Sloinnte Gaelacha in Ultaibh
This article does not attempt to gather indiscriminately everything that has ever been written about Gaelic surnames, reliable or unreliable; nor is it an attempt to produce prescriptive lists of Gaelic forms of surnames without regard to historical authenticity. There is no need to add to the existing examples of either. Rather, within the set limits, we try to assemble credible evidence and thus to help towards identifying the real historical Gaelic forms. I do not claim familiarity with the written Gaelic genealogies from the middle ages, dealing with what names existed in that period and what their origins were. I am concerned rather to look at how Gaelic surnames (regardless of their earlier history) became transformed into English forms during the language shift since around 1600.
The main part of this page contains a (very incomplete) alphabetic list of Gaelic surnames found in Ulster, each with various anglicized forms. The content is largely based on the writings of such reliable scholars as Séamus Ó Ceallaigh (SÓC), Seaghán Ó Annáin (SÓhA), Seaghán 'ac a' Bháird, Éamonn Ó Tuathail (EÓT), who drew on first-hand oral sources and on public records; and I have added observations of my own from the same kinds of sources, while trying to avoid speculation. There is no difficulty in compiling a list of this kind; the difficulty lies in judging what is plausible to admit. So, in the present state of our knowledge, the list is certain to contain errors, and I would be grateful for notification of these, as well as additional information on the traditional location of surnames, and unusual anglicizations. Of course, a surname based on a common forename can arise independently in different places, eg. Mac Eochaidh or Mac Con Uladh; and similarly, common surnames such as Ó Ceallaigh need not be traceable to a single family.
The list includes local phonetic versions of some names, in O'Growney phonetics, taken mainly from the work of Ó hAnnáin or Ó Ceallaigh. For some additional comments on their use of the O'Growney system see here. Occasionally, phonetic versions in other systems are given — hopefully these do not require further explication.
Ó Tuathail (1932) gives Ó hAnnáin's phonetic versions of many surnames. That data is presented in full here. One of Ó Tuathail's main conclusions is that the Mac or Ó element is weakened after a (male) forename, and for this reason, in giving Ó hAnnáin's phonetic forms from this paper, we have indicated where the surname is "not preceded by a forename" in Ó hAnnáin's written form; otherwise it may be assumed to be so preceded. The presence of this annotation means only that no forename was actually written or transcribed; it would be unsafe to assume, in every case so annotated, that the phonetically-transcribed form was not preceded orally by a forename.
In passing, we may note other evidence for the above-mentioned weakening. Neilson (1808) has three examples on page 102: Seamus Mhac Seain, Uilliam mhac Neill and Brian mhac a Bhaird. A fuller list of Neilson's forms is given here.
Lorcán Ó Muireadhaigh quotes Omeath forms sean-Phroinnsias Mhac Eachmharcaigh and Aodaidh Mhac Eachmharcaigh in An tUltach 3:3 p 7, 4:10 p 6, 8:3 p 7, 8:9 p 3. On an earlier occasion he writes Aodaidh Mhac Chearcaigh (An tUltach 2:7 p 3), which strongly suggests the pronunciation.
That the weakening of the initial of "Mac" is not confined to Ulster is shown by a reference to the same phenomenon in relation to Mac Collatáin in Wexford (Ó Crualaoich in Ainm xiii, 2016, p. 56).
The regular weakening of the prefix of a surname after a forename (Mac > Mhac or 'ac; Ó > a) is most important to appreciate. However, surnames will be written here without such weakening, where they are being used without a forename. But when using a forename with the surname, the weakening can cause Mac and Ó to fall together in speech, and in some cases is presumably the reason why names are found written with either prefix indiscriminately (Mac/Ó Catháin, ?Mac/Ó Cathmhaoil, Mac/Ó Gránna, Mac/Ó Gormáin, etc.); it is certainly the reason in the case of Mac/Ó Grianna (where Mac is the historically correct form), but in the important cases of Mac/Ó Domhnaill and Mac/Ó Néill, both forms are historically correct — the Mac forms came from Scotland and are not directly related to the Ó forms. However doublets are common even where the weakened forms would not fall together phonetically, as in Mac/Ó Brádaigh, Mac/Ó Broin, Mac/Ó Díomasaigh, Mac/Ó Donghaile, Mac/Ó Donnchadha, Mac/Ó Labhraidh, Mac/Ó Labhradha, Mac/Ó Líonacháin, Mac/Ó Murchaidh, Mac/Ó Muireadhaigh, Mac/Ó Rabhartaigh, Mac/Ó T(h)oirdhealbhaigh; Mac/Óh Aodha, Mac/Óh Eochadha, Mac/Óh Eochaidh, Mac/Óh Uiginn.
