Daly Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Select Daly Meaning
The O’Dálaigh was an Irish bardic sept
which came to prominence early in the 12th
century, with Cui Connacht O’Dalaigh, the first recorded of that name,
Westmeath. The Irish annals hailed him
as “the first ollamh of poetry in all Ireland.”
means descendant of Dálach. It is
thought that the name came from the same root as dáil meaning
“assembly.” Dálach
therefore probably meant “assemblyman” or
“councillor.” The name later became O’Daly
and Daly. In America it is also Daley and Dailey.

Daly Resources on

Daly Ancestry

Cui Connacht O’Dalaigh, the first of that name,
founded a bardic school in Westmeath in the early 12th century.
county Westmeath and from the bordering
parts of county Meath, the
then spread to Clare. From Meath came the
13th century Donagh Mor
O’Daly, called “the Irish Ovid,” who based himself at Kinvarra in
county Clare.

they were resident bards with the O’ Reillys in
Cavan and they were also to be found with the O’Neills in Munster and
O’Connors in Connacht.
Og O’Daly was made
the official poet of the MacCarthys of West Cork in the 16th century.

end of the prominence of the Gaelic-speaking nobility of Ireland,
epitomized by
the Flight of the Earls in the early 17th century, meant the eclipse of
families like the
O’Dalaighs that
had depended on their patronage. The name
O’Dalaigh also changed, becoming
anglicized to Daly. With the
subsequent loss of land in the wake of rebellions against English rule,
branches of the
became, to a greater or lesser extent, impoverished.

One prominent exception to
this trend was the Daly family of Dunsandle in Galway, starting with Dermot O’Daly in the late 16th
century. They cut their cloth with the
English and became part of the Protestant Ascendancy in Ireland. Generations of this family served as mayors
and MP’s of Galway.

Some Dalys have more
recently reverted to their ancient O prefix. Prominent among them was
the Irish
language devotee Cearbhaill O’Dalaigh. Born in modest
circumstances in county
Wicklow, he became a judge in the Court of justice of the European
and, for a short time, was President of Ireland. He resigned in
circumstances and died shortly afterwards in 1978.

Today, the concentrations of Dalys, outside of Dublin, are in Westmeath
and Cork.

Tomas O’Daly, a Galway native who served in the Spanish army as an
exile, was sent to Puerto Rico in 1765 with the purpose
of revamping the island’s defenses. He
stayed and developed a sugar plantation.
In 1781 he died
and his brother Jaime took over the family property and helped raise
his three
children. One of these sons Demetrio
rose to the rank of Field Marshal in the Spanish army

Peter Daly of the Galway Dalys of Dalysgrove came to
Jamaica in the early 1800’s. His son
James was a merchant and planter along the Black river.
He is best remembered in Jamaican history as
being the guardian of George William Gordon who was hanged by the
British in
1865 and later made a Jamaican national hero. The
Daley name is mainly to be found in St. Elizabeth parish today.

Daly, Daley and Dailey are the
three main
spellings in America, their share today being approximately:

  • 37%
  • 27%
  • and
    36% Dailey.

Many Dalys came to New York:

  • Charles P. Daly, born in New York in 1816,
    descended from the O’Dalys of Galway but was the son of poor immigrant
    parents. He managed to learn the law and,
    at the age of just 28, was appointed a judge. He
    held the position of Chief Justice in New York for 42
  • Joseph Daly, the son of an Irish sea captain
    from Limerick, held a similar position of Chief Justice from 1870 to
    1896. But it was his brother Augustin who
    was the
    more famous of the family. Drama critic,
    theater manager and playwright, he became the first recognized stage
    in America. He formed a permanent
    company in New York and opened Daly’s Theater there in 1879.
  • while David Daly, the son of Dalys from
    county Mayo who came in the early 1850’s, was Clerk of the Superior
    Court in
    New York from 1891 to 1905. His family
    settled in Middletown, New York.

