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The Irish Rose

Kelly Name History

Kelly-coat-of-arms-large.jpgKelly Coat of Arms

In many cases, Kelly is an Anglicisation of the Irish surname Ó Ceallaigh, which means "descendant of Ceallach." The personal name Ceallach has been thought to mean "bright-headed," but the current understanding is that the name means "frequenting churches," derived from the Irish ceall. In other cases, the surname Kelly is an Anglicisation of the Irish Ó Cadhla, which means "descendant of Cadhla."

The surname can also be derived from several place names. For example, the surname can be derived from two places in Scotland: Kelly, near Arbroath, and Kellie, in Fife. The surname can also be derived from a place name in England, Kelly, in Devon. This place name is derived from the Cornish celli, meaning "wood" or "grove." Variant spellings of the Irish surname Kelly include O'Kelly, Kelley, O'Kelley, Kellie, and O'Killia.

The surname is one of the most prevalent surnames in Ireland. It is also very common in Galloway, and the Isle of Man.

Visit a Kelly Pub in Ireland

On your next trip to Ireland, you should make a point of visiting one of the charming Kelly pubs. Here are some we have found:


If you can't visit in person, our personalized pub gifts are the next best thing!

Notable people named Kelly

A - G

  • Archie Kelly, Scottish footballer
  • Autumn Kelly (born 1978), wife of Peter Phillips, grandson of Queen Elizabeth II
  • Brian Kelly (1931-–2005), American actor
  • Brigit Pegeen Kelly (born 1951), American poet
  • Barbara Kelly (1924-–2007), Canadian-born English actress
  • Charles L. Kelly, US Army helicopter pilot
  • Colin Kelly (1915–-1941), World War II ace pilot
  • Darren Kelly (born 1978), Northern Irish footballer
  • David Kelly (1944–-2003), British civil servant
  • De-Anne Kelly (born 1954), Australian politician
  • Des Kelly (born 1965), British journalist
  • Eamon Kelly (actor) (1914–-2001), Irish actor and author
  • Edward Kelly
  • Ellsworth Kelly (born 1923), American painter and sculptor
  • Emmett Kelly (1898–-1979), American circus performer
  • Eric P. Kelly (1884-–1960), American author
  • Eugene Kelly (born 1965), Scottish musician
  • Fitzroy Kelly (1796–-1880), British judge
  • Francis Kelly (Canadian politician) (1803–-1879)
  • Francis Kelly (Medal of Honor) (1860–-1938), American sailor
  • Frank Kelly (born 1938), Irish actor
  • Frederick Kelly
  • Gene Kelly, American actor
  • George Kelly (baseball player) (1895–-1984), American
  • George "Machine Gun" Kelly (1895–-1954), American gangster
  • George Kelly (musician), American
  • George Kelly (psychologist) (1905–-1967), American psychologist
  • George Kelly (playwright), American playwright and uncle of Princess Grace
  • Gerry Kelly (broadcaster), Ulster Television presenter
  • Gerry Kelly, Sinn Féin politician
  • Grace Kelly (1929–-1982), American film actress, aka Princess of Monaco

H - M

  • Harry Kelly (politician) (1895–-1971), Governor of Michigan
  • Henry Kelly (born 1946), Irish television presenter
  • Henry Kelly (VC), Irish Victoria Cross recipient
  • Hugh Kelly (1739-–1777), Irish dramatist and poet
  • Hugh Kelly (footballer) (born 1923), Scottish international footballer
  • Hugh Kelly (goalkeeper) (1919–-1977), Northern Irish international footballer
  • Jack Kelly (actor), American actor
  • Jackie Kelly (born 1964), Australian politician
  • James Kelly (Irish captain) (1929–-2003), Irish army officer
  • James Kelly (U.S. representative) (1760–-1819), U.S. politician
  • James A. Kelly, U.S. politician
  • James Butler Knill Kelly (1832–-1907), Scottish-born Canadian Anglican bishop, later Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church
  • James M. Kelly (born 1964), American astronaut
  • James M. Kelly (politician) (born 1960), American
  • James K. Kelly, American senator
  • James Patrick Kelly, American science fiction author
  • James Plunkett Kelly (1920-–2003), Irish writer, author of Strumpet City
  • Janis Kelly (born 1971), Canadian volleyball player
  • Jean-Baptiste Kelly (1783–-1854), Canadian vicar-general
  • Jean Louisa Kelly (born 1972), American actress
  • Jill Kelly (born 1971), American actress
  • Jim Kelly (born 1960), American football quarterback
  • Jo Ann Kelly (1944–-1990), English blues singer and guitarist
  • Joanne Kelly (born 1980), Canadian actress
  • John B. Kelly, Sr., Olympic medaling rower; father of Grace Kelly and John B. Kelly, Jr.
  • John B. Kelly, Jr., aka Jack Kelly, Olympic medaling rower, politician, president of the US Olympic Committee
  • John L. Kelley, mathematician
  • John Larry Kelly, Jr, Bell Labs scientist who formulated the Kelly criterion
  • John Melville Kelly (1877-–1962), American artist
  • John Norman Davidson Kelly (1909-–1997), theologian and principal of St Edmund Hall, Oxford University
  • Johnny Kelly (born 1968), American musician
  • Kate Kelly
  • Kathy Kelly, pacifist
  • The Kelly Family, European-American musicians
  • Kelly Kelly, ring name of American professional wrestler Barbara Blank (born 1987)
  • Ken Kelly
  • Kevin Kelly (editor), Executive editor of Wired
  • Kevin T. Kelly (born 1960), American Postmodern Pop Artist
  • Kieran Kelly
  • King Kelly (1857-–1894), American baseball player
  • Lisa Robin Kelly (born 1975), American actress
  • Lisa Kelly (born 1977), Irish singer (Celtic Woman soloist)
  • Lisa Kelly, television personality
  • Luke Kelly (1940–-1984), Irish singer and folk musician
  • Maeve Kelly (born 1930), Irish writer
  • Marcia Kelly (born 1970), convicted American murderer
  • Mark Kelly, several people
  • Martin Kelly, English footballer, currently playing for Liverpool FC.
  • Mary Kelly (artist) (born 1941), American artist and writer
  • Mary Jane Kelly (c. 1863-1888), British prostitute and victim of Jack the Ripper
  • Matthew Kelly (born 1950), British television presenter
  • Matthew Kelly (musician), American rock musician
  • Melissa R. Kelly (born 1962), Maryland (USA) politician
  • Michael Kelly (physicist), New Zealand-British physicist
  • Michael Kelly (tenor) (1762-–1826), Irish actor, singer and composer
  • Michael Kelly (bishop), fourth Roman Catholic Archbishop of Sydney
  • Michael Kelly (sport shooter) (born 1872), American Olympic sport shooter
  • Michael Kelly (editor), American writer and editor
  • Michael Kelly (Lord Provost), former Lord Provost of the City of Glasgow and businessman
  • Michael Kelly (American actor), American actor featured in Dawn of the Dead (2004)
  • Michael Eugene Kelly, automotive manufacturing entrepreneur and investment holding businessman
  • Mike Kelly (journalist), contemporary American journalist
  • Mike Kelly (footballer) (born 1942), English football goalkeeper and goalkeeping coach
  • Mike Kelly (outfielder) (born 1970), baseball outfielder
  • Mike Kelly (politician), contemporary Australian politician

