns, or Quinns of Annaly, were most populous in county Tyrone (although originally from Longford – they were forced out by O Ferralls of Annaly), while largest family was a Dalcassian sept of Thomond from County Clare. This was family or clan of Niall O’Cuinn, who was killed in Battle of Clontarf in 1014, and was first in family to use surname.

In recent times, it has been a prominent surname in Irish business and households. Feargal Quinn was founder of Irish supermarket chain Superquinn, and was elected to Senate in 1993 as an independent on University College Dublin panel, primarily in recognition of his contribution to business and charities.

Niall Quinn is a famed Irish footballer, nicknamed The Mighty Quinn, who helped international team reach knock-out stages of World Cup in 1990, while Cavan businessman Seán Quinn is founder of Quinn Group of companies (health, insurance, hotels, glass, cement), and was once richest man in Ireland with a fortune of €4.7 billion (US$6 billion).

Fergal Quinn

Fergal Quinn

Other famous Quinns of note include Academy Award winning actor, late Anthony Quinn (Lawrence of Arabia, Zorba Greek) who although born in Mexico, was of Irish ancestry. Aidan Quinn, another noteworthy actor, was born in Chicago to Irish parents and starred in many Irish as well as Hollywood films throughout 1990s in particular, including Michael Collins and Song for a Raggy Boy.

– Shauna O’Halloran

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