Foley – pirates and plunderers

History of the Irish name Foley. Image copyright Ireland Calling

The origin of the name Foley can be traced back to the ancient Celtic name Foghlú, meaning plunderer. The name would have been given to outlaws such as pirates.

Back to Irish surnames

These outlaws worked in groups and would attack a town without warning and steal whatever riches and goods they could in a frenzied smash and grab type robbery.

These people became known as Foghlús, and over time the name Ó Foghlú would refer to the descendants of these outlaws. The Ó Foghlús eventually integrated with the communities across Ireland, most predominantly in Waterford before spreading to Counties Cork and Kerry.

Thousands of Foleys have emigrated from Ireland over the centuries making the name a common one all over the world today. In the 17th and 18th centuries several Foleys left Ireland and set up home in the ‘new world’ of America, mostly in Virginia.

More Foleys left Ireland as a result of the ‘Great Famine’ in the 19th century, and since then the name has spread throughout North America, Europe, and Australia.

Famous Foleys

There have been numerous people named Foley that have been great achievers in their given field.

Some of the more famous are people include Edmond Foley, who was one of the notorious ‘Forgotten Ten’, members of the IRA that were hung at Mountjoy prison in 1921 during the Irish War of Independence.

Tom Foley was an democrat politician who held the post of Speaker of the United States House of Representatives from 1989 to 1995.

Mick Foley was a popular WWE wrestler in the 1990s. He was a firm favourite amongst the fans throughout his career, in which he went under the alias of Mankind, Dude Love and Cactus Jack and held the World Championship belt on three separate occasions.

Axel Foley was the name of the fictional cop played by Eddie Murphy in the Beverley Hills Cop movie series.