E. Daley was a butcher in New York, the son of immigrant
parents who
had arrived from Waterford during the famine years.
The family later moved to Chicago. Richard
J. Daley, born there, was the founder
of a Chicago political dynasty. He was
mayor of Chicago for 21 years, his son Richard M. Daley for 22 years.

enterprising Dalys/Daleys struck out west for California by ship in the
early days before the overland route had been established:

  • John Daly
    had departed Boston for California in 1853 at the tender age of
    and later started a dairy farm in what became San Mateo county.
    The town of Daly City was named after him.
  • Robert
    Daley meanwhile came out from London in 1855 at the age of fifteen to
    with his sister in San Francisco. In 1868 he moved to southern
    California and built a log cabin which became the Daley Ranch near what
    is now Escondido. The ranch still stands today.

heading west was Marcus Daly who had arrived in New York as a fifteen
year old from county Cavan in Ireland in 1858. He too travelled
by ship to San Francisco where he also had a sister. He learnt
the mining business there and made his fortune from the Anaconda copper
mine in Bute, Montana, which he bought with money from various backers
in 1880.

Canada. John
Corry Wilson
Daly, born in Liverpool but educated in Ireland, came out to Canada
with the
Royal Navy in 1834. He was the first
Mayor of Stratford, Ontario and generally considered its founder. His grandson Thomas headed west and was the
first Mayor of Brandon, Manitoba in 1882.

The Daly House

there is now a museum.

Michael Daley and his family from Offaly were
early settlers in Osgoode township near Ottawa in the late 1820’s. Many
of the Dalys from county Cavan who
in Rawdon in Quebec province were
baptized at the Ste. Ambroise-de-Kildare church.
No fewer than 42 were recorded there between
1830 and 1906.


Daly Miscellany

The O’Dalaigh Bardic Sept.  Members of the O’Dalaigh clan founded bardic schools throughout Ireland. This diaspora seems to have begun in the
century. The noble bards of Ireland were accorded great prestige and
counted as filid or “men of
skill.”  In social rank they were
placed below kings, but above all others.
The O’Dálaighs were the foremost practitioners of the exacting
difficult poetry form known as Dan
throughout the late medieval period.

In addition to their poetry the
senior members of the Ó Dálaigh sept were also chieftains and
landowners.  In theory the lands of Irish
poets were held
sacrosanct and could not be despoiled during warfare or raiding.  Other members of the
family were
ecclesiastics, monks, abbots and bishops, often combining their church
with the production of religious poetry.

Dermot O’Daly of Galway.  Dermot O’Daly’s ancestry is
uncertain.  James Noel Dillion
thought of him as follows:

“He was a chancer,
a man whose rapid advancement was due to the success of the Presidency
Connacht and his ability to turn his opportunity there to advantage.  He was an ardent Crown supporter and the
supposed stability that accrued as a repercussion of adopting English
and laws.”

For services to the English Government, Elizabeth I granted
in 1578 “the entire manor or lordship of Lerra with all the towns and
castles thereto belonging.”O Daly maintained his own militia there,
perhaps provided livery for the President of Connacht.   However,
his lands were devastated by the
O’Connells in 1597. Hundreds of his
cattle were stolen and his tenants and neighbors were killed or
afterwards they
died of starvation.

But the tide turned and O’Daly fought on the winning English
side at the Battle of Kinsale in 1601.
O’Daly returned to his estates in Galway where he died in 1614.

Daniel O’Daly.  Daniel O’Daly was descended from the Kerry branch of the
O’Dalaigh bardic family which served the-Fitzgeralds.
escape religious persecution at home he went to Europe in
the 1620’s to
study for the priesthood.
He founded a Dominican college in Louvain, and, in Lisbon, a college
and a
convent for Irish religious exiles.  His considerable diplomatic
soon recognized by diverse
monarchs, from
Philip IV of Spain to Charles I of England.  In
he was prominent in
the revolution in
Portugal which
freed it from Spain.  He died
at Lisbon in 1662, leaving many ecclesiastical writings.

