Collins is the anglicized form of the Gaelic names O Coileain and O Coilleain, indicating "son of Coilean". Both names come from the Gaelic "coilean", meaning "young dog", a name which was initially used as a nickname.
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The name has strong associations with Cork and the adjoining county of Limerick. The O Coileain sept originated in North Desmond, an ancient territory which encompasses part of modern-day Limerick, where they were Lords of the barony of Connello until the thirteenth century, when they were driven south by the Norman Geraldine family. They settled in West Cork, near the country where their kinsmen, the O'Donovans held sway. In that territory there was a sept called O Coilleain, of the Corca Laoidhe, a Munster royal house. Both of these names were anglicized as Collins, an English surname brought to Ireland by settlers at the time of the Tudor and Stuart Plantations and afterwards.

Many famous bearers of the name adorn the pages of history. Fr. Dominic Collins, S.J. (1553 - 1602) was hanged in Dublin Castle, while another clerical Collins led the Catholic Confederate army to a successful attack on Bunratty Castle in 1647. David Collins (1756 - 1810) was one of the founders of Sydney Australia. Jerome Collins (d. 1850), born in Cork, was an arctic explorer. In more recent times, Michael Collins (1890 - 1922), soldier and politician, played a major role in the Irish War of Independence, taking part in the negotiations of 1922 which resulted in the setting up of the Irish Free State.

The Historical Research Centre.

 

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