Flynn Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Select Flynn Meaning

O’Flynn and Flynn are Irish surnames that derive from the Gaelic flann or floinn meaning “ruddy” and
originally given as a nickname to someone with reddish
complexion. The O’Flynn name cropped up in a number of
locations, most notably in Waterford, Cork, and Roscommon. There
were also Ulster O’Flynns near Lough Neagh in southern Armagh.
However, due to the local pronunciation, these O’Flynns became O’Lynns.

O’Flynn generally gave way to Flynn under English rule.

Flynn Resources on

Flynn Ancestry

There ere early reports of the O’Flynns of Ulster. Cu Muighe
O’Flynn, lord of Uladh, was recorded in the Annals as being treacherously
killed by his brother in 1158. However, these O’Flynns later
became O’Lynns.

There were two unrelated O’Flynn septs in Cork. One was based at Ardagh castle
near Skibbereen in west Cork. They were the lords of Arda and Ui

“O’Flynn Arda of the blooming woods,
A tribe of the purest degree;
Heir to the lordship is each man,
They are the clan of Ui Baghamma.”

The second sept in Cork, the O’Flynns of Muskerry, were based in East
Muskerry in land extending from Ballyvourney to Blarney.
One of the Flynn legacies in Cork is an Irish jig known as Top of the Cork Road or Father
. Another is O’Flynn’s sausages.

there was an O’Flynn sept in Roscommon, seated at Kiltullagh and
Kilkeevin near Castlerea. These O’Flynns were erenaghs
of the Church of St. Dachonna near Boyle.

The largest
number of Flynns
are in the Dublin area today. The
O’Flynn spelling has enjoyed a revival in Cork.

America. Captain
John Flynn from Roscommon in Ireland came to America via New Brunswick
Canada where he had arrived in the early 1830’s. His
son Patrick was a noted lumber dealer in
Tyrone, Pennsylvania. Patrick and his
wife Avesia raised thirteen children, many of whom became lumbermen
themselves. Flinton in Pennsylvania was
named after the family.

Many Flynns arrived in America at the time of the potato
famine in Ireland. William Flynn from
Cork came with his five children in 1847 after his wife had died. They settled in Troy in upstate New
York. There is a fictional account How I Survived the Irish Famine: The Journal
of Mary O’Flynn
which described for younger readers the daily life
twelve year Mary and how she and her family survived the famine and the
subsequent journey by ship to America.

There were two notable Flynns in America who
existed on opposite sides of FDR’s New Deal in the 1930’s:

  • Ed
    Flynn, the son of
    Irish immigrants who ran the Democratic party machine in the Bronx. He was with Roosevelt when FDR was Governor
    of New York and was one of his most important advisors when FDR was in
    White House.
  • John
    T. Flynn, the son of strict Catholic parents in Maryland who became
    a journalist. He was initially a
    supporter of FDR and his policies. But
    after 1936 he became a critic, one of the first from the left. He later bitterly attacked
    Roosevelt in his book The Roosevelt Myth.

Gurley Flynn stood to the left of these political operatives. She was a trade union activist and IWW union
supporter during and after World War One.
Later she joined the Communist Party.
This led to her imprisonment in the McCarthy era.
When she died in 1964 she was granted a state
funeral in Moscow.

Australia. Jeremiah Flynn
was a Catholic priest from Kerry who seemed to have spent his whole
life arguing with the British authorities. He arrived in
Australia in 1817 but was ordered to leave within six months. The
fuss he made, however, convinced the Government in London in 1820 to
allow the first official Catholic missionaries to be sent to Australia.

Threre were later two famous Australian-born Flynns, the actor Errol
Flynn and the flying doctor John Flynn:

  • Errol Flynn was said to be the descendant of an Irish convict in
    Tasmania. His father, Theodore Flynn, became a prominent professor
    of biology at the University of Tasmania. Errol made his
    name when he departed Australia for America and Hollywood.
  • John Flynn’s grandfather was an Irish schoolmaster who settled in
    the Victorian goldfields; as was his father Thomas as well. John Flynn
    started out as a Presbyterian
    minister in the outback before founding the Flying Doctor Service, the
    world’s first
    flying ambulance.


Flynn Miscellany

Ardagh Castle.  Ardagh castle stood on a hill between the town of Skibbereen and the
fishing village of Baltimore in the southernmost point of Cork
and indeed of Ireland.  The O’Flynns were in ancient times
resident there as chiefs of the barony of Ibawn.

The castle is just a ruin now.   But the name has been
preserved by a group of artisan food producers in the area.  Judy
Wotton’s Ardagh Castle cheese has a local reputation.

Father O’Flynn.  A.P. Graves, an Anglo-Irish poet and songwriter and father of the poet
Robert Graves, was the author in the 1880’s of
the popular Irish jig Father O’Flynn.
The words ran as follows:

priests we can offer a charming variety,
renowned for learning and piety;
I’d advance ye widout impropriety,
O’Flynn as the flower of them all.

