There are two main origins for the surname Collins that developed independently of each other. One is Irish and the other is English. There are several variations of the name including Coling, Colling, Collen, Collens, Colis and Collis.
In Ireland the earliest form of the name was MacCoileain or O’Coileain. In Gaelic Coileain meant ‘darling’. In particular it was a term of endearment for a young hound. This would have actually meant a young fighting man.
The prefix ‘Mac’ means ‘Son of’ and ‘O’ means ‘descendent of’. So the name would have meant either son or descendent of a young warrior.
Leading clans of Munster
The O’Coileains originated in what is now Co Limerick. Throughout much of the medieval period, they were one of the leading clans of the Uí Fidgenti. The Uí Fidgenti was a kingdom in northern Munster which covered most of Co Limerick, as well as parts of Co Clare and Co Tipperary. It also stretched to the outskirts of Co Kerry and Co Cork.
The name is still very common in these counties, especially Co Cork. This is likely to be because a sept, or branch, of the O’Coileain travelled and settled there in the 12th century.
The English Collins
In England, the name arrived in its earliest form when the Normans invaded in 1066. It is derived from the name Nicholas which translates as ‘the victorious people’.
The name Collins takes the ‘Col’ sound from the middle of Nicholas and adds ‘in’ which is shortened from the Saxon word ‘kin’ which means ‘Son of’. So the English Collins originally meant ‘Son of Nicholas’.
Michael Collins was a member of the Irish Republican Brotherhood. He fought alongside James Connolly and Patrick Pearse during the 1916 Easter Rising. He was an aid to Joseph Plunkett and was at the heart of the rebellion in the General Post Office in Dublin.
He was captured and fortunate not to be one of the rebels that were killed in the first round of executions. The deaths of the leaders caused such outcry that there were no further executions.
In the absence of the Easter Rising leaders, Collins became even more of a key figure. Eventually, in 1921, he negotiated Ireland’s independence from Britain. However, the fact that six counties of Ulster remained part of Britain angered many Irish Republicans.
Collins was assassinated in 1922 by Republicans who were unhappy with the Treaty he signed with the British.
Famous Collins around the world
Joan Collins is a British actress who has spent six decades in the film and television industry. She is well known for her roles in 1950s films such as Round the Flag Boys and The Girl in the Red Velvet Swing. She also starred in the hit American TV series Dynasty for eight years.
She is also famous for her personal life and was married five times.
Joan’s sister, Jackie Collins is a bestselling novelist. Jackie has sold over 500 million books around the world.
Phil Collins is a musician, singer and songwriter. He started his career as a drummer for the English band Genesis. He later took over as lead singer after Peter Gabriel left the band. He had great success with Genesis and also as a solo singer. He has sold over 100 million albums worldwide. His top hits include In the Air Tonight and Another Day In Paradise.
Steve Collins was an Irish boxer. He was a WBO super middleweight champion in the 1990s and is remembered for his intense rivalries with fellow world champions Nigel Benn and Chris Eubank.
Countless other people with the surname Collins have made their names in the sports or entertainment worlds.