What Do Apostrophes In Names Stand For?

3 January 2018, 16:18

Apostrophe. Picture: N/A

What does the apostrophe in Irish surnames mean?


You know your name, James O’Brien – there’s a little apostrophe – what does that stand for?

Sheila, Sidcup



Name: Alan, Wimbledon

Qualification: Irish and Gaelic speaker

Answer: the apostrophe is an English way of writing the original name, and its a way of writing the accent over the ‘O’. So it should be a separate word, instead of an apostrophe.

Name: James O’Brien

Qualification: a lifelong ‘O’Brien’

Answer: It stands for ‘son of…’ or ‘member of…’, so ‘O’Brien’ goes back to King of Ireland Brian Boru, in the same way ‘Mac’ in Scotland means that ‘I belong to that clan originally’.