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The Irish Rose

O'Neill Name History

O'Neill Coat of Arms and Family Name


The surname O'Neill is ultimately of Irish Gaelic origin. It is an Anglicization of the original Gaelic Ua Néill, composed of the elements ua, meaning "grandson" or "descendant," and of the Gaelic name Niall. The meaning of the Niall is disputed, but has been suggested as "cloud," "passionate," or "champion."

The progenitor of the family is said to be Niall Noigiallach of the Nine Hostages, which legend claims was the High King of Ireland in the fifth century. However, it was the grandsons of Niall Glúndub, himself a descendant of Niall Noigiallach, who lived in the tenth century and who would have been the first to use the surname.

It is due to the Anglicization of the original Gaelic that the several spelling variations have emerged, during the transcribing of the name into English. Irish and Scottish variants also exist and include MacNeal, MacNiel and MacNeill, which arose when the ua element in the name was replaced with mac, meaning "son of." Ó has replaced Ua since the end of a standard Gaelic and its gradual evolution into Scottish, Manx and Irish. O'Neill is also occasionally found used as a given name. Other variant spellings of the Irish surname O'Neill include O'Neil, Neal, Neale, Neales, Neil, Nihill, O'Niel, O'Neal, and Neill, among others.

The O'Neill red hand

The red hand in the O'Neill family crest is explained by several slightly differing legends. They share a common theme that begins with a promise of land to the first man that is able to sail or swim across the sea and touch the shores of Ireland. Many contenders arrive, including a man named O'Neill, who begins to fall behind the others. Using his cunning, O'Neill cuts off his left hand and throws it onto the beach before the other challengers are able to reach shore, thus technically becoming the first of them to touch land and wins all of Ireland as his prize.

However, the legends seem to originate in the seventeenth century, several many centuries after the red hand was already borne by the O'Neill families.

Learn more about the O'Neills

The Framed Irish Family Name History, (#1760) has more information on the O'Neill surname. There is a wide selection of O'Neill coat of arms products at The Irish Rose. Please visit the Irish Coat of Arms page.

Visit an O'Neill pub in Ireland

There is at least one pub in Ireland named for O'Neills. O'Neill's Bar & Steakhouse is in Maynooth, County Kildare, serving patrons since 1912. Visit the O'Neills in Maynooth the next time you're abroad.

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

Notable people named O'Neill


  • Alan O'Neill (footballer born 1957), (born 1957), an Irish football player
  • Alan O'Neill (footballer born 1973), (born 1973), an Irish football player
  • Alexander O'Neal (born 1953), American musician
  • Alexandre O'Neill, (1924–-1986), a Portuguese writer
  • Amber O'Neal (born 1974), American professional wrestler
  • Amy O'Neill, (born 1971), an actress/performer
  • Ana María O'Neill, an educator, author and advocate of women's rights
  • Andrew O'Neill, (born 1979), an English vegan, anarchist, transvestite, stand-up comedian, musician and writer
  • Anthony O'Neill, (born 1964), an Australian fiction writer
  • April O'Neil, a fictional character in the Mirage Studios franchise Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
  • Arthur Joseph O'Neill, (born 1917), an American bishop of the Roman Catholic Church.
  • Arthur O'Neill, (1876-–1914), was an Irish Ulster Unionist Party politician
  • Austin O'Neill, (born 1982) is an Irish football player


  • Bernie O'Neill, an American politician
  • B.F. O'Neal, Jr. (1922–-2004), Louisiana businessman Republican politician
  • Bill O'Neill, (1880–-1920), a Canadian-born Major League Baseball player
  • Billy O'Neill, (1878-–1955), a Welsh international rugby union player
  • Billy O'Neill (footballer), an Irish professional footballer
  • Brendan O'Neill (businessman), (born 1948), a British business executive
  • Brendan O'Neill (journalist), an English journalist
  • Brian O'Neill (ice hockey b. 1929), a Canadian executive within the National Hockey League
  • Brian O'Neill (ice hockey b. 1988), American ice hockey player
  • Brian O'Neill (1574), chief of the O'Neills of Clanaboy, surrendering his title to Sir Philip Sidney for a knighthood in 1567
  • Brian O'Neill (superintendent), (1941–2009), an American superintendent of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area
  • Buckey O'Neill, (1860–-1898), an American soldier, sheriff, newspaper editor, miner, politician, gambler and lawyer
  • Byron O'Neill, (born 1970), an American artist


