Nolan (or Nowlan) is now among the most common surnames in Ireland. It the anglicised form of Ó Nualláin, from a diminutive of nuall, meaning "famous" or "noble". The family are strongly linked with the area of the modern Co. Carlow, where, in pre-Norman times, they held power in the barony of Forth, whence their ancient title of "Princes of Foharta". Their power was greatly diminished after the arrival of the Normans, but the surname is still strongly linked with the area. The prevalence of the surname in the modern counties of Mayo and Galway is explained by the migration of a branch of the family to that area in the sixteenth century; in 1585 Thomas Nolan of Ballinrobe in Mayo was given large grants of land as payment for acting as Clerk of the county. He also obtained lucrative licenses to sell wine and spirits throughout the West. He and his relatives prospered and their descendants are many. There was also a separate family, in Irish Ó hUallacháin, based in West Cork, whose name was also anglicised as Nolan. In 1890 the name was ranked 38th most common, with 321 births. By 1996 it had risen to 34th, based on telephone listings.