Costello Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Select Costello Meaning
Costello sounds Italian, but isn’t.
The root of the name is Irish, from Oistealb
which is the Gaelic rendering
of Jocelyn and in Gaelic is a personal name meaning “resembling a deer.”
The Jocelyn in question was the Anglo-Norman knight Jocelyn de Angulo who had come to Ireland at the time of Strongbow. His descendants settled in Connacht and adopted the Gaelic name Mac Oistealb or Mac Costello.  
Costello is the main spelling today. A variant in Ireland is Costelloe.

Costello Resources on

Costello Ancestry

Ireland. The Costello family
appeared on record in Ireland in 1193 when the Annals of the Four Masters recorded:

“Inishcloghbran was
plundered by the sons of Osdealb.” The
first known holder of the surname was believed to have been Cumumhan
Casarlaigh in about 1252; whilst in the ‘modern’ spelling it may have
Teag MacCostello, chief of the clan in 1565.

family held lands in county Mayo, in the barony of Costello (named for
in the east of the county, until the end of the 16th century. Much of their time was spent in feuds with the
their neighbors. In 1565 the principal seat of the
Costellos was at
Castlemor near Ballaghadereen.
by the time of Cromwell, most of their estates in the barony had been

Costello, a colonel in the Spanish
army, had returned to Ireland after the Restoration and, disappointed
by his
failure to recover the family estates, devoted the rest of his life to
vengeance on the new Dillon proprietors. Proclaimed
a rebel and an outlaw in 1666, he
carried out ‘a vendetta of raids and burnings against Viscount Dillon’
until he
was shot dead by Dillon’s soldiers in March 1667.”

The Costello castle at Castlemor
had been destroyed and the family had to move to more modest quarters
at Edmondstown House
in the northern part of the barony.
There they were to remain. In
1864 Arthur Costello built a new house by Edmondstown in the style of a
Scottish manor house where he entertained lavishly. However,
the expenditure all but ruined him and he died in poverty en
route to Dublin, the last of the Costello line.

The Costello name remains a common surname in Mayo and Galway where
it is often spelt with an extra “e” at the end. Roughly 20% of
Costellos in Ireland today are Costelloes.

England. Many Costellos
migrated from Ireland to England. The best-known son of
this migration, the singer/songwriter Elvis Costello, adopted the
Costello name

Costello name was first stamped on America through Maurice Costello,
the son of
Irish immigrants Tom and Ellen Costello who had come to Pittsburgh in
1870’s. Maurice started off in local
vaudeville and got his big break in film in 1912. As
he recounted:

had wealth and a
volume of fan mail arriving daily – love notes, mash notes, telegrams
appointments, telephone calls, gifts, flowers, offers of marriage,
I could not help it. I was the first
great screen lover, the first star, I belonged to the public.”

His daughter
Dolores, who married the actor John Barrymore, and Helene also became
stars of the silent era.

Costello in America is often thought to be an Italian name, because of
the number of Italian-Americans – such as the comedian Lou Costello and
the crime boss Frank Costello – who have adopted the Costello name.

Canada. Thomas
and Mary Costello who left their family home in Kerry for Canada in
1825 have a
large number of Costello descendants in Canada today. They
originally settled in Douglastown on the Gaspe Peninsula. Costellos later moved west to Calgary
where they were among its early settlers.
Costello was Mayor of Calgary from 1915 to 1919.

and New Zealand
. Two Costellos who came to Australia, John and
Patrick Costello, made their mark on their new country, despite

  • John
    Costello arrived with his parents Thomas and Mary from Tipperary to
    Sydney in
    1837. Four of their five children had died
    during the voyage but Johnthe youngest had managed to survive. His restless nature took him to ranching in
    Queensland and even to the Northern Territory; but drought, fever, and
    fires took their toll and he eventually settled in the early 1900’s in
    pastures at Tocabil in western NSW. Michael
    Costello’s 1930 book Life of John
    told his story.
  • Patrick
    came with his sister Mary as assisted migrants from
    Leitrim to
    Melbourne in 1841. His life was to be
    urban, as a building
    contractor and local politician. He too
    had his reverses, being jailed for a year and expelled from Parliament
    in the
    early 1860’s for irregularities. He was
    later encumbered by debt. However, he
    managed a return to politics in the early 1890’s as Mayor of Melbourne.
    A descendant is the Australian Federal
    Treasurer of the 1990’s, Peter Costello.