  • Calvin O'Neal (b. ?), American football linebacker
  • Carol O'Neal (born 1948), American model and Playboy magazine's Playmate of the Month in July 1972
  • Charles Duncan O'Neal (1879–-1936), Barbados politician and physician
  • Charles O'Neal (1904-–1996), American film and television screenwriter
  • Connor O'Neill, a fictional Northern Irish character in the Australian soap opera Neighbours
  • C. William O'Neill, (1916-–1978), an American politician
  • Carlos O'Neill, (1760-–1835), a titular head of the Clanaboy O'Neill dynasty
  • Cecily O'Neill, authority on Process drama and the arts in education
  • Charles Gordon O'Neill, (1828-–1900), an Australasian engineer, inventor, parliamentarian and philanthropist
  • Charles H. O'Neill, (c.1800-–1897), an Irish-born American politician and mayor
  • Charles O'Neill (Pennsylvania politician), (1821-–1893), an American politician
  • Charles O'Neill, 1st Earl O'Neill, (1779-–1841), a British politician, peer and landowner
  • Colm O'Neill (born 1964), (born 1964), an Irish sportsperson
  • Colm O'Neill (born 1988), (born 1988), an Irish sportsperson
  • Con O'Neill (actor), (born 1966), a British actor
  • Con O'Neill (diplomat), (1912-–1988), a British civil servant and diplomat
  • Conn (Constantine) O'Neill, a titular head of the Clanaboy O'Neill dynasty


  • Dave O'Neal (born 1937), American politician, former Lieutenant Governor of Illinois
  • Deltha O'Neal (born 1977), American football player
  • Dipika O'Neill Joti, (born 1977), a Turkish actor and model
  • Damian O'Neill, (born 1961), a lead guitarist in the pop-punk band, The Undertones
  • Dan O'Neill, (born 1942), an American underground cartoonist
  • Dan O'Neill (writer), an American journalist and writer
  • Daniel O'Neill (painter), (1920-–1974), an Irish Romantic painter
  • Daniel O'Neill (editor), an Irish-born American newspaper editor and owner
  • Daniel O'Neill (royalist), (c.1612-–1664), an Irish army officer, politician and courtier
  • Daria O'Neill, (born 1971), an American radio and television personality
  • Darren O'Neill, an Irish boxer
  • Davin O'Neill, an Irish professional footballer
  • Dennis O'Neill, (born 1948), a Welsh operatic tenor and recording artist
  • Dennis O'Neill, (manslaughter victim) (born 1932), a Welsh 13 year old boy murdered by his fosterparents
  • Dennis O'Neill (rugby league), a British professional rugby league footballer
  • Dermot O'Neill , several people
  • Diarmuid O'Neill, (1969-–1996), an English-born volunteer in the Provisional Irish Republican Army
  • Dick O'Neill, (1928-–1998), an American stage, film and television actor
  • Don O'Neill, a watercolorist and architect
  • Douglas F. O'Neill, (born 1968), an American Thoroughbred horse trainer


  • Eamon O'Neill (SDLP politician), (born 1944), Northern Irish nationalist politician in Northern Ireland
  • Eamonn O'Neill (Irish politician), (died 3 November 1954) was an Irish Cumann na nGaedhael and later Fine Gael party politician
  • Edward O'Neill, several people
  • Ed O'Neill, (born 1946), an American actor
  • Ed O'Neal, (born 1936), American musician, of the Dixie Melody Boys
  • Edward J. O'Neill, (1902-–1979), an American US Army officer
  • Edward L. O'Neill, (1903–-1948), an American politician
  • Edward O'Neill, 2nd Baron O'Neill, (1839-–1928), an Irish peer and politician
  • Eliza O'Neill, (1791 – 29 October 1872) was an Irish actress, later baronetess
  • Elizabeth O'Neill Verner, (1883-–1979) was an artist, author and lecturer
  • Ella O'Neill, the mother of playwright Eugene O'Neill and wife of actor James O'Neill
  • Emmett O'Neill, (1918-–1993), an American Major League Baseball pitcher
  • Eric O'Neill, (born 1973), an American former American FBI operative
  • Eugene M O'Neill, (1850–-1926), an Irish-born American lawyer and newspaper owner
  • Eugene O'Neill (hurler), (born 1978), an Irish sportsperson
  • Eugene O'Neill, (1888-–1953), an American playwright, and Nobel laureate in Literature
  • Eunan O'Neill, (born 1982), a Northern Irish television presenter
  • Evan O'Neill Kane, (1861-–1932), a surgeon working in Pennsylvania, USA
  • Edward Asbury O'Neal (1818–-1890), American Confederate general during the American Civil War
  • Emmet O'Neal (1853-–1922), American Democratic politician who was Governor of Alabama


