Did You Know

Q. Why Is Our Family Name Spelled So Many Different Ways?

A. The first known spelling seems to be O’Suileabhain which was the Gaelic spelling. When the English invaded and colonized Ireland they made Gaelic Sounding Names Illegal and caused them to make their Irish names have an English format. Due to the recorders failure to understand what a O’Suileabhain was saying caused them to spell the name in over 100 spelling variations in English. Old records have spellings from Soolivan to Sulleghan. The spelling Sullivant was common in the early American Colonies before the American Revolution. In Ireland, the name is O'Sullivan and is the third most popular name behind Murphy and Kelly.

Q. What Does Our Name Mean?

A. There is no dispute that the basic word Suil means eye. However, there is much disagreement over the meaning of the rest of the name. One Eyed, Black Eyed, Hawk Eye, and Eagle Eye have been the most popular names given.

Q. What Part of Ireland Would You Find The O'Sullivan Family Today?

A. O'Sullivan is the third most popular name in Ireland behind Murphy and Kelly. Tipperary was the original territory of this sept (family group). There seems to be two major Irish Septs of O Sullivans in Ireland now. They are the O Sullivan Mor and the O Sullivan Beare Families. The Mor group may be the main line because the word Mor means main. They were based in the County Kerry and later moved to the Kenmore Peninsula known today as the Ring of Kerry. They had a castle at Kenmore called Dunkerron. The O Sullivan Beare (Bear, or Beare or Beara refers to the Beara Peninsula) group was based in County Cork and later moved into the Bantry Bay area and had a castle at Ardloe. 

Q.  What Do The Various Colors, Animals and Symbols On Our Coat Of Arms Stand For?
Gold denotes generosity.                                                                                           
Red denotes Military Strength and magnanimity.
 Noah Webster’s 1828 Dictionary of the American Language defines Magnanimity as such:  Greatness of mind; that elevation or dignity of soul, which encounters danger and trouble with tranquility and firmness, which raises the possessor above revenge, and makes him delight in acts of  benevolence, which makes him disdain injustice and meanness, and prompts him to sacrifice personal ease, interest and safety for the accomplishment of useful and noble objects. 

Green denotes hope, joy and loyalty in love.
Black- denotes sorrow or constancy.
Lion- denotes Majesty, Kingship, Dauntless courage.
Boar- associated with Courage and Perseverance one who will fight to death.
Snake- Wisdom
Deer- Peace and Harmony.  One will not fight unless provoked.

Laurel- is an evergreen and a symbol of eternity.  Longevity?   The leaf denotes Peace, Victory, Triumph and Honor.

Hand Held Sword-denotes bravery and fighting a just cause.  The Sword with the Adder was a symbol the O'Sullivans inherited from Finghin, their ancestor and King of Munster about the year 600AD.
Q. Our Present Coat of Arms has a Crest (The Crown and Red Breasted Robin holding a Laurel Sprig in its beak).  When were they added?
A.  Perhaps the crown was added as a result of what took place in Europe in the 1930’s.  A convention was held in Europe to determine which  families were royal.  Families from all over Europe sent representatives.  Most were turned down.  How the O’Sullivan Mor family was able to convince the committee that they were a royal family is unknown.  However, they did it and as a result the O’Sullivan Mor  Coat of Arms now has a crown on it.  So far, there seems to be no information on when or why the robin with the Laurel sprig was added.  The Coat of Arms of the O'Suileabhain originally had the Crest of the Crown and Robin with laurel sprig so it was probably just a carry over rather than the 1930's  story. The meaning of the Robin is still unknown at the present time.

Q. What does the Motto (Lam Foisteanac Abu) mean?
A.  Contrary to what a Sullivan may tell you, it does not mean, "This sword makes a great back scratcher." It's Gaelic meaning is, "What we gain by conquest, we secure by clemency." The motto may be translated as "The gentle hand to victory."