Gorman Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Select Gorman Meaning

The Irish name is Mac Gormain, derived from the Gaelic gorm meanng “dark blue” or possibly
“noble.”  Early Celtic warfare entailed painting the face or body
to intimidate the enemy.  It is conjectured that Mac Gormain
warriors might have picked up this nomenclature in battle and it was
handed down to their offspring.  Under English rule this surname
became Gorman.

Gorman is an interesting example of a surname which, having lost its
Gaelic prefix under English rule, put back the wrong one, O’Gorman,
after the restoration of national consciousness.  The person
probably responsible for the “O” for “Mac” was Tomas Chevalier
O’Gorman, an exiled vineyard owner in France in the 18th century.

Gorman Resources on

Gorman Ancestry

The Mac Gormains were originally a sept established in Meath and in
Margy in
the southeast corner of present-day Laios, although they were driven
from here to Clare and Monaghan
by the Anglo-Norman incursions of the late 12th century.

of the family to settle in Munster was Murtagh, son of
Donogh, who died there in 1124.  The chiefs of the family held
lands in Ibrickan and Moyarta in county Clare that was under the
control of the O’Briens, the Princes of Thomond.  A
branch of the family acted as hereditary marshall for the O’Briens.  In the 15th century the Mac Gormains of
Ibrickan were known for their wealth,
hospitality, and patronage of Gaelic poets.

1484 Donald Mac Gormain of Ibrickan died, one of O’Brien’s servants of
trust.  He kept a house of general hospitality and was the richest
man in Ireland in livestock.”

Many Mac Gormains lost
their lands in Meath
in the 16th century
and many in Clare
suffered the same indignities at the time of Cromwell.  Denis
Mac Gormain, captain of the confederate armies in Clare, was captured
executed by Cromwell’s forces in 1652.  Gormans did remain in
Clare during the penal years and later some Gormans migrated east into

France.  Thomas Gorman of
Inchiquin in Clare was one of the “wild geese” who fled Ireland for
France in the early 1700’s.  He settled in Burgundy.  His
grandson Tomas Chevalier O’Gorman owned vineyards in Burgundy, promoted
the O’Gorman name back in Clare, but lost everything during the French
Revolution.  He returned to Ireland where he died in 1810.

South America.  Miguel
O’Gorman from Ennis in county Clare had studied medicine in Spain and
practiced as a physician at the Spanish Court.  This status and
position made him popular with the elite at Spain’s River Plate
colony when he arrived there in 1777.  The O’Gormans remained
well-connected in
post-colonial Argentina.  But this did not prevent the tragic death
of the young Camila O’Gorman
, shot by a military firing
squad, occurring in 1848.

O’Gorman was appointed the first British consul
to Mexico City in 1826.  Charles and his
Mexican wife Anita returned to the Britain with their eldest son John,
who married his Mexican cousin and went back to Mexico.  Charles’s
grandson Cecil was a mining engineer and painter who arrived in Mexico
in 1895.  His two sons distinguished themselves in Mexico, Juan as
an architect and Edmundo as a writer and historian.

America.  The
first Gorman in America may well have been John Gorman, recorded among
the Scots
Irish settlers in Augusta county, Virginia in 1748.
He was next in Botetourt county and descendants
moved to Ohio and Missouri.  Another early
Gorman was Christopher Gorman,
found in Lunenburg and Pittsylvania counties, Virginia in the 1750’s
and 1760’s.  Simpson Gorman, born in South
Carolina in
1805, migrated to Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, and finally to
Arkansas.  From him, it is thought, came
the Bradley
county Gormans in  Mississippi.

Later Gormans in America from Ireland included:

  • John Gorman who came around 1794 and settled in Harrisburg,
    Pennsylvania where he engaged in the cattle trade.   His
    grandson Arthur Pue Gorman was one of the early developers of the game of baseball
    and later served for more than twenty years as the US
    Senator from Maryland.
  • David and Elizabeth Gorman who arrived sometime later and settled
    in Kentucky.  Elizabeth died in the cholera epidemic of
    1833.  Their son Willis fought in the war against Mexico and went
    on to be Governor of Minnesota and a Union general during the Civil War.
  • and Richard
    , an Irish nationalist who faced the death penalty
    in 1848, escaped to America, and became a High Court Judge in New York.

married Catherine Power in Prospect, Nova Scotia in
1829.  Gormans from Dromore in county Tyrone were recorded in St.
John, New Brunswick by the 1830’s. 

the son of Irish
immigrants Thomas and Ann Gorman from Kilkenny, was born in Prince
Island, Canada in 1846.  He was a
wandering laborer throughout his life, first in New Brunswick and then
the border in Maine, but is best remembered for the songs he composed,
often of
a satirical nature, which he brought with him on his travels.

Richard and Mary Gorman came to Ottawa via
Quebec in the 1860’s.  Another Mary
Gorman was the mother of the great sports promoter Tommy Gorman, born
in Ottawa
in 1886 (his father had died soon after the birth).
The house on Euclid Avenue where she raised him stayed with the
family until 1971.