N - Z

  • Nancy Kelly (192-1–1995), American actress
  • Ned Kelly (c. 1854 – 1880), Australian outlaw
  • Neil Kelly, British rugby league footballer and coach
  • Pat Kelly (trade unionist) (1929–2004), New Zealand trade unionist
  • Paul Kelly (journalist), Australian
  • Paul Kelly (musician) (born 1955), Australian singer and songwriter
  • Paul Kelly (footballer), Australian
  • Peter Kelley (born 1974), American weightlifter
  • Petra Kelly (1947-–1992), Co-founder of German Green Party
  • Richard Kelly (director) (born 1975), American
  • Richard Kelly (politician) (1924–-2005), American
  • Rick Kelly (born 1983), Australian racing driver
  • Robert Kelly (poet) (born 1935), American poet
  • Ruth Kelly (born 1968), British politician
  • Sean Kelly (cyclist) (born 1956), Irish
  • Stuart Kelly (born 1976), Australian rugby league player
  • Sue W. Kelly (born 1936), American politician
  • Thomas Kelley (author)
  • Thomas Kelly (cricketer)
  • Thomas Kelly (Medal of Honor), American Medal of Honor recipient
  • Thomas C. Kelly, Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Louisville, Kentucky
  • Thomas J. Kelly (Irish nationalist)
  • Thomas J. Kelly (Medal of Honor), American Medal of Honor recipient
  • Thomas R. Kelly, Quaker mystic
  • Thomas E. Kelly, director of the Kansas Bureau of Investigation
  • Todd Kelly (born 1979), Australian racing driver
  • Tom Kelly (baseball) (born 1950), manager of the American baseball team the Minnesota Twins.
  • Tom Kelly (engineer) (1932-–2004), American aerospace engineer
  • Tom Kelly (Gaelic football), footballer
  • Tom Kelly (Ireland), media commentator and member of the Social Democratic and Labour Party in Northern Ireland
  • Tom Kelly (musician), American songwriter
  • Van Kelly, baseball player
  • Walt Kelly (1913-–1973), American cartoonist
  • William Kelly (inventor) (1811-–1888), American
  • William Kelly (senator) (1786-–1834), American
  • William Kelly (Guernsey and Blackheath), member of the Plymouth Brethren
  • William Osmund Kelly, Flint, Michigan Mayor, 1940-44.
  • William W. J. Kelly, Lieutenant Governor of Florida, 1865–-68
  • Wynton Kelly (1931-–1971), Jamaican-born jazz pianist


  • Albéric O'Kelly de Galway, chess grandmaster
  • Aloysius O'Kelly, Irish painter, brother of James Joseph O'Kelly
  • Christopher O'Kelly, Canadian recipient of the Victoria Cross
  • Don O'Kelly, American actor
  • Gabriel O'Kelly, Bishop of Elphin from 1718 to 1731
  • James Joseph O'Kelly, Irish politician
  • John J. O'Kelly, Irish politician
  • Malcolm O'Kelly (born 1974), Irish rugby player
  • Michael the O'Kelly, hero created by Manning O'Brine
  • Seán T. O'Kelly, the second President of Ireland
  • Seumas O'Kelly, Irish author and writer

For Notable People Named Kelley, visit the Kelley Irish Coat of Arms page.

Click here to shop for Irish coat of arms gifts

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