Where Does the Name Connelly Come From?

An Irish Surname Meaning "Fierce as a Hound"

'Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garcons: Art Of The In-Between' Costume Institute Gala - Outside Arrivals
Jennifer Connelly. Noam Galai / Contributor Getty

Connelly is an Irish name and there are many variations, including O'Connolly and Connaleigh. This common surname has a tough meaning behind it and, as you might expect, it's one of the most popular in Ireland.

Let's explore where the name Connelly came from, remind ourselves of famous people with the name, and jump start your genealogy research.

The Origins of the Surname Connelly

Connelly is generally considered to be an Anglicized form of the Old Gaelic O'Conghaile. It means "fierce as a hound." The name consists of the Gaelic prefix "O" indicating "male descendant of," plus the personal byname Conghaile. Con, comes from a word meaning "hound," and gal, means "valor."

Connelly was originally an Irish clan from Galway on the western coast of Ireland. Connelly families also settled in County Cork in the southwest, County Meath just north of Dublin, and County Monaghan on the border of Ireland and Northern Ireland.

Connelly is one of the 50 most common Irish surnames in modern Ireland.

Surname Origin: Irish

Alternate Surname Spellings: Connolly, Conolly, Connally, O'Connolly, Connolley, Connelly, Conoley, Connaleigh, Connelay, O'Conghaile, O'Conghalaigh

Famous People Named Connelly

As you might expect, a family name like Connelly includes a number of well-known people. While this list could be considerably longer, we narrowed it down to a few notable names.

  • Billy Connolly - Scottish comedian
  • Cyril Connolly - English writer
  • Jennifer Connelly - American actress
  • John Connolly - Former FBI agent turned criminal in a corruption and murder scandal involving James "Whitey" Bulger.
  • Kevin Connolly - American actor and director
  • Michael Connelly - American author

Genealogy Resources for the Surname Connelly

Irish immigrants helped spread the Connelly name throughout the world. As a result, the resources for tracing your ancestry can begin in Ireland but may stretch into other countries as well. Here are a few interesting websites that can help you out.

Clan Connelly - The official Clan Connelly website from Edinburgh, Scotland. It has a fascinating history of the tribes associated with the Connelly name and is an interesting resource that should answer many questions.

British Surname Profiler - Trace the geography and history of the Connelly surname through this free online database. It is based on a University College London (UCL) project investigating the modern and historic distribution of surnames in the United Kingdom.

FamilySearch: Connelly Genealogy - Find historical records, queries, and lineage-linked family trees posted for the Connelly surname and its variations on FamilySearch.

Connelly Surname & Family Mailing Lists - RootsWeb hosts several free mailing lists for researchers of the Connelly surname. You will find some valuable resources and information in the archived posts.


  • Cottle, B. Penguin Dictionary of Surnames. Penguin Books, 1967, Baltimore, MD.
  • Hanks, P. Dictionary of American Family Names. Oxford University Press, 2003, New York, NY.
  • Smith, EC. American Surnames. Genealogical Publishing Company, 1997, Baltimore, MD.
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Powell, Kimberly. "Where Does the Name Connelly Come From?" ThoughtCo, Aug. 27, 2020, thoughtco.com/connelly-name-meaning-and-origin-1422483. Powell, Kimberly. (2020, August 27). Where Does the Name Connelly Come From? Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/connelly-name-meaning-and-origin-1422483 Powell, Kimberly. "Where Does the Name Connelly Come From?" ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/connelly-name-meaning-and-origin-1422483 (accessed May 30, 2023).