O'Keeffe is one of the few Irish surnames to retained its tenth century prefix 'O'. It is included in the list of the hundred most common surnames in Ireland. It's usual spelling is O'Keeffe in Ireland and O'Keefe in the United States. The O'Keefe Coat of Arms design can be found in Burke's General Armory. Heraldic artists developed their own unique language to describe an individual Coat of Arms. The Arms (shield) is described as follows:
Above the shield and helmet is the Crest which is described as:
When translated the blazon also describes the original colors of the O'Keefe Arms and Crest as it appeared centuries ago.
O'Keeffe, and Keeffe, are the anglicised versions of the Irish O'Caoimh, from caomh, meaning 'kind' or 'gentle'. The original Caomh from whom the family descend lived in the early eleventh century, and was a descendant of Art, King of Munster from 742 to 762. Originally the territory of the family lay along the banks of the Blackwater river in Cork, but the arrival of the Normans displaced them, like so many others, and they moved west into the barony of Duhallow, where their territory became known, and is still known, as Pobal O'Keeffe. The chiefs of the family retained power down to the eighteenth century, despite their involvement in the various rebellions, but were eventually dispossessed. Even today, Pobal O'Keeffe is still the area in which the name is most common, with surrounding areas of Co. Cork also including many of the name. It remains relatively rare outside that county.
The O'Keeffes and Keeffes are the descendants of the Irish sept of O'Caoimh, who were originally, located in north east County Cork. The surname O'Keeffe originates from Caoimh, meaning 'Gentle'. The arrival of the Normans meant a displacement, when the name moved to Duhallow, where they prospered up till the eighteenth century. The stronghold of the name in the Duhallow region became known as Pobal O'Keeffe. The name was displaced in the eighteenth century and established in France. The name today, is ranked as the ninety second most numerous name in Ireland, with County Cork being the most favoured location, and then Munster in general.
The Irish surname O'Keefe is an anglicised form of the Gaelic O'Caoimh. The prefix 'O' signifies 'grandson of' or 'descendant' and indicates the patronymic origin of the name while the first name is derived from the Irish word 'caomh', gentle. Although driven by the Anglo Normans from their original homeland in east Cork in the thirteenth century, this sept, which had given early kings of Munster, migrated only within the bounds of what is now Co. Cork and established themselves in the territory subsequently known as Pobal O'Keefe. The surname, which has spread widely through south Munster, is especially numerous in Co. Cork today.
The eponymous ancestor of the O'Keefes was Art Caemh whose father, slain in 902, was King of Munster. Notable bearers of the name include Father Eoghan O'Keefe (1656-1726), who was president of the bards of north Co. Cork and John O'Keeffe (1747-1833), the playwright: the latter's daughter Adelaide O'Keeffe was a well known author in her day. In addition exiled O'Keefes, from Pobal O'Keefe, such as Constantine O'Keefe (1671-1745) who was admitted to the nobility of France, were prominent abroad.
Surnames originated for the purpose of more specific identification. The surname O'Keefe appears to be patronymical in origin, and is believed to be associated with the Irish, meaning, grandson of Coohm (beautiful; noble). Different spellings of the same original surname are a common occurrence. Dictionaries of surnames indicate probable spelling variations of O'Keefe to be Keefe, Coohm, O'Keeffe, Coemh, and O'Keffee. Although bearers of the old an distinguished O'Keefe name comprise a small fraction of the population there are a number who have established for it a significant place in history.