Last name: Riley

This famous surname can be either English or Irish. It is found in both countries in several and overlapping spellings including Riley, Ryley, Reily, Reely and Reilly, as well as the pure Gaelic McReilly, O'Reilly and O'Ralilly. It has two possible and quite distinct origins. In England the surname is usually locational, from the village of Riley Green near Blackburn or possibly Riley Hill, near Lichfield, in Staffordshire. Various publications also mention a place called Riley in Devonshire, but if such a place ever existed, that no longer seems to be the case. The meaning of the name is probably "Rye Farm" from the Olde English pre 7th century "rygh - leah", but other translations are possible such as Reed Farm. In Ireland the surname can be a planter surname from the same English source, but is more usually from the pre 10th century Gaelic O'Raghailligh, meaning the descendant of Raghallach, the latter being an early personal name. In the 16th century the Gaelic prefix was largely lost, but in some cases has been restored. The surname in its various forms is one of the most popular in Ireland, particularly in County Cavan and neighbouring counties, where they were known as the chiefs of Breffny. Five O'Reilly's have held the primacy of Ireland as the archbishops of Armagh, notably Hugh O'Reilly and Edmund O'Reilly (1609 - 1669). Early examples of the surname recording include Henry de Ryley in the Subsidy Tax Rolls for Derbyshire in 1327, Hugh O'Reilly (1580 - 1653), whilst on December 21st 1575, Alice Riley was christened at St. Giles Cripplegate, in the city of London. The first recorded spelling of the family name is believed to be that of John de Ryeley. This was dated 1284, in the Court Rolls of the manor of Wakefield, Yorkshire, during the reign of King Edward 1st, 1272 - 1307. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to "develop" often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.

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ruan riley

carn,t find john riley born 1817 died around 1865 staffs uk


From Ohio. My father tells of a story that his father told him. Two brothers came from Ireland to escape murder charges. They dropped the O from O'Riley and we became Riley has anyone else heard this story? Please email me at if so.


There's probably no evidence of a 'Riley in Devonshire' because Devonshire doesn't exist and never has. It's the county of Devon. Derbyshire was occasionally spellt incorrectly hence we have a Duke of Devonshire, who is actually the Duke of Derbyshire but there never has been a Devonshire...

Rebecca Manna

This is so interesting! My Great-great Grandfather was Hugh Riley From County Caven. When I google the name, there seems to be quite a few Hughs! It is very interesting to read all of your storys, and see where you are all from!

Marie Riley

My Great great grandfather was Hugh also. He was from Cavan. Maybe we are related.

pam riley

hi ya Riley's..........i'm from kent ...but was born in Bermondsey London still searching for our origins......complicated eh?....


I am also a New Mexico Riley! I don't know much about my roots but I'm pretty sure it's Irish!


Hi all you Riley's, I'm a New Mexico Riley. I am very Proud of my Irish Roots on both sides of the house !


Greetings to all the other Riley's out there, just wondering how you can determine if your last name is irish or english in origin? I'm wondering if my last name is just an anglicized form of the classic name or if it's just English. Thanks!

Louise Riley
Hi Rileys! A Riley here from Glasgow, Scotland. I've enjoyed reading all your stories. Good luck with the family tracing.

Riley from Philadelphia PA.

My last name is McNamee, and I'm fourth generation of my family in the U.S. (I think!). But we know that prior to the American Civil War, my great-great-great (give or take a few greats) grandfather was Hugh Riley, in Ireland. We're pretty sure he was from Cork, but he immigrated to America and changed our name to McNamee. I love being a McNamee, but if anyone has any insight on Rileys in Cork, I'd love to hear about it!

Devon Riley
Riley from Indiana here.

I'm a Riley from east Texas. :D hi Riley Folk!

Stephen Riley
I am a Riley In Berkshire Uk. My Dad (Peter) Grew up in South London. Having seen a family tree full of Patrick Riley's it is safe to say we came over during the great spud famine. (And I am lucky we did) Hello to all the other Riley's of the word

jake riley
I'm a Riley from east Texas. Proudly

I'm a Riley. My grandfather was from Texas or Oklahoma, but we wound up in California. I'm proud of my name and my Irish roots! It's nice to meet all of you who share the name. (:

Trying to trace my family history, my family the Reilly's lived/live in mountjoy dublin, ireland if anyone could help :)

Trying to trace my family history, my family the Reilly's lived/live in mountjoy dublin, ireland if anyone could help :)

Mary Riley
I love my last name Riley. Most times people hear my name called in a hospital they look for a caucasian person but I'm black. I find it funny that people automatically assume because I have this last name that I should be white. I love my name and that will never change.

To all the Afro-American Riley's, are you orginally from the States? There is a huge Riley contingent from Montserrat, also called the green ile because a lot of Irish settled there during the Patato Famine. So if any are from there, or even any White people, it would be interesting we may all be family, there are only 2 sets of Riley's from there, it such a small place! We settled in Canada, and the US.

Michele Riley
Very interesting that you said this. I am also Black and a Riley. I do know that my Dad, Is Irish, American Indian, Black Foot Indian and Black. His Dad was Irish and Ameican Indian, His mother Black Floot, White and Black. My Mom as far as I know is Just Black. People assume on the phone all the time that I am White and I can see the shock on their face when we meet in person, lol.

