The Irish surname Griffin is the Anglicization of the Old Gaelic surname
O'Griobhta. The surname is of patronymic origin, being one of those names
based on the first name of a father. In this instance, the surname simply
means, a 'son of a Griffin'.
Griffin was a very popular choice of personal names in medieval Ireland; it
had been introduced to the country by Bretons who came over with the Normans
in 1172. At this time too, a clan with the surname Griffin settled in
Ireland. There is no doubt however, that the great majority of Irish
Griffins are really O¹Griobhtas of Gaelic stock who merely anglicized their
name during the seventeenth century.
During the Middle Ages, surnames were becoming commonplace, however the
modern structured system of hereditary names had not yet evolved. People
therefore adopted the first name of their father as their family name.
Bearers of this surname are very numerous in modern times in Ireland, with an estimated population over eight thousand persons, and it stands 75th in the list of commonest Irish surnames. These are chiefly found in Munster,
in particular in counties Clare, Limerick, Kerry and Cork.
This surname was established at an early date in America, when in 1634 "the
names of such passed out of the port of Plimworth" in the ship the Robert
Bonaventure bound for Saint Christopher¹s included one George Griffin, aged 18.
A notable bearer from the literary sphere was Maurice Griffin (died 1778), the
renowned Gaelic poet.