Gorman (surname)

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Family name
Arms of one O'Gorman family[1]

Gorman is a surname with several different origins: English, German and Irish.

Origin of the surname[edit]

There are multiple origins for the surname Gorman. The Irish name is an Anglicised form of the Gaelic Mac Gormáin and Ó Gormáin, meaning "son of Gormán" and "descendant of Gormán". The personal name Gormán is derived from the diminutive of gorm, meaning "dark blue", "noble".[2] One English origin of the name is from the Middle English personal name Gormund (Old English Garmund). This name is made up of the elements gar "spear" + mund "protection". The English surname Gorman can also be a topographic name for someone who lived near a triangular piece of land. The German surname (Görmann) is sometimes a variant of Gehrmann. German Gorman can also be of Slavic origin, from an occupational name, derived from the Slavic góra meaning "mountain".

One of the earliest mentions of the name "Gorman" can be found in a reference by Geoffrey of Monmouth to a Danish king named "Gormandus" who raided parts of Britain around 593 AD and settled near South Wexford.[3][4][5]

Early bearers of the surname are William Gorman in 1296 and Adam Garman in 1327.[6] The John atte Gore recorded in 1296 within the Sussex Subsidy Rolls is identical with the John Gorman recorded in 1332.[7]

Irish Mac Gormáin family[edit]

According to Keating, the Mac Gormáin family descended from the chieftains of the Uí Bairrche. The family lived in Leinster and held the lands of Slieve Margy in present day Co Laois and lands near Carlow.[8] The family was forced from the lands with the arrival of the Normans and moved into Monaghan.[9] According to James Frost, the family was likely driven from the lands by the Norman lord Walter de Riddlesford, who became the master of Carlow at around this time.[8] A poem, written by Maoelin Oge MacBrody (the MacBrodys were the ollaves of the Uí Bairrche), states that after the Mac Gormáin family was driven from its lands a group of them made for Ulster and another made westwards towards Daire Seanleath in Uaithne Cliach (Uaithne Cliach is the modern barony of Owney, in Co Limerick). The family then settled in lands controlled by the O'Briens, settling in the area of Ibrackan. The Mac Gormáin family of Ibrickan were known in the 15th century for their wealth, hospitality and their patronage of the Gaelic poets.[10] The first of the family to settle in Munster was Murtagh, son of Donogh.[8] The chiefs of the family held parts of the lands of Moyarta and Ibrackan in Co Clare. A branch of the family were hereditary marshalls to the O'Briens and held lands in Clare.[9] The family is listed as one of the septs of Thomond in 1317.[11]

Today the members of the family bear Anglicised names such as Gorman, MacGorman, McGorman, and O'Gorman. Most members of the family bear the names Gorman or O'Gorman despite the original Gaelic names was Mac Gormáin. According to MacLysaght, this is because at the time of the Gaelic revival in Ireland, the majority of bearers of the name had dropped all prefixes from their name. Though with the revival many Gormans mistaking added the historically incorrect prefix (O') because they did not know any better. MacLysaght thought that the man who was chiefly responsible for the choice in the prefix was the Frenchman Chevalier Thomas O'Gorman (1725–1808) who constructed Irish pedigrees after being ruined in the French Revolution.[10] Within the 1669 Census of Ireland, the surnames Gormon and Gorman are listed as principal names for two baronies within Co Clare: 9 Gormons are recorded in the Islands barony which consisted of 1651 people;[12] and 6 Gormans are recorded in the barony of Moyferta, which consisted of 1024 people.[13] In the 17th century O'Gorman was a principal name of Armagh; and McGorman was a principal name of Monaghan and Louth. In 1890 most O'Gormans are found in Clare.[9]

The coat of arms of O'Gorman (pictured) are blazoned azure a lion passant between three swords erect argent; the crest an arm embowed in armour, grasping in the hard a sword, blade wavy, all proper.; and the mottoes TOSACH CATHA AGUS DEINEADH AIR (Irish) and PRIMI ET ULTIMI IN BELLO (Latin).[1] The Irish motto translates as "first in the battle, last in the fight" and the Latin motto translates as "first and last in war".[citation needed] In 1763, the arms were allowed by the Ulster King of Arms to Thomas O'Gorman (fourth in descent from Mahon O'Gorman) and to Thomas O'Gorman (fourth in descent from Denis O'Gorman, brother of Cahir O'Gorman).[1]

Related surnames[edit]

Surnames that are variants of, or that share a similar etymology to Gorman are:

  • English origin: Garman, Garment, Garmons,[14] Gore, Gorer.[6]
  • German origin: Gehrmann, Görmann.[2]
  • Irish origin: O'Gorman, MacGorman, McGorman.[6]

People with the surname Gorman[edit]

Joseph Tolle Gorman, (born 1937) Chairman, CEO & COO, TRW, Inc.


  1. ^ a b c Burke, Bernard (1888). The General Armory of England, Scotland, Ireland, and Wales. London: Harrison & sons. p. 752. 
  2. ^ a b "The Gorman Surname". Ancestry.com. Retrieved 13 March 2009. 
  3. ^ A. Griscom and J. R. Ellis, ed., The Historia regum Britanniæ of Geoffrey of Monmouth with contributions to the study of its place in early British history (London, 1929)
  4. ^ http://www.netservice.pair.com/gorman.htm
  5. ^ Reaney, School (2010). London: Nabu Press. p. 166. ISBN 1146799772.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  6. ^ a b c Reaney, Percy Hilde; Wilson, Richard Middlewood (2006). A Dictionary of English Surnames (PDF) (3rd ed.). London: Routledge. p. 1379. ISBN 0-203-99355-1. 
  7. ^ Reaney, Percy Hilde; Wilson, Richard Middlewood (2006). A Dictionary of English Surnames (PDF) (3rd ed.). London: Routledge. p. xvii. ISBN 0-203-99355-1. 
  8. ^ a b c Frost, James (1893). "The History and Topography of the County of Clare". Clare County Library. Retrieved 2 April 2009. 
  9. ^ a b c O'Laughlin, Michael C. (2002). The Book of Irish Families, Great & Small: Great & Small. Irish Roots Cafe. p. 123. ISBN 0-940134-09-8. 
  10. ^ a b MacLysaght, Edward (1957). Irish Families. Dublin: Hodges Figgis & Co. p. 162. 
  11. ^ O'Laughlin, Michael C. (2000). The Families of County Clare, Ireland (2, illustrated ed.). Irish Roots Cafe. p. 73. ISBN 0-940134-98-5. 
  12. ^ "Islands Barony (1659 Census of Clare)". Clare County Library. Retrieved 2 April 2009. 
  13. ^ "Barony of Moyferta (1659 Census of Clare)". Clare County Library. Retrieved 2 April 2009. 
  14. ^ Reaney, Percy Hilde; Wilson, Richard Middlewood (2006). A Dictionary of English Surnames (PDF) (3rd ed.). London: Routledge. p. 1272. ISBN 0-203-99355-1. 

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