Origins of the Surname "O'Riordan"

The name O'Riordan, and several variations; Riordan, Ó Ríada, Reedy, Reardon, and Rearden have their origin the name of "Ríoghbhardán," meaning "Bards to the Kings," or "The King's Bard." The "Ríogh" part is Gaelic for "king", and "bhardán" means "bard". The role of bard appears to have been originally inferior to that of "poet", but later came to include that of poet to the king. The role of the Royal Bard or Poet was much greater than the writing or recital of verses. It included being a scholar, historian and advisor to the king, according to an essay, "Kings and Poets," by Brian O'Higgins. See also a related article, "The Bards of Ireland, In Distant Homage."

The earliest groups of Ríoghbhardáns originated in Co. Tipperary, but they migrated to County Cork at such an early date they are regarded as belonging to that county, where they are now far more numerous than anywhere else. The vital statistics are indeed quite remarkable in this respect: of 159 "Riordan" births recorded for in the year 1890, 89, or 56%, were in Co. Cork and 30 in County Kerry and and 24 in County Limerick. These three counties accounted for 89% of the Riordan births, while all the remaining 29 counties accounted for only 11%.