Flanagan (surname)

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Flanagan is a common surname of Irish origin and an Anglicised version of the Irish name Ó Flannagáin which is derived from the word "flann" meaning 'red' or 'ruddy'.


Flanagan is just one variation on the original surname which, according to the 19th century writer Reverend Patrick Woulfe, is:

"...the name of at least five distinct families in different parts of Ireland, viz.: (1) of Fermanagh, a branch of the Oirghialla, who were chiefs of Tuathratha, now anglicised Toorah, an extensive district in the barony of Magheraboy, in the northwest of Co. Fermanagh, and are still numerous in Ulster; 2) of Roscommon, a branch of the Sil-Murry and of the same stock as the O'Connors, who were hereditary stewards to the kings of Connacht and chiefs of Clann Chathail, a district which embraced several parishes in the neighbourhood of Elphin; 3) of Westmeath who were anciently lords of Comair and sometimes of all Teffia; 4) of Ely O'Carroll in the present Offaly, who are of the same stock as the O'Carrolls, and were chiefs of Cinel Arga, a district nearly, if not exactly, co-extensive with the present barony of Ballybrit; and (5) of Waterford, who were formerly chiefs of Uachtartire, now the barony of Upperthird, in the north-west of Co. Waterford, but were dispossessed by the Powers soon after the Anglo-Norman invasion."

Other variations include Flanagin, Flanigan, Flannigan, Flannaghan, Flannagain, Flaniken, Flenigen and so on. The main reason for this variety is the 'Anglicisation' of many Irish place and fore/surnames as a consequence of the colonisation of Ireland (particularly from the 16th century onward) and the subsequent imposition of the English language. With some exceptions all of these variations may be prefixed with Ó (O') - signifying 'son of' or 'Nic' signifying 'daughter of'.


As many Irish migrated during the 19th and 20th centuries (especially in the period 1845-1851 to escape the 'Great Famine') the surname can be found in all major English-speaking countries of the world today. Flanagan is the 69th most common name surname in Ireland, 591st most common in Australia, 791st most common in England and the 1,102nd most common in the USA.

Other Information[edit]

Since the late 19th century the Flanagan name is alleged to have both a crest/coat of arms and 'Family motto' associated with it. According to O'Hart's "Irish Pedigrees", Burke's "General Armory," and Fairbairn's "Book of Crests" these include:

Most commonly: ARMS/CREST: "A mount in base vert an oak tree proper a bordure of the second. A dexter cubit arm in armour proper garnished or and gules holding a flaming sword azure pommel and hilt or." (An oak tree in leaf growing from a small green mound on a gold coloured shield surrounded by a border of green. The crest is a right forearm clad in armour of natural colour garnished with gold and red. The hand holds a flaming sword with a blue blade and a handle, guard and pommel in gold.

MOTTO: "Certavi et vici" ('I have fought and conquered')

Alternatively (Burke): Flanagan (Drumdoe, co. Roscommon). ARMS/CREST: Ar. on a chev. gu. two lions ramp. or. Crest — A hand holding a dagger.

MOTTO: "Audaces fortuna juvat" ('Fortune favours the bold')


See also[edit]


  • Sloinnte Gaedheal is Gall. Irish Names and Surnames Collected and Edited with explanatory and Historical Notes. Woulfe, Rev. Patrick; Bhulbh, Padraig De, Published by M. H. Gill, Dublin, 1923.
  • A Census of Ireland c. 1659. Pender, S (Ed.), Published by Stationery Office, Dublin, 1939. (A presentation of the Irish 'census' conducted by Sir William Petty between 1654 and 1659.)
  • Irish Pedigrees; or the origin and stem of the Irish nation, Vols 1 and 2. O'Hart, John. Published by M. H. Gill, Dublin, 1878.
  • The general armory of England, Scotland, Ireland, and Wales; comprising a registry of armorial bearings from the earliest to the present time. Burke, Sir John Bernard. Published by Harrison and Sons, London, 1884, pp 503 & 1299.
  • Fairbairn's Book Of Crests Of The Families Of Great Britain And Ireland. Fairburn, James. Published by T. C. & E. C. Jack, London, 1905.

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