Here’s a health to you, Father O’Flynn,
and slainte and slainte agin;
preacher, and tenderest teacher,
kindliest creature in ould Donegal.

talk of your Provost and Fellows of Trinity,
forever at Greek and Latinity,
and the divils and all at Divinity
O’Flynn d make hares of them all!

I venture to give ye my word,
the likes of his logic was heard,
from mythology into thayology,
and conchology if he’d the call.

Father O’Flynn, you’ve a wonderful way wid you,
ould sinners are wishful to pray wid you,
the young childer are wild for to play wid you,
such a way wid you, Father avick.

for all you’ve so gentle a soul,
you’ve your flock in the grandest control,
the crazy ones, coaxin onaisy ones,
the lazy ones on wid the stick.

tho quite avoiding all foolish frivolity;
at all seasons of innocent jollity,
was the playboy could claim an equality,
comicality, Father, wid you?

the Bishop looked grave at your jest,
this remark set him off wid the rest:
it lave gaiety all to the laity?  Cannot
the clergy be
Irishmen, too?”

Father O’Flynn became
well-known in England as well at that time because a horse of that name
won the
Grand National steeplechase in 1892.

John Flynn and the Flying Doctor Service.  The Flying Doctor Service began as the dream of the Rev
John Flynn, a minister with the Presbyterian Church.  ‘Flynn of
lived in the outback for most of his life, setting up hostels and bush
hospitals for pastoralists, miners, road workers, railwaymen and other
settlers.  He witnessed the daily struggle
of these
pioneers living in remote areas where just two doctors provided the
medical care for an area of almost two million square kilometers.

In 1917 he
received an inspirational letter from Lieutenant Clifford Peel, a
student with an interest in aviation. The young airman and war hero
the use of aviation to bring medical help to the outback.
For the next ten years, Flynn campaigned for
an aerial medical service.  His vision became a reality when his
supporter, H. V. McKay, left a large bequest for ‘an aerial experiment.’  This enabled Flynn to get the Flying Doctor
Service airborne.

The first flight occurred in 1928.  The
De Havilland plane could carry a pilot and
four passengers at a cruising speed of eighty miles per hour for a
range of 500
to 600 miles.  In those days, not much
territory was charted and so the pilots were forced to navigate by
river beds,
fences, telegraph lines and other familiar landmarks.

Despite those obstacles, the Flying Doctor
Service flew 50 flights in its inaugural year to 26 destinations and
225 patients.  The following year the
installation of a radio receiver would enable people living in
isolation to
call on the Flying Doctor to assist them in an emergency.
Flynn’s dream had become a reality. 

Flynns and O’Flynns in Ireland Today.  A telephone directory survey in Ireland in 1992 revealed 5,250 Flynns
and O’Flynns, of which:

  • 4,450 (or 85%) were Flynns
  • and 800 (or 15%) were O’Flynns.

Dublin, due to migration over the years, accounted for the main
numbers, about a third.

But the traditional origins of the name were well represented, one in
Cork and Waterford and the other in Roscommon, Leitrim and Cavan.
There was also a prominent cluster in Westmeath.

The O’Flynn spelling was concentrated in county Cork.  In fact
O’Flynns outnumbered Flynns by three to two in the county.

O’Flynns, Sausage Makers of Cork.  O’Flynns have
been making sausages in Cork since the early 1900’s.
William O’Flynn earned the company its first
gold medal in the 1920’s.  But the
business had faltered by the time that his grandson Declan, an ex-chef,
and two of his brothers David and Stephen decided to make a go of it in

They started
small, keeping to their father’s old customers.
Declan summoned his family to find his grandfather’s old
recipes, tucked
away in attics and kitchen drawers in Cork.
Gradually they expanded their array of sausages.
Today they operate a thriving business at the
English Market in Cork City.


Flynn Names

  • Fiacha O’Flynn, Archbishop of Tuam, was one of the first recorded of that name. In 1255 he was the emissary of the Irish church to England.
  • Edward Flynn was a prominent American Democrat politician of the 1930’s, a close associate of F.D. Roosevelt.
  • John Flynn was an Australian
    Presbyterian minister who founded the Flying Doctor Service, the world’s first air ambulance.
  • Errol Flynn was an
    Australian-born actor who starred in Hollywood swashbuckling roles from the 1930’s to the 1950’s.

Select Flynn Numbers Today

  • 21,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in London)
  • 27,000 in America (most numerous in Massachusetts)
  • 36,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Ireland)


Select Flynn 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.

Munster in SW Ireland covers the counties of Clare, Cork, Kerry, Limerick, Tipperary, and Waterford.  Here are some of the Munster surnames that you can check out.




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