  • Frank O'Neal, American cartoonist
  • Frederick O'Neal (1905 — 1992), American actor and television director
  • Fabián O'Neill, (born 1973), a Uruguayan football midfielder
  • Felim O'Neill of Kinard, an Irish nobleman who led the Irish Rebellion of 1641 in Ulster
  • Francis O'Neill, (1848–1936), an Irish-born American police officer
  • Frank "Buck" O'Neill, (1875–1958), an American head football coach
  • Frank O'Neill (footballer), (born 1940), an Irish footballer


  • George O'Neill (English footballer)
  • Griffin O'Neal (born 1964), American actor


  • Henrique O'Neill, 1st Viscount of Santa Mónica,


  • Ivan O'Neal, Vincentian political leader


  • Jack O'Neill, a fictional character in the Canadian-American SyFy television series Stargate SG-1
  • Jamie O'Neal (born Jamie Murphy, 1968), Australian country singer and songwriter
  • Jermaine O'Neal (born 1978), American NBA basketball player
  • Jim O'Neal (b. 1948), American blues expert, writer, record producer and record company executive
  • Joseph T. O'Neal, American politician
  • Johnny O'Neal, American jazz pianist
  • Jack O'Neill (baseball)
  • Jack O'Neill (businessman)
  • Jamie O'Neill (snooker player)
  • Jimmy O'Neill (footballer born 1931)
  • Jimmy O'Neill (footballer born 1941)
  • John Joseph O'Neill (UK politician)
  • John Joseph O'Neill (US politician)


  • Kathleen O'Neal Gear (born 1954), American writer


  • Leslie O'Neal (born 1964), American football player


  • Maston E. O'Neal, Jr. (1907–1990), American politician
  • Melinda O'Neal, American conductor of choral music
  • Mike O'Neal (born 1951), Kansas Republican politician
  • Maria O'Neill, Portuguese member of the Clanaboy O'Neill dynasty
  • Martin O'Neill, Baron O'Neill of Clackmannan
  • Martin O'Neill, Northern Irish footballer and manager
  • Michael O'Neill (politician)


  • Norman O'Neill (composer)


  • Onora O'Neill, Baroness O'Neill of Bengarve,
  • O'Neal Compton (born 1951), American film and television actor
  • O'Neill Donaldson, (born November 24, 1969 in Birmingham) is an English former footballer
  • O'Neill Spencer, (1909-–1944), a jazz drummer and singer


  • Patrice O'Neal (1969-–2011), American comedian
  • Peggy O'Neal, voice actress
  • Pete O'Neal (born 1940), American Black Panther Party member
  • Phelim O'Neill, 2nd Baron Rathcavan


  • Ralph Ambrose O'Neill, an American flying ace from World War I
  • Rebecca O'Neill, (born 1981), a New Zealander football player
  • Richard O'Neill, (born 1943), an Anglo-Irish author and editor
  • Richard W. O'Neill, (1898–-1982), an American soldier who received the Medal of Honor during World War I
  • Riley O'Neill, (born 1985), a Canadian soccer player
  • Robert J. O'Neill, (born 1936), a Chair of the International Academic Advisory Committee at the United States Studies Centre
  • Robert Torrens O'Neill, (1845–-1910), an Irish Unionist politician
  • Robin O'Neil, British historian
  • Rose O'Neill, (1874-–1944), an illustrator
  • Ryan O'Neill (American soccer player), (born 1978) an American soccer midfielder
  • Ryan O'Neill (Northern Irish footballer), (born 1990), a Northern Irish footballer
  • Ralph T. O'Neal, British Virgin Islands politician
  • Reagan O'Neal, one of several pseudonyms of James Oliver Rigney, Jr (born 1948), American writer
  • Ron O'Neal (1937–-2004), American actor, director and screenwriter
  • Rose O'Neal Greenhow (1817–-1864), Confederate spy
  • Ryan O'Neal (born 1941), American actor