Gail Morris
My grandmother was a Riley, before marrying my grandfather, a Slaughter. She was a Donley County, Texas Riley. Would love to have more information on her father, John Alexander Riley an County Cavan, Ireland descendant. I only know that he was a preacher of the Baptist or Methodist faith.He married Susan Isabelle Beck from Louisiana.

Gary Hughston
My grandmother was a Riley from Texas..and I think Donley County. Her name was Rosalin Riley, and she married Talmadge Hughston. They lived in Alabama during the depression, and ended up in Tallulah, Louisiana. Are you familiar with any of these people.

poison here im a Riley always loved my name still do it just fits so well im african american didnt know that my last name went back that far gotta lil english and irish in me im mixed haha HI my fellow rileys nice to meet you.

To all the Afro-American Riley's, are you orginally from the States? There is a huge Riley contingent from Montserrat, also called the green ile because a lot of Irish settled there during the Patato Famine. So if any are from there, or even any White people, it would be interesting we may all be family, there are only 2 sets of Riley's from there, it such a small place! We settled in Canada, and the US.


Hi, I just found out I was adopted in 1957, by birth mothers name was Marsha Riley...I'm proud to be an Riley!!!!

Pam Riley
I'm a Riley!! I'm from Cal. But my father was from Okla.

Im From Liverpool and Im a riley...sure my nan said that our name was once O'Riley at some point back in the past. crazy

John Riley
My Grandpa was from Liverpool and told me the same. Funny!

Nicole Riley
I'm am African-American with the surname Riley. I think my family has a little Irish in or veins.....not sure, but I'd love to find out!

ruan riley
Has anybody heard a place called either Scholan of scoles in ireland.

ruan riley
Hi, did your family have Rileys that went to England in around 1851. His name was John Riley and Anna Riley.

John Riley
John Riley from Pennsylvania. My Riley's are all from Burnley, Lancashire. My Grandparents came over in 1907-08. Most everybody was a coal miner (the men anyway). Thought I was Irish too, but it's all English as far as I can tract, which is only to the mid 1800's. One G-Grandmother was from Ireland but her name was Martin;-) Good to know there are so many of us.

Terrill Riley
Terrill Riley -- from the southeast U.S. -- family from county Cavan, Ireland.

Heather Riley
My name's Heather Riley & my dads dad was a full blooded irishman & his name was Thomas William Riley & I even have Irish in me from my moms side but I'm still tryin' to find out how that is

Kevin Riley
Kevin Riley from Canada. My family came from Coventry England. It does get frustrating trying to explain to people that I am English not Irish. People just don't get that the family name is one of the oldest Angle Saxon names in England. Very popular in the North of England. Nice reading about fellow Riley's on here.

G.J. Riley
Hello fellow Riley's from Australia. It does get annoying having just about everyone spell your name as Reilly or O'Reilly doesn't it? Our branch immigrated from County Kilkenny to Australia during the 1800's to live the life of Riley.

ruan riley
My Rileys were from kilkenny they moved to England in around 1851 they lived Staffordshire. I cannot find any info about where they came from in Ireland the town was called Scholan, or Scoles. His name was John Riley.

John Riley
I'm a Riley, born West Bromwich, then Staffs but now West Mids. Father Joseph Riley born Wednesbury is difficult to find. He was in Wednesbury when my father (another John) was born in 1916 but not at the same address for the 1911 census. So far I haven't found him.

Martin Riley
Marty Riley from Canada. Nice to see you all. Love my last name as well.

rob riley
my name robert riley most i know is my great grandparents are scousers

check out early records in Wethersfield, connecticut. An Isaac Riley was one of original inhabitants, buriied there with wife, first recorded there as in the militia, year 1630 - something. My Great uncle did a lot of geneology in 50's - pre computer ! Way to go Uncle Bob ! He traced us back to this man and he came from Lancashire, England - not Ireland.

Greg Riley
I knew my branch came to the U.S. from Yorkshire, but I always figured they must have been from Irish stock. Very interesting to learn that it was also an English name, though of Gaelic origin as well. Thanks for the informative, yet concise explanation. Greg Riley, of the Rileys from Texas, from Illinois, from Snaith, Yorkshire way back when. Note: As far as I know, only my brother and I are from this particular line in the U.S.,-- many generations of single-sons.


Nice to find Riley's form all over the world. Ours lives in Canada. AH!

Although my last name is Riley, I am sure that the name was passed down to my ancestors via slavery. Nice to know the origin however.

I'm a Riley, but I think the person who passed down my name was adopted. I'm a little English and Irish, so who knows! Being a Riley is great though!

martin riley
Riley's Gastronomic Guide to the British Isles - have a look at and see your name in print........!

Jess Riley
Im from wolverhampton and i didnt expect my surname to be irish!!!!!!!hahahahah :P

Rob Riley
I'm English, Mother from Hackney in London and Dad from Yorkshire, But I have Irish grandparents on my dad's side so I'm presuming I am the Irish version? I also have Welsh decent along the line ha ha!

Carol Riley
Mine was Carol Riley, I live in Canada, but my family is from Bolton Lancs England, so I'm thinking I'm the English version.

means, daughter of russian

Andy Reeley
Reeley - that's me. I wonder if it is a derivative of Riley?