Quinn – from the High King of Ireland

History of the Irish name Quinn. Image copyright Ireland Calling

The name Quinn is an Anglicised version of the Celtic name O’Cuinn.

Back to Irish names

Historically, the spelling of the name gave a clue to a family’s religious affiliation. Catholic families of the O’Cuinn clans would spell their name Quinn with two ‘n’s, and Protestant families spelt it Quin, with one ‘n’.

O’Cuinn derived from the Irish word Conn, meaning counsel and signified a person of intellect.

Conn came from the legendary High King of Ireland, Conn of the Hundred Battles, who gave his name to Connaught. The O’Cuinns held several territories in Ireland, mainly in Connacht, Ulster, Leinster, and Meath.

Niall O’ Cuinn was the first person of note in history named Quinn, or one of its variations. He was killed in the Battle of Clontarf, in 1014 fighting for Brian Boru as he attempted to take complete control of Ireland and all its clans.

Forced to flee to France

Several Quinns fought for the Catholic King James II in the 17th century, as he attempted to gain control of Ireland from the protestant King William.

The Battle of the Boyne in 1690 was a major event in Irish history. James II was defeated and forced to flee to France, along with many of his men. Many of these, named Quinn, set up home in France.

There is even a street named after the Quinns in Bordeaux, Rue O’Quinn.

Famous Quinns throughout the world

The name O’Quinn is still common throughout Ireland, particularly in Co Tyrone, with MacQuinn still popular in Co Kerry. The Anglicised version, Quinn, is now a common name throughout the world.

There have been countless Quinns that have achieved success in business, sport and the arts throughout the years.

James Quinn was a theatre actor in Dublin and London in the 18th century. He was hugely popular but had a reputation for being a dangerous man.

He once accidentally killed a co-star onstage, during a duel scene. He also killed another in a rage after a heated argument about the correct pronunciation of a word.

Gold medals and a £1m donation to charity

Niall Quinn. Photo copyright Jonesy702 CC3

Jimmy Quinn was part of the USA 4x100m metres gold medal winning hurdles team at the 1928 Olympics in Amsterdam. Quinn ran the second leg of the race in which the American team set a then world record of 41.0 seconds to win the gold.

Jack Quinn was one of only 17 players allowed to continue to use the ‘spitball technique’ in baseball after it had been made illegal to all others.

He also held the record of the oldest MLB player to hit a home run when he did so at the age of 46, a record he held until 2006 when it was broken by 47 year old Julio Franco.

The most famous sporting Quinn to come from Ireland in recent years is Niall Quinn. He was a professional footballer who played for Arsenal, Manchester City and Sunderland in a career that spanned 19 years.

Quinn played for Ireland in two World Cups, and once held the record as the country’s record goalscorer with 21 goals, a record since surpassed by Robbie Keane.

Quinn had a testimonial match between Sunderland and the Republic of Ireland in 2002, and he donated the entire proceeds, over £1m to charity. Quinn remains one of the most popular people in Irish sport.

There is also a chain of supermarkets in Dublin called Superquinns set up by businessman Feargal Quinn.

Video histories of popular Irish names

Irish names and their meanings

Leave a comment