Origin of the O'Rourke Clan Name


The name O’Rourke comes from the gaelic Ó Ruairc (Ruarc), a name that derives from an old Norse personal name, Roderick (meaning famous king). The name is derived from the ninth-century king of Breifne, covering the areas of Leitrim, Cavan and parts of County Longford.

O'Rourke Family name

The O’Rourkes were cut from the same stock as the O’Connors, part of the Úi Briúin dynasty, and they claim descent from the fifth century king of Connacht, Brion. The Uí Ruaircs ruled Breifne for over 700 years. In the early 11th Century, four O’Rourkes also became Kings of Connaught. Back in the Middle Ages they vied with the O'Connors for rule of Connaught. But they also supported them when it suited in their claim for the high kingship.

Tighernan O'Rourke was a warrior king in the 1120s and he married Dervogilla, daughter of Mór, known as the Queen of Ireland. Some years later she was kidnapped by his rival Diarmuid Mac Murchada. The ensuing conflict saw Diarmuid forced to lose his seat as Leinster King and leave the country whereupon he went to Henry II and asked for his support in reclaimimg his kingdom.

It is often said that these actions caused the arrival of the Norman settlers in Ireland who took advantage of the fragile situation and stayed for the next three hundred years. 

The O’Rourkes lost all of their possessions in the late tenth century however there still remains a line of descent. Philip O’Rourke who now resides in London, England is the present holder of the title, “O’Ruairc of Breifne” and is recognised as Chief of the name by the chief herald of Ireland.

The earliest recording of the name is that of Tiernan O’Rourke, Prince of Breffny, who was killed in battle in 1172, during the reign of Rory O’Connor, who was High King of Ireland at the time.

The Coat of Arms has the display of a gold background with two black lions.