Moriarty (name)

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Family name
Pronunciation /ˌmɒrɪˈɑrti/[1]
Meaning navigator
Region of origin Ireland
Language(s) of origin Irish
Related names Ó Muircheartaigh

The name Moriarty is an Anglicized version of the Irish name Ó Muircheartaigh which originated in County Kerry in Ireland. Ó Muircheartaigh can be translated to mean navigator or sea worthy, as the Irish word muir means sea (similar to the French word Mer for 'sea') and cheart means correct. Several people have the Irish name Moriarty, mostly as a surname:

Using documentary evidence, flavored by legend, researchers have isolated historical data using books by O'Hart, McLysaght and O'Brien, the Four Masters, baptismals, parish records, and ancient land grants. Despite the loss of records caused by the fire in the Dublin Records Office in 1922 which was an irreparable disaster to Irish historians, sufficient evidence is still available to produce a thumb nail sketch of the Moriarty history.

Conclusions by these researchers show that the family name Moriarty was first found in county Kerry.

Spelling variations of the names were found in the archives researched, particularly when families attempted to translate the name from the Gaelic to the English. Although the name Moriarty occurred in many references, from time to time the surname was also officially recorded as Moriarty, O'Moriarty, Murtagh, Murtag, McMoriarty, O'Murtagh, and these changes in spelling frequently occurred, even between father and son. Preferences for different spelling variations usually arose from a division of the family, or for religious reasons, or sometimes patriotic reasons. Church officials and scribes spelt the name as it sounded, sometimes several different ways in the lifetime of the same person. The abbreviations of Mc in front of a name, meaning 'son of' is popular in Irish names, although this is no guarantee that the name is Irish. Many Scottish names also prefer Mc instead of Mac. Officially in both countries, the abbreviation is Mac. In Ireland, frequently O' is also used instead of Mc but meaning the same, that is, 'son of'.


The ancient kings of Ireland were descended from King Milesius of Spain, the grandson of Breoghan (Brian), King of Galicia, Andalusia, Murcia, Castile and Portugal. Milesius, a great general/king, was instrumental in defending Egypt from the King of Ethiopia. Milesius turned his attention northward to Ireland to fulfill an ancient Druidic prophecy. He sent an army to explore this fertile island. On finding that his son had been murdered by the three resident Irish Kings (the Danans), Milesius gathered another army to take revenge on the Irish. He died before he embarked on the trip. His eight remaining sons conquered Ireland.

Heremon, eldest son of Milesius, reigned in Ireland for fourteen years, along with his brothers Heber, Ir and Ithe. They named the land Scota or Scotia, their mother's name, the land of the Scots. This name would later be taken by the Irish King Colla in 357 when he was exiled to Scotland, leaving the name 'Ir-land', land of Ir, youngest of the four sons of Milesius, to the Emerald Isle. The four Irish kingdoms eventually broke into five nations under the High King, or Ard Righ. These royal lines would later produce such great kings as the fourth century King Niall of the Nine Hostages who died in France while cutting off the retreat of the Romans from Britain, and King Brian Boru who died in the Battle of Clontarf in 1014, finally expelling the Vikings from Dublin and Ireland.

The great Gaelic family Moriarty emerged in later years in county Kerry. This distinguished Irish Clann were descended from O'Muirtheataith, who was descended from Domhnall, King of Munster, and possessed the "Flock abounding Plain" of Aisde on the river Mang in that county. They also held Castlemaine Harbour. They lost much of their territories in the Anglo/Norman invasion of Strongbow in the year 1172 and they were ousted by the Fitzgeralds. They also branched to Kells in county Meath but this was also confiscated. The Moriartys were a strong ecclesiastical family and the Rev. David Moriarty was Bishop of Kerry, but many of them lost their right to preach under the Penal code of 1714. Notable amongst the family at this time was Father Thady McMoriarty.

During the 12th century, 1172 A.D., Diarmait Mac Murchada, in his fight for the position of Ard Righ, requested King Henry II of England for his assistance. This was the first intrusion onto Ireland of the Anglo/Normans. Many native Irish families lost their lands and possessions. This was followed by Cromwell's invasion of 1640, when further loss of the land befell the unfortunate Irish people. Ulster in the North was seeded with Protestant Scottish and English. And, again many Irish families lost their ancient territories.

In 1845, the great potato famine caused widespread misery and poverty, and the exodus from Ireland began. Within fifty years the population was reduced to less than half.[relevant? ]

Many Irish joined the armada of sailing ships which sailed from Belfast, Dublin, Cork, Holyhead, Liverpool, and Glasgow, many bound for the new world, some to Australia. Some called these ships the White Sails, others, more realistically, called them the 'Coffin Ships', when 30% to 40% of the passengers died of Cholera, smallpox and the elements.


In North America some of the first migrants which could be considered kinsmen of the sept Moriarty of that same family were Daniel, Ellen, Eugene, Margaret, Michael, Thomas Moriarty all settled in Boston in 1849; James, John, Martin, Maurice, and Michael Moriarty all arrived in Philadelphia between 1840 and 1860.[2]

List of people with this surname[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Daniel Jones; A. C. Gimson (1977). Everyman's English Pronouncing Dictionary (14 ed.). London: J.M. Dent & Sons. 
  2. ^ O Moriarty, Ken. "Muirchertach (Moriarty)". Ancient History of Eire (Ireland).