Quinn is now one of the most numerous of Irish surnames, ranked 18th and 17th in 1890 and 1996 respectively, and is to be found in every county in Ireland. The name arose separately in five distinct areas. In four of these - near the modern town of Corofin in Co. Clare, in the glens of north Antrim, near Castlebar in Co. Mayo and in Co. Longford - the Irish original from which the surname derives is Ó Cuinn, from Conn, a popular personal name meaning "chief" or "leader". The family based in Clare were very prominent - the barony of Inchiquin bears their name. The first to use name was Niall Ó Cuinn, who fought and died in the army of Brian Ború at the battle of Clontarf in 1014. In early times they were chiefs of the Clan Heffernan, and their descendants are today Earls of Dunraven and Mountearl. Their seat was Adare Manor in Co. Limerick, now a hotel and golf course. The seventh Earl still lives nearby.
The fifth area where the name originated is Tyrone; today Quinn is the most common surname in the county. The family were part of the Clann Feargusa, descendants of Fergus, grandson of Niall of the Nine Hostages, the fifth-century monarch who founded the dynasty of the Uí Néill. The individual from whom descent is claimed was Coínne, a grandson of Fergus. All of the Clann Feargusa were conspicuous In the fighting forces of the O'Neills, with the Ó Coinne traditionally acting as quartermasters.
Edel Quinn (1907-1944) was a missionary of the Legion of Mary in Africa, working in Kenya, Mauritius, Uganda and the then Tanganyika and Nyasaland, and renowned for her dedication in the face of poor health.
Feargal Quinn (1936 - ) is the owner of a supermarket chain and has become a national figure in Ireland due to his public service and his membership of the Senate, to which he was elected in 1993.
Ruarí Quinn (1946 - ) is presently deputy leader of the Labour Party and Minister for Finance. He has previously served in four other ministries.
Aidan Quinn (1959 - ), a native of Belfast, is well known as a Hollywood actor, having appeared in such films as Desperately Seeking Susan (1985), The Mission (1986), and Legends of the Fall (1994).