In form, this is a common English name for someone who lived near a ford. In Ireland, where it is more often "Forde", it may indicate English ancestry, since many English of the name settled in Ireland. However, in the majority of cases, it is a native Irish name, an anglicisation of at least three Irish distinct originals: Mac Giolla na Naomh, meaning "son of the devotee of the saint", also anglicised as "Gildernew"; Mac Conshamha, from conshnamh, meaning "swimming dog", also anglicised "Kinneavy"; and Ó Fuarain, from fuar, meaning "cold", and also anglicised as "Foran". Clearly, the English clerks transcribing Irish names had scant knowledge of the language they were hearing. Mac Conshamha originated in north Connacht, where the sept were chiefs in the area now part of Co. Leitrim from the thirteenth century. Mac Giolla na Naomh was principally a south Connacht name, while Ó Fuarain originated in Co. Cork. The name is still most common in Cork, though large numbers are also to be found in the Connacht counties of Galway and Mayo, as well as in Dublin.

ford households by county in the Primary Valuation property survey of 1848-64.
Click on a county name for a parish breakdown(paying).
Antrim 5
Armagh 22
Belfast city 4
Carlow 1
Cavan 6
Clare 9
Cork 116
Cork city 15
Donegal 1
Down 4
Dublin 15
Dublin city 9
Fermanagh 7
Galway 193
Kerry 3
Kildare 10
Kilkenny 13
Laois 5
Leitrim 41
Limerick 23
Limerick city 1
Longford 9
Louth 6
Mayo 31
Meath 9
Monaghan 9
Offaly 6
Roscommon 27
Sligo 7
Tipperary 3
Tyrone 9
Waterford 2
Westmeath 13
Wexford 7
Wicklow 10