Dalys, Daleys, and Daileys in America.  Those arriving in America were invariably recorded as
Daly or Daley.  Those remain the main
spellings in New York and Massachusetts, the two main points of arrival
in the
19th century.  Daly is more numerous in
Pennsylvania and Illinois, despite the famous Daley clan in Chicago.

Daly Daley Dailey
On arrival    53%    38%     6%
In 1920    43%    31%    26%
In 2010    37%    27%    36%

Dailey is mainly an American construct.   It
was found in New York and Pennsylvania
(one early arrival in the 1760’s from Ireland was Ebenezer Dailey whose
descendants settled in upstate New York), although not in Massachusetts.  Dailey spread into the Midwest and is now the
preferred spelling in southern states such as Alabama and Georgia.  Daileys outnumber Daleys today and have
caught up with the Dalys.

John Daly and Daly City.  John Daly’s
father Michael had died in Boston when he was a young boy.
In 1853 at the age of 13, he departed Boston
with his widowed mother by ship for California.
His mother died on the Panama crossing. When
he arrived in California, the youngster
found work on a dairy farm in what became San Mateo county.

learned the dairy business well and
married the boss’s daughter.  By 1868 he had gained enough
knowledge and
money to purchase some 250 acres at the “top-of-the-hill.”  The
enterprise was known as the San Mateo Dairy and was soon supplying milk
and its
products from the dairy’s own cows and from a consortium of other
Daly became a prominent businessman and a leader among the burgeoning
population of the area.

the early
1860’s a railroad ran south to San Jose, passing around the westerly
edge of
Daly’s ranch. Stores, hotels, butcher
shops, and other businesses blossomed at the bottom of the hill.  By the early 1890’s streetcars were running
from San Francisco to communities as far south as San Mateo, coming
right over
Daly’s Hill as a stop was appropriately named.  Daly himself moved
San Francisco in 1885, seeking better schooling for his children, but
maintained his business at the “top-of-the-hill.”  He helped
establish a bank in the community, donated funds for the first library,
and was
a political leader if not a resident.

wasn’t until the 1906 earthquake and fire in San Francisco that the
surged around the “top-of-the-hill.”  Daly opened his farmlands
for emergency use by the scores of refugees who fled the
Supplying temporary shelter, milk, butter, eggs, and kindness, Daly
began to
realize that his lands were far more useful for living on than grazing

subdivided his property in 1907 and
streets were quickly laid out.  In 1911 this new town became Daly
City in
honor of John Daly.

The Daly House in Brandon, Manitoba.  The Daly house, located on 18th Street in Brandon,
Manitoba, was built in 1882 for Thomas Mayne Daly, the first mayor of
Brandon.  He lived there with his family
until 1896.

The two storey house is now
a museum, opened in 1978, and recreates the look a typical upper-class
home of
that time (although it did lack running water).  Much of the original
architecture is intact, including hardwood floors, brick fireplace and
an oak
staircase.  It is one of the few
surviving structures from the city of Brandon’s formative years.



Daly Names

  • Cui Connacht O’Dalaigh
    who died in 1139 was
    the first recorded of the
    O’Dalaigh bards. 
  • Dermot O’Daly was the first of the Galway Dalys
    who later became Barons of Dunsandle.
  • Daniel O’Daly was a Dominican priest who found his metier as a 17th century diplomat in Spain. 
  • Marcus Daly developed the Anaconda mine in Montana and
    was one of the copper kings of America. 
  • Richard J. Daley was Mayor of Chicago for twenty one years and the first of the Daleys that were to dominate Chicago politics for generations.

Select Dalys, Daleys and Daileys Today

  • 18,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in London)
  • 36,000 in America (most numerous in New York)
  • 40,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Ireland)


Select Daly 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.

Leinster in SE Ireland covers the counties of Carlow, Dublin, Kilkenny, Offaly, Laois, Longford, Louth, Meath, West Meath, Wexford, and Wicklow.  Here are some of the Leinster surnames that you can check out.




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