Moore – stately and noble warriors

History of the Irish name Moore. Image copyright Ireland Calling

Moore is one of the most common surnames in the English speaking world. Its origins are unclear because so many variations of the name can be found throughout the history of England, Ireland, Scotland and Europe.

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The Irish version of Moore stemmed from the name O’Mordha, O meaning the son of, and Mordha meaning proud or noble. The name O’Mordha evolved into O’Moore, and they became known as warriors who defended their territories fiercely. In 1183 Conor O’More defeated the Earl of Sussex, who had been sent by Queen Elizabeth to take control of the Irish land.

The English version is the name that was given to a person who worked or lived on a moor such as a farmer or a shepherd. The Welsh and Scottish version comes from the Gaelic word mor or the Welsh mowr, both words meaning great. In these cases the name Moore referred to a large powerful man.

There is also the old French word ‘more’ meaning dark-skinned. Many North Africans who moved into Europe would have been given the name Moore due to their appearance.

At some point, these various versions of the name will have merged into the name we know today, Moore, most likely when it was first written down.

Settlers in the ‘new world’

Christy Moore

The first record of the name comes in 1086 in the Domesday Book of Suffolk, during the reign of King William 1st of England.

Leonard Moore was one of the first settlers in the ‘new world’ of America in the 1600s. He was aboard the Bona Nova that arrived in 1616 and was recorded as living Elizabeth Citteee, Virginia in 1624.

Famous Moores throughout history

The name Moore has cropped up numerous times throughout history. Thomas Moore is one of the most famous Moores to come from Ireland. He was a songwriter and poet and wrote The Minstrel Boy, which has been a favourite on the Irish folk circuit as well as being used in countless films and TV programmes such as The Departed and Black Hawk Down.

Christy Moore is another musical talent from Ireland. He was the lead singer and songwriter of Planxty and has also achieved huge success in his solo career. Gary Moore is a guitar player and singer from Belfast. He enjoyed worldwide success with Irish rock band Thin Lizzy, most famous for their classic song, The Boys Are Back in Town.

A Moore has even played British secret agent 007 James Bond. Roger Moore played the iconic character for 12 years and seven films. Another film star is Demi Moore, who won a Golden Globe for her part in the 1990 smash hit Ghost.

First person to pass through Ellis Island

Possibly the most symbolic person in Irish American history is Annie Moore. She was the first person to pass through the Ellis Island immigration register in New York on 1st January 1892, her 15th birthday.

Moore and her two younger brothers made the journey from Cork to New York to be reunited with their parents who were already living in America. They were at sea for 12 days and arrived in New York on 31st December 1981. On her arrival in America, Annie Moore was handed a $10 gold coin.

There is a statue of her in Cobh, Co Cork. Moore’s journey across the Atlantic was repeated by millions more people emigrating from Ireland to find a better life in America.

Video histories of popular Irish names

Irish names and their meanings

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