Gorman Miscellany

Gormans and O’Gormans Today.  O’Gormans outnumber Gormans in Ireland today.  But outside Ireland
it is almost all Gorman.

Numbers (000’s) Gorman O’Gorman Total
Ireland    4    5    9
Elsewhere 26    1 27
Total   30    6   36

O’Gorman was a reintroduced
spelling after years of English rule.  It had become the majority
spelling in county Clare by the late 19th century and in Tipperary and
indeed for all of Ireland by the late 20th century.  A few
McGormans exist, mainly in northern Monaghan.

The Gormans of Meath.  The migration
of members of this family to Meath took place in the ninth century,
where their
descendants remained until the 16th century when Gormanstown passed
into the
possession of the English family of Preston.  Though
their property was lost to them, the
Meath O’Gormans did not forsake their ancient district. Numbers
of them were still to be found at Monknewtown
and Slane, although some of them were in reduced circumstances.
had been
their burial-place.  In that churchyard
numerous tombstones belonging to them still exist.

One line of Gormans did prosper later.  James O’Gorman had served
as a lieutenant in King James II’s army in Ireland.  His son James
Gorman, toeing the English line, was a timber merchant in Dublin and
his descendants remained there, although they continued to be buried in

Richard O’Gorman, from Dublin via Prison to America.  Richard O’Gorman, from a respectable Dublin family, joined the Young Ireland Party and took an active part in the public
of 1848.  But the British Government took
a hard line on their protests.  He and
eight others were
captured, put on trial, convicted of treason, and sentenced to death.  Protests
from all round the world then forced the
Government to commute the sentence to life transportation.

never went to Australia.
Instead he managed to escape to France in a fishing smack out of
and later made his way to America.  He
did not become, as some stories have it, Governor General of
Newfoundland.  Instead he became an
American High Court
Judge and a proud American patriot. 

The Tragic Story of Camila O’Gorman.  The O’Gormans
with their money, position and background were very influential in
society in the 1840’s.  Adolf O’Gorman’s
was a friend of the ruthless and repressive dictator Juan Manuel de
daughter, Manuelita, and she was received at functions in the official

1846, at the age of twenty,
she met and fell in love with Father Uladislao Gutierrez, from a
family in Tucuman, who had recently arrived in Buenos Aires. The young
eloped on horseback.

fugitives fled
to the north and were at large for around six months.
They were in the end captured in the small town
of San Andres.  It was here on August 18,
1848 that the lives of Father Gutierrez, Camila O’Gorman, and
her unborn
child met a violent end.  They were tied
to chairs and shot to death by a military firing squad.

got no leniency from Rosas.  He accepted
full responsibility for the
execution and said that nobody had made any plea for the couple.

Reader Feedback – O’Gormans in Nova Scotia.  I was
wondering if you happen to know the origin of the O’Gormans in Nova
Scotia.  They started with Daniel
O’Gorman who married Catherine Power in Prospect, Nova Scotia in 1829.  Some say it was county Cork, others say county
Clare or county Limerick.  Any tips would be most welcome.

Kathleen Louden (kathleeninc@rogers.com)

Larry Gorman’s Barren Town.  Larry Gorman’s song Barren town, made up in New Brunswick “to speak my mind on womenkind,” has a
satirical bent.  This verse is a fair

“Now they’ll marry a man,
it’s if they can,
And keeping house
they’ll go;
Till all at once they’ll
shove on style,
Let the wages be high
or low.
And it’s all for a cake they
cannot bake –
It is fun to see
their pies –
And they’ll swear
that the flour is poor and sour,
the dough it will not rise.”

Not that many of Larry’s songs survived.  When
he died in Brewer, Maine in 1917, his
widow Julia destroyed copies of every piece that he had written.

Gormans in Baseball.  The Gorman
name has had a long association with the game of baseball.

It started with Arthur Pue Gorman, the US
Senator from Maryland who in his youth was one of the founding members
of Washington’s
first baseball club.  It was even said
that the capital’s famed baseball nickname, the Senators, derived its
name from
Gorman’s stature within the game and the city and his presence at the

Until his death in 1906, Gorman held a
special place in the game’s history, as a member of the Mills
Commission which
eventually unearthed, although erroneously, the historical origin of
the game with Abner Doubleday.

Another Gorman, Lou Gorman, spent more than three
decades in baseball management, beginning in the 1960’s and mostly with
the Boston
Red Sox.  Then there are the Gorman umpires
– Tom Gorman, starting in the 1950’s, and his son Brian who began in
the 1990’s.


Gorman Names

  • Maelmuire Mac Gormain was
    Abbot of Knock and he composed the Calendar of Marianus in 1171.
  • Charles Gorman was from New Brunswick and known
    as “the human dynamo.”  He was a North American speed skating star of the 1920’s. 
  • Tommy Gorman was well-known in Canada as
    a sports and entertainment promoter.  He
    was a founder of the National Hockey League and managed seven clubs to Stanley
    Cup Championships between the 1920’s and 1940’s.

Select Gorman Numbers Today

  • 10,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in Lanarkshire)
  • 12,000 in America (most numerous in New York)
  • 16,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Ireland)


Select Gorman 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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