  • Séamus Ó Néill, (1910–-1986), an Irish writer
  • Shane Ó Neill, (c.1530-–1567), an Irish chief of the O'Neill clan of Ulster in the mid 16th century
  • Shaquille O'Neal (born 1972), American basketball player
  • Stan O'Neal, manager of Merrill Lynch
  • Steve O'Neal (born 1946), American football punter
  • Seán O'Neill, (born 1938), a Northern Irish sportsperson.
  • Sean O'Neill (table tennis), an American table tennis player and coach
  • Sean O'Neill, 3rd Earl of Tyrone
  • Shane O'Neill (hurler), (born 1986), an Irish sportsperson
  • Sharon O'Neill, (born 1952), a New Zealander singer-songwriter and pianist
  • Sid O'Neill, an Australian rules footballer
  • Simon O'Neill, (born 1971), a New Zealand-born operatic tenor
  • Stephen O'Neill, (born 1980), an Irish Gaelic footballer
  • Steve O'Neill, (1891-–1962), an American catcher, manager, coach and scout in Major League Baseball.
  • Steve O'Neill (owner), (1899–-1983), an American owner of a professional baseball team.
  • Steve O'Neill (rugby league), a professional rugby league footballer
  • Susie O'Neill, (born 1973), an Australian former competitive swimmer


  • Tara Lynne O'Neill, a TV presenter
  • Ted O'Neill, a Dean of Admissions at the University of Chicago.
  • Terence O'Neill, Baron O'Neill of the Maine, (1914–1990), the fourth Prime Minister of Northern Ireland.
  • Terry O'Neill (feminist), (born c.1953), an American feminist attorney, professor and activist for social justice.
  • Terry O'Neill (martial artist), an actor
  • Terry O'Neill (photographer), (born 1938), an English photographer
  • Thomas Newman O'Neill, Jr., (born 1928), an American federal judge
  • Thomas O'Neill (journalist), (1904-–1971), an American journalist
  • Thomas O'Neill (politician), (1882–-1965), Canadian politician
  • Thomas P. O'Neill III, (born 1945), leader of a public relations and government affairs firm
  • Tim O'Neill (Canadian football), (born 1979), a Canadian football player
  • Timothy O'Neill (soccer), (born 1982), American soccer player
  • Tip O'Neill, (1912-–1994), an American politician
  • Tip O'Neill (baseball), (1858-–1915), a Canadian left fielder in Major League Baseball
  • Tom O'Neill (ice hockey), (born 1923), a professional ice hockey player
  • Tommy O'Neill, (born 1955), a Scottish football midfielder
  • Tony O'Neill, a New York based musician and author
  • Tatum O'Neal (born 1963), American actress
  • Tirlough Brassileagh Ó Neill, the son of Phelim Caoch O'Neill, Prince of the Cenél nEógain
  • Turlough Luineach Ó Neill, (1532–-1595), an Irish earl of the Clan-Connell, inaugurated as the King of Tyrone
  • Ty O'Neal (born 1978), American actor


  • Ward O'Neill, (born 1951), an Australian illustrator, caricaturist and cartoonist
  • Wes O'Neill, (born 1986) a Canadian ice hockey player
  • Willa O'Neill, a New Zealander actress
  • William O'Neill (Connecticut politician), (1930-–2007), an American Governor of Connecticut
  • William O'Neill (Ohio jurist), (born 1947), an American lawyer, jurist and appellate judge
  • William O'Neill, 1st Baron O'Neill, (1813-–1883), an Anglo-Irish hereditary peer, clergyman and musical composer


  • Yvonne O'Neill, (born 1936), Canadian politician

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