Traditionally the name O’Higgins in Ireland was believed to have come from a grandson of Niall of Tara, known as Uiginn (fl. 6th cent.). The name Uiginn is Norse in origin and used to describe a sea warrior or Viking. However, recent scholars now accept that this character may be fictitious in nature and that it is more likely that the sept takes its name from a historical man called Uiginn who lived about 1100 AD which is the time that surnames began to be used among the Irish.
The fact that the name Uiginn appears to be Norse in nature may cause some surprise and in fact it is not the only name in the O'Higgins pedigree that appears to be Norse. Others include Uiginn's son Roibeard who was named after the crisader Robert, Duke of Normandy (1051-1134), and Roibeard's son was called Gofraidh also a name of Norse origins. Writing in 1919, Professor ÉOin Mac Neill of University College Dublin argued that the nomenclature although Norse in origin, does not necessarily imply a Norse origin for the O'Higgins family. His reason for this argument was that it would have been strange to find a man of Norse descent blossoming into Irish poetry in Mide (Meath) in the early 10th century. If we accept this argument then we can only guess at the reason for the use of Norse names in this very Irish family. Perhaps these men married women of Norse origin who brought these names with them?