and Ann Costello arrived in New
Zealand via Australia from Tipperary in the 1840’s.
They raised nine children on the Coromandel
Peninsula on North Island (one of whom, Michael, drowned there in a
accident). A number of Costellos left Kerry for Invercargill, South Island in the

Costello Miscellany

De Angulo and Costello: From Beginning to End.  The Anglo-Norman knight Jocelyn de Angulo is seen as the precursor of the Nangles and
later the
Costellos in Ireland.  He arrived with
Strongbow in 1170.  It is thought that he
was a descendant of an earlier de Angulo who crossed the Channel with
the Conqueror in 1066.  De Angulo
translates in the French Norman tongue as “of Angle.”
The family origin may therefore have been the small village of
St. Germaine d’Angles near Evreux in Normandy.

As Costellos the family survived the Cromwellian
confiscations and lived on for another 250 years.  The
last of the line, Arthur Costello styled
the Baron de Angulo, died in 1891 in poverty and was buried along the
shores of Lough Urlaur in
Costello barony.  A flat headstone
still marks the grave.

The Costellos and the MacDermots.  The
feuding between the Costellos and their
neighbors the MacDermots, gave rise to the Romeo and Juliet love story
in the 17th century between Tomás
the son of the chieftain MacCostello,
Una Bán
the daughter of the last chief of that name.

Tomás fell in love with Una
Bán and she with him, but neither family would allow them to marry.  Eventually both of them were said to have died
of broken hearts.  They were buried in adjoining graves on Trinity
Island in Lough Key (visible
today from Lough Key Forest Park).

John William Costello in Calgary.  John William Costello
left his home near Listowel in Kerry to join his uncle in Eastern
Canada in
1862.  Shortly afterwards he was joined by his brother
William.  Together they opened a retail store named The Costello Brothers.  But it
later went bankrupt.

In 1883 John ventured
to Calgary in Western Canada to check it out.  Having decided that
the place was to his liking, he sent word back east that his wife and
five children, and brother, wife and their five children should join
him. The two families duly arrived by train later in the year, both
wives being heavily pregnant at the time. Calgary at that time was in
its infancy as a town and the two babes when born were the first
European babies to be born there.

John was Calgary’s
first teacher, starting Bayton Hall, a private school in a small log
cabin out in the prairie. He was the father of two medical doctors, an
alderman, and a future mayor of Calgary.  He is commemorated in
the John Costello Catholic school in Calgary named after him.
Calgary had become very much an Irish town in the Prairies.

There are still
Costello relatives living in the Listowel area in county Kerry.
William, uncle to John William Costello, remained in Ireland and his
descendants are still in possession of the family farm.

Peter Costello on Patrick Costello.  The forebear of the
Australian politician Peter Costello was the immigrant Patrick Costello
who had
come to Melbourne from Leitrim in Ireland on the William
in 1841.

Peter wrote the following about his
ancestor in his 2009 book The Costello

“Patrick was a successful publican in Melbourne who owned
a string
of hotels.  He was elected to the city
council and later Parliament as a representative of the Publicans’
party.  In his efforts to win one election
apparently paid patrons to vote under assumed names.
They were soon discovered and the game was
up.  He was convicted of ballot fraud and
sentenced to prison, although public petitions led to his early release.

family was blissfully unaware of these events until a distant relative
wrote a
genealogical book that included Patrick.

The discovery of this interesting
family history allowed me to make a boastful claim whenever I addressed
functions.  Most of the early Irish in
America came as convicts.  But my great
great grandfather came to Australia as a free man.
Our family was so upright and law-abiding
that they became convicts only once they got to Australia!”

Costellos from Ireland to New Zealand.  Three Costello brothers – Maurice, Edmund and Denis – were recorded as farming in O‘Dorney parish
county Kerry in the 1820’s.  Four of
their children – William, Maurice, Catherine and Jane – emigrated to
Zealand in the 1860’s.  They settled in
and around Gore near Invercargill on South Island.
William for a time was a hotel keeper in Gore.
And there is a Costello’s restaurant in Gore

was one brother Denis who
stayed.  His grandson Eugene kept in
touch with his New Zealand relatives until his death in 2002. 

Costello as a Chosen Name in America.  Costello sounds Italian, but isn’t.  It’s Irish.  But that
didn’t stop a number of Irish-Americans adopting the Costello name in
place of their own over the first half of the 20th century.
Costello was probably a more acceptable Italian-sounding name at that
time.  There were a number – a comedian, a mobster, a wrestler and
a boxer – who adopted the Costello name.

Lou Costello

Louis Cristillo
was an American comedian known as Lou Costello and
best remembered in the double act of Abbott and Costello.  In his early days he cast around for a suitable
stage name.  He in fact fought as a boxer
under the name Lou King.  In the end he
his professional name from the silent screen actress Helene Costello
who was popular
at the time.

Frank Costello

Castiglia arrived in New York wiith his parents as a young boy in
As a young boy he joined a local gang and soon adopted the name of
Frank Costello.   He rose during the 1920’s and 1930’s to
become one of the crime chiefs in New York as head of the Luciano
family.  He was known as “the Prime Minister of the Underworld.”

Al Costello

was a professional wrestler in Australia best
known by his ring name Al Costello.  He
was the first professional
wrestler to be nicknamed “the man of a thousand holds” because of his
innovative and very technical style.   Sicilian-born, he came up with the name of Al
Costello, thinking that it sounded tough – a mixture of Al Capone and
Frank Costello.

Billy Costello

Castiglioni, born in upstate New York in the 1950’s, boxed under the
name of Billy Costello.  He became the subject about a
well-regarded book about boxing by Thomas Hauser.  His younger
brother Vinnie Costello was also a professional boxer.   

Costello as a Chosen Name in England.  Elvis Costello was Irish not Italian.  He was born Declan MacManus
to Irish parents in London in 1954.  His father was a jazz
trumpeteer who sang with the Joe Loss orchestra.   Elvis’s
first public appearance was in fact with his father.

In his twenties he became active in the pop rock scene.  Around
this time, he adopted the stage name D.P. Costello.  His father
performed under the name Day Costello and Elvis has said in interviews
that he
took this name as a tribute to his father.  Elvis after Elvis
Presley came later.


Costello Names

  • Teag MacCostello, chief of the Costello clan in Mayo in 1565, was the first to bear the Costello name.
  • Maurice Costello,
    Irish-American born, was a leading figure in American vaudeville in the
    late 1890’s and early 1900’s. His daughters Dolores and Helene
    became stars of the silent screen.
  • Frank Costello, born Francesco Castiglia, was an American Mafia crime boss of the 1930’s.
  • Lou Costello, born Louis Cristillo, was one half of the famous Abbott and Costello comedy double act that entertained American
    audiences in the 1940’s and 1950’s.
  • John A. Costello, born in
    Dublin, was twice Taoiseach (Prime Minister) of Ireland, in 1948-51 and 1954-57.
  • Elvis Costello, born Declan MacManus, is an
    English singer/songwriter of Irish roots.

Select Costello Numbers Today

  • 9,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in London)
  • 11,000 in America (most numerous in New York)
  • 16,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Ireland)


Select Costello and Like Surnames 

The Irish clan or sept names come through the mists of time until they were found in Irish records such as The Annals of the Four Masters.  The names were Gaelic and this Gaelic order was preserved until it was battered down by the English in the 1600’s.

Some made peace with the English.  “Wild geese” fled to fight abroad.  But most stayed and suffered, losing land and even the use of their language.  Irish names became anglicized, although sometimes in a mishmash of spellings.  Mass emigration happened after the potato famine of the 1840’s.

Some surnames – such as Kelly, Murphy and O’Connor – span all parts of Ireland.  But most will have a territorial focus in one of the four Irish provinces – Leinster, Munster, Ulster, and Connacht.

Connacht in NW Ireland covers the counties of Mayo, Sligo, Leitrim, Galway, and Roscommon.  Here are some of the Connacht surnames that you can check out.




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