One other general property of Ulster surnames may be mentioned. It is not the traditional practice in Ulster to use Mhic and Uí
in forming the surnames of married females. As in Gaelic Scotland, Nic and Ní are used. In other words, "Mary Ward" is "Máire Nic a' Bháird",
whether she is Miss or Mrs. (To indicate the marital status explicitly, Mrs (Mary) Ward is "(Máire) Bean Mhic a' Bháird" and Miss (Mary) Ward is
"(Máire) Nighean Mhic a' Bháird".) Examples abound:
• the dedication to married couples of the church windows in Gort a' Choirce — these are listed in Seán Ó Gallchóir (eag.), Teach Pobail Chríost Rí, Gort a' Choirce 1953–2003, 2003, pp 140–4; a typical example is "Seosamh agus Brighid Nic Giolla Chearr".
• several Gaelic gravestones in Mevagh cemetery which are misinterpreted if "Ní Dhochartaigh" or "Nic Giolla Bhríde" are taken to be maiden surnames. There are similar examples in Annagry cemetery, eg. the very first stone in that listing has "Máire Nic Pháidín" who was née Bell.
• the schools folklore collection from Rann na Fearsaide, as found in Rann na Feirsde, Seanchas ár Sinsear by Conall Ó Grianna (1998), eg. "Róise Ní Ghallchobhair" (p 26) was née Ní Dhomhnaill; "Máire Ní Ghrianna" (p 357) was also née Ní Dhomhnaill.
• a typical 1911 census form from the townland of Mín na Leice, where the married daughter of the Mac Giolla Easpaig family is named as "Nuala Ní Dhubhgain".
• the lists of Teilionn Gaelic speakers derived (mostly) from Seán Ó hEochaidh are also worth examination: in Wagner's Gaedhilge Theilinn, pp xiii–xiv, married females include Máire, bean Uí Cheallaigh (3); Caitlín, bean Uí Eachaidh (11b); and Bean Uí Dhomhnaill (13); but also Máire Ní Eachaidh (7, née Nic Sheagháin); Máire Ní Dhonnagáin (8, née Nic Lochlainn). Of the others, Máire Ní Bheirn (2) was unmarried, and I do not know the marital status of Ciotaí Ní Dhuibhir (10). It is likely that Wagner's speaker 3 above is the same as Máire Ní Cheallaigh [M. Shéamuis] on p viii of Ó hEochaidh's Sean-chainnt Theilinn. The most extensive list is given by Uí Bheirn, Cnuasach Focal as Teileann pp v–vii; all the female names have Ní (18 examples) or Nic (3 examples), with the interesting exception of "Cáit Iníon tSeáin (marbh 1940)", where we may surmise the original may have had "Nighean".
• a particularly instructive example in a practical context is provided by the electoral lists for County Donegal. In the lists for 1964–65 (available at NLI), many of the names in Gaelic-speaking areas are given in Gaelic. Examples of Uí or Mhic among them, while not completely absent, are few and far between. The ordering of the names is also of interest. The lists position Ó, Ní, Mac, Nic, Mac an, Nic an, etc. after the main element: thus, for example, Curráin Ó, Éamonn; Churráin Ní, Róise; Ultaigh Mac an, Pádraic; Ultaigh Nic an, Nóra. The list is then ordered on the first word, ignoring any séimhiú — Curráin and Churráin are treated as the same — though the same treatment is not applied to h in (e.g.) hEarcáin Ó, Seán, as it perhaps might have been. The resulting order is eminently practical. Within a group of names sharing the same first word, the ordering depends neither on the elements Ó etc. nor on the Christian names, but serves to keep family units in reasonable proximity. Even in lists which show a mixture of Gaelic forms and English forms of a surname, sometimes within the same family, once again the above ordering of the Gaelic surnames produces more satisfactory results than any easily imaginable alternative.
I now see from a paper by Liam Mac Mathúna that the system of discounting Uí and Mhic in favour of Ní and Nic respectively in the names of married females, prevails also in Conamara (see his section 126.96.36.199). So it seems that in this situation, as in so many others, what is presented to learners of Irish is at variance with the authentic practice of the greater part of continuity Gaelic.
We sometimes find that a Gaelic surname is reduced or shortened, eg. Mac an Déanaigh to Mac an Éanaigh, or Mac Giolla Fhinnéin to Mac Shlinnéin. Such shortened forms may be the basis for bizarre mis-translations (respectively: Bird and Shoulder). Some of the names presented in the first column here may yet turn out to be reduced forms of names still to be added. Another likely example of the type is suggested by the fact, communicated to me by Gerry Oates, that Sands and Ginniff were interchangeable in Co Armagh throughout the 18th century — Mac Condhuibh is a possible original, often anglicised to MacAniff or McAnuff, but here reinterpreted as Mac Gainimhe. Yet another example is Ó Maolmhoichéirghe, generally anglicised as Ear(d)ley; but in South Ulster it may be reinterpreted as Ó Machaire and anglicised as Field(s) or Park(es)(Oates 2013). And yet another case could be Mag Fhearadhaigh, reinterpreted as Mac Geairrfhiadh and then (mis)translated Hare.
Mac Condhuibh/Mac Gainimhe also provides us with an example of ambiguity in the placement of stress, transmitted to the anglicised forms also. In this case, we have opted to regard the differently stressed names as variants of a common original, as also with Mac Aonghais, giving McGuinness etc. or McCreesh etc. — while in others we have regarded them as separate names — Mac Conmhaigh vs Mac Con Midhe. The resolution of this conundrum is far from clear.
One of the interesting things about anglicizations of Gaelic names, whether personal names or place-names, is that they are often a more reliable guide to the former local Gaelic pronounciation than Irish forms introduced in the course of the language revival and given a non-local pronunciation. If the anglicised forms of surnames can be located to specific areas, they may — in conjunction with place-names, and with the variable pronunciation of personal names — provide evidence for the nature of geographical variation in the erstwhile spoken Gaelic of East Ulster.
Tá rud le rádh ag Seán Mac Maoláin fá na sloinnte i dTír Chonaill i measc a bhfuil aige annseo.
If you use this page to locate the Gaelic sources of a particular anglicization, remember that not all possible Gaelic names are included here — far from it.
This page may also contain assorted notes on Ulster Gaelic surnames.
General and specific references
Bell, Robert: The book of Ulster surnames (1988)
Domhnaigh, Pádraig Mac Giolla: Some anglicised surnames in Ireland (1923)
MacLysaght, Edward: The surnames of Ireland (1957)
Smyth, William J: Atlas of Irish Names
Ceallaigh, Séamus Ó: “The Collection of our Surnames; freagar ar Henry Morris,” An Claidheamh Soluis III/44 (11 Jan 1902) 719–20;
“The Collection of our Surnames; more notes,” An Claidheamh Soluis III/48 (8 Feb 1902) 799; and other works.
Dillon, Charlie: Sloinnte / surnames
Gallachair, P Ó (PÓG) “The ‘Mac’ surnames of Co Donegal,” Donegal Annual 4:3 (1960) 271
Livingstone, Peadar: “Roinnt de shloinnte Fhearnmhaí,” An tUltach 60:4 (4/1983) 14–16 (leagan Gaedhilge le P Ó Casaide)
Maoláin, Seán Mac: “Focla agus Cainnteanna Gaedhilge, Cuid VII” An tUltach 17:10 (10/1940) 4–5
Muireadhaigh, Lorcán Ó: various works
Neilson, William: An Introduction to the Irish Language (1808)
Oates, Gerry: “The Evolution of a Surname: Ua Mail Moicheirge — Fields,” Seanchas Ard Mhacha 24.2 (2013) 246–50
Oates, Gerry: “Three County Armagh Family Names: McAvinchey, Mackle and Nugent,” Seanchas Ard Mhacha 26.2 (2017) 121–9
Tuathail, Éamonn Ó: “The surnames of the parish of Upper Creggan(South Armagh),” Béaloideas 3 (1932) 401–8
Turner, Brian S: “Alteration of family names in the Glens,” The Glynns 15 (1987) 23–6, and other works
|Name (and Grouping)||Anglicizations|
|Ó hAdhmaill||Hamill (N Armagh, E Tyrone)|
|Mac Aedhghil ?||McCail, McQuail, Quail, ?MacHale, ?Coyle
Pron. ma-Kae′-ĭl (S Armagh, SÓhA, An tUltach 6:1:3)
|Haggan (Derry, Portadown)
|Ó hAghartaigh||Hearty (S Armagh)|
|Mac Ailín / Mac Cailín
Switching between anglicisations Campbell and McCallion has been noted in Termonamongan (W Tyrone)
|Mac Ainmhire||Convery (S Derry)|
|Mac Alasdair||McAlister (S Derry, elsewhere)|
|Ó hAlpainn||Halfpenny (S Armagh)
Pron. ă-hăl′-păan (S Armagh, SÓhA)
|McAuley, McCauley; Humphrey (S. Armagh)|
|Mac Anna||McCann (N Armagh, S Armagh)
Pron. (without preceding forename) ma-KaN′-ă (S Armagh, SÓhA)
Possibly from earlier Mac Cana.
McGann, McGahan (S Armagh, N Louth) — may not be same as McCann
|Hanlon, O'Hanlon (Armagh, N Louth)|
|Mac Annrais||Henderson, ?? McCambridge (this perhaps from Mac Ambróis)|
|Ó hAnrachtaigh||Hanratty (Farney)|
|Mac Aodha||McKay (rhymes with "day", Newry)
? McCoy (S Armagh)
Hughes (Armagh, Down, Monaghan, Tyrone)
|Ó hAodha||Hughes (S Armagh)
Pron. ă höo′-ă (S Armagh, SÓhA)
Ó hAnnáin gives nă mah′-ee öo′-γă for "The Hugheses" (? for "Maca Uí Aodha) and tin′-ee öo′-γă for the disease wildfire.
|Mac Aodhagáin||Keegan (S Armagh)
Pron. (without preceding forename) ă-Köo′-Găan (S Armagh, SÓhA)
|Mac Aoidh||McKay (rhymes with "die", Randalstown)
Magee, McGee (widespread, inc Donegal; Islandmagee), McKey (mid-Down), McKee
McHugh (Donegal), Keyes (Donegal)
Hughes (Armagh, Down, Monaghan, Tyrone)
|(1) (initial stress) McGuinness, Guinness, McInnes,
(2) (final stress)
McNiece (N Armagh)
McCreesh (S Armagh), ??Rice (S Armagh, but cf Ó Maolchraoibhe)
Pron. wa-Kröosh′ (S Armagh, SÓhA)
cf Ó hAonghusa > Hennessy
|Ó hArbhasaigh||Harvassey > Harvey (Crossmaglen)|
|McArdle (Monaghan, N Louth, S Armagh)
Pron. Klan aar′-dhăl for "The McArdles" (S Armagh, SÓhA)
From Ardghal Mór 'ac Mathghamhna, died 1416.
|Mac a' Bháird
|Ward, McAward (Donegal)
Livingstone says they were originally from Galway; they spread from Donegal to Fermanagh and Monaghan.
(Cineál Chonaill, Clann Cionfaolaidh)
|Boyle (W Donegal, S Donegal)|
|Ó Baoighillte||Boyle (Omeath)|
|Ó Beaglaoich||Begley (S Armagh)
Pron. ă beG′-ă-lĕe; female form, nee veG′-ă-lĕe (S Armagh, SÓhA)
Pron. (without preceding forename) maK-veh′ (S Armagh, SÓhA)
Pron. "McVaa" in North Antrim (Morgan, By the Moyle Shore, vol 1, p 69)
|Ó Beirn||O'Byrne (SW Donegal)|
|Ó Bibinigh||Dobbin (Omeath)|
|Mac Bionaid||Bennett (S Armagh)
Pron. ă bin′-ĭd (S Armagh, SÓhA)
|Mac Bhloscaidh||McCloskey (Dungiven)|
|Ó Bóidín||Boden (S Armagh)
Pron. ă bau′-dăn (S Armagh, SÓhA)
|Mac Brádaigh||Brady (Monaghan)|
|Ó Bradáin||Salmon (S Armagh)
Pron. ă bradh′-ăan (S Armagh, SÓhA)
|Ó Braonáin||Brennan (Finn valley)
Together with Scanlons, came from midlands — Kilkenny and Meath are mentioned — after Scariffhollis (Dom 'ac Fhlionn).
|Breathnach||Walsh (Donegal, S Derry, N Tyrone)|
|Ó Breisleáin||Breslin (Donegal)|
|Ó Broin||Burns, Byrne (S Armagh)
Pron. ă brin′ or (without preceding forename) ō-brin′ or (most commonly) bran′-ăh (S Armagh, SÓhA)
|Ó Brolcháin||Brollaghan, ?Brolly
Bradley (S Derry, N Tyrone, elsewhere)
Brodie (SW Scotland)
|Bhulsan||Wilson (S Armagh) (thus Gaelicised)
Pron. (without preceding forename) wŭl-săn-ă or ăn wŭl′-săn-ăh (S Armagh, SÓhA)
|Ó Buithe||Boyce (Donegal)|
|Note that any name beginning with Ca in Irish is apt to have the broad k corrupted to slender in anglicized pronunciations. Similarly for Ga.|
(Gallóglaigh, associated with Maguires and McMahons)
|McCabe (Monaghan, Cavan, S Armagh)
Pron. i-dheeh′ vee Chaa′-bă for "in McCabe's house" (S Armagh, SÓhA)
Livingstone links their Scottish origins to the McLeods.
|Carlin, Kerlin, Carolan, Carland (N Tyrone)|
|Ó Caiseadaigh||Cassidy (S Derry)
Ó Ceallaigh writes Ó Caiseadaigh for Ballinascreen,
Michael J Murphy corroborates by writing "Keshidy" in Glenelly (CBÉ MS1724 p82).
(Cineál Chonaill, kindred to the O'Donnells)
|Ó Caoilte||Kielty = Small (Kildress, Tyrone) (PRONI
Kielt (Co Derry)
|Ó Caonáin ??||Keenan (S Armagh, Louth)
Pron. ă Kee′-năan (S Armagh, SÓhA)
|Ó Caornáin||Rowans (S Derry)|
|Ó Casaide||Cassidy (Fermanagh, Monaghan, elsewhere)