Galaher Etymology & Arms

Galaher Etymology and Coat of Arms

The following page contains information I found on the web on the etymology of the name Galaher as well as information relating to the Galaher Coat of Arms.


O Gallchobhair (anglicized versions: Gallagher, Gallaher, Galaher, Gallager, Golaher, Gallacher, Gallaher, Gallogher, Galliker, Gilliger, O'Gallagher, and O'Galleghure.)

O'Gallchobhair are descendants of Gallchobhar, derivatives being gall, meaning foreign (stranger)+chobhar, defined as help(support).

The name of this sept, O Gallchobhair in Irish, signifies descendants of Gallchobhar or Gallagher, who was himself descended from the King of Ireland who reigned from 642-654. The O'Gallaghers claim to be senior and most loyal family of the Cineal Connaill. Their territory extended over a wide area in the modern baronies of Raphoe and Tirhugh, Co. Donegal, and their chiefs were notable as marshals of O'Donnell's military forces from the fourteenth to the sixteenth centuries, The principal branch of the sept were seated at Ballybeit and Ballynaglack.

Gallagher, usually without its prefix O, is one of the commonest names in Ireland being fourteenth in the statistical list compiled from birth registrations. Gallagher is pronounced "Gallaher" in Ireland and "Gallager" in America. Most of Gallaghers were recorded in the north-western counties of Ulster and Connacht, the majority being from Co. Donegal, the original homeland of the sept. The national records show them to have been even more intimately connected with ecclesiastical than military activities. No less than six O'Gallaghers were bishops of Raphoe in the fifteenth and and sixteenth centures and one in the eighteenth. One of these, Laurence O'Gallagher, who held the see from 1466-1477, was anything but a saintly prelate, while on the other hand Most Rev. Redmond O'Gallagher (1521-1601), Bishop of Derry, the prelate who befriended the survivors of the Spanish Armada and was forced to disguise himself as a shepherd in order to escape the prevailing religious persecution, was eventually captured and became one of our Irish Catholic martyrs. A later Bishop of Raphoe, and afterwards of Ossory, Most Rev. James O'Gallagher (1681-1751) was famous for his sermons (usually preached in Irish), which, when published, ran to twenty editions. In America Father Hugh Gallagher (1815-1882), had a most colourful career as a "frontier priest". William Davis Gallagher (1808-1894), American poet, was the son of an Irish refugee who took part in Robert Emmet's Rebellion.

The Gallagher Coat Of Arms

It's description is Blazon: Agrgent a lion rampant sable treading on a serpent in fess proper between eight trefoils vert.

Arms and the right to bear them are granted to individuals by the Chief Herald of Ireland and only those arms registers with his office can be truly claimed by descendants. The Coat Of Arms ensemble consists of the escutcheon or shield; the helm or helmet; the crest; the motto; the mantle and the suppporters. The shield is the most important element. The crest ws worn by the warrior chiefs of Greek and Roman antiquity, serving not only as a mark of rank but also as a consipicous emblem in battle.

Hearldry is the study and description of coats of arms with its origins coming in the twelfth century when knights in continental Europe first began using markings on their shields to identify themselves. Arms first arrived in Ireland with the Normans. Norman heraldy shows clearly its military orgins. The more modern Coat Of Arms began in the 16th Century as a Anglo-Irish heraldic practice characterized by elaborate shields concerned more about a families' status than military ones. A third tradition of Irish Hearldry related to Gaelic Irish where the symbols related to pre-Chrisitan myths.

Gallagher Coat of Arms Shield

"Argent a lion rampant sable treading on a serpent in fess proper between eight trefoils vert."


"A crescent gules out of the horns a serpent erect proper."


"Buaidh no bas" Victory or Death

Lion - Dauntless courage

LION: unless expressed differently, is always understood to be rampant. This beast is perhaps the most frequent of all bearings. In early heraldry it is generally represented rampant, while leopards are represented passant guardant, and hence the arms of England, no doubt, are more correctly blazoned as leopards.

Practically, however, the same animal was intended, but different names given according to the position; in later times the name lion was given to both.

The position of rampant is the one most common as it was thought to be the most natural for the lion. It signifies rearing, but with the sinister hinder leg and the sinister fore leg lower than the two dexter legs respectively. The lion is rarely represented rearing with both its hind legs touching the ground and its fore legs even. A lion rampant, like all other animals, is always understood to be facing the dexter side of the shield.

Positions on the shield have their own descriptors. Right and left are referred to as "dexter" and "sinister" and always relate to the shield as if you were standing behind it. In other words, the dexter side is the right side as you stand behind or the left as you look at the shield.

Metals - Argent = silver (or white) represents serenity and nobility. By those who emblazon according to the planetary system it is represented by the Moon, just as the tincture of gold is represented by the Sun. Hence it is sometimes fancifully called Luna in the arms of princes, as also pearl in those of peers. As silver soon becomes tarnished, it is generally represented in painting by white.

Colors - Sable = black - stands for repentance or vengeance. Vert = green - denotes hope, vitality and plenty. Gules = red - denotes fortitude and creative power.

Fess - A horizontal bar across the middle of the shield symbolizes the military belt or girdle of honour; represents readiness to serve the public.

Trefoil or Shamrock (three-leaved grass) - Perpetuity Shamrock - Perpetuity; floral device of Ireland

The serpent or snake, for they are in heraldry absolutely synonymous. They are found in the ancient rolls under the name of bis; the word survives in the Italian biscia, or cobra of Milan. The reptile occurs rather frequently in coats of arms, and its position should be described. It may be represented erect, or it may be drawn gliding or fessways.

The serpent symbolizes wisdom.

Crescent - the symbol of the second son. It stands for one who has been honored by the sovereign; hope of greater glory.

CRESCENT: (fr. croissant, old fr. cresaunt, pl. cressanz): a half-moon with the horns uppermost. A crescent is the ancient ensign of the Turks, and was without doubt introduced into heraldry by the Crusaders, and hence in arms dating from Henry III's reign onwards it is very frequently employed. It is also the mark of cadency assigned to the second house.

Horns represent strength and fortitude.