Art O'Caom, son of Fionghuine, the King of Munster who died in 902, gave his name to the O'Keeffes whose territory was around Glanmore and Fermoy in Cork. When they were uprooted by the Normans they moved south to the Duhallow county where their surroundings came to be called Pobble O'Keeffe (O'Keeffe country). Caom means 'noble' or 'gentle'. Their celebrated poet, Owen O'Keeffe, who was president of the Cork bards, was also a parish priest of Doneraile.

Following the submergence of the old Gaelic order, the O'Keeffes began to feature in the army lists in France. There were many O'Keeffe officers, and as they settled in France their name was gradually eroded to Cuif.

Those who managed to survive at home were able to use their talents with the easing of the penal laws. One artist O'Keeffe, following training in Dublin, got the signature of approval in London with an exhibition at the Royal Academy. His brother, John, was an actor and dramatist. When he first went to London his name lacked the O' prefix, as was usual then. As a successful playwright and songwriter he gained the confidence to show his Irish origins by returning the O' to Keeffe. When John Lanigan of Tipperary married an O Keeffe heiress they combined their names. The Lanigan O'Keeffe families have a definite legal tradition. Some have gone to Australia, others to Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe.