BRENNAN - Last Name Meaning and Origin

One of the possible meanings of the Brennan surname is "sorrow," from an Irish word for "teardrop."
One of the possible meanings of the Brennan surname is "sorrow," from an Irish word for "teardrop.". Getty / Yuichiro Chino

One of Ireland's most frequent surnames, Brennan generally derived as a form of one of several Irish language surnames:

  1. From the Irish Ó Braonáin, meaning "descendant of Braonán." The Irish personal name Braonán is believed to mean "sorrow," from the Irish braon, meaning "moisture" or "drop."
  2. From the Irish names Mac Branáin and Ó Branáin, both meaning "descendant of Branán," from the given name Branán, derived from bran, meaning "little raven."

    The Mac Branáin were chiefs of a large territory in present-day County Roscommon, and many of the Brennan families in the counties of Mayo, Sligo and Roscommon descend from them. The O'Brennans were chiefs of the Uí Duach sept located in northern Osraighe (Ossory), which included all of county Kilkenny and part of county Laois.

    Brennan is one of 50 common Irish surnames of modern Ireland. 

    Surname Origin: Irish

    Alternate Surname Spellings: BRENNEN, MCBRENNAN, MACBRENNAN, BRANNON, BRANNAN, BRANNEN, BRANNIN, O'BRAONAIN, BRANNY

    Where do People with the Surname BRENNAN Live?

    Irish Brennan families were very widespread, settling in Fermanagh, Galway, Kerry, Kilkenny, and Westmeath. According to WorldNames publicprofiler, individuals with the Brennan last name are now found in largest numbers in central Ireland, especially in County Sligo and the province of Leinster. The surname is much less common in Northern Ireland.

    Famous People with the Surname BRENNAN

    • Walter Brennan - American actor, veteran of over 100 films
    • Willie Brennan - Irish highwayman of legend, immortalized by "Brennan on the Moor"
    • William J. Brennan Jr. - former US Supreme Court justice
    • Maeve Brennan - Irish short story writer and journalist

    Genealogy Resources for the Surname BRENNAN

    The Brennans of Connacht
    Pat Brennan has put together a great deal of information on the origins of the Brennan surname, genealogies of early Brennan families, a list of MacBranan chiefs, and history of the families after the famine.

    British Surname Profiler - Distribution of the Brennan Surname
    Trace the geography and history of the Brennan surname through this free online database based on a University College London (UCL) project investigating the distribution of surnames in Great Britain, both current and historic.

    Brennan Family Genealogy Forum
    Search this popular genealogy forum for the Brennan surname to find others who might be researching your ancestors, or post your own Brennan surname query.

    FamilySearch - BRENNAN Genealogy
    Access over 1.9 million free historical records and lineage-linked family trees posted for the Brennan surname and its variations.

    BRENNAN Surname & Family Mailing Lists
    RootsWeb hosts several free mailing lists for researchers of the Brennan surname.

    DistantCousin.com - BRENNAN Genealogy & Family History
    Free databases and genealogy links for the last name Brennan.

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    References: Surname Meanings & Origins

    Cottle, Basil. Penguin Dictionary of Surnames. Baltimore, MD: Penguin Books, 1967.

    Menk, Lars.

    A Dictionary of German Jewish Surnames. Avotaynu, 2005.

    Beider, Alexander. A Dictionary of Jewish Surnames from Galicia. Avotaynu, 2004.

    Hanks, Patrick and Flavia Hodges. A Dictionary of Surnames. Oxford University Press, 1989.

    Hanks, Patrick. Dictionary of American Family Names. Oxford University Press, 2003.

    Smith, Elsdon C. American Surnames. Genealogical Publishing Company, 1997.


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    Powell, Kimberly. "BRENNAN - Last Name Meaning and Origin." ThoughtCo, Jun. 4, 2017, thoughtco.com/brennan-name-meaning-and-origin-1422465. Powell, Kimberly. (2017, June 4). BRENNAN - Last Name Meaning and Origin. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/brennan-name-meaning-and-origin-1422465 Powell, Kimberly. "BRENNAN - Last Name Meaning and Origin." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/brennan-name-meaning-and-origin-1422465 (accessed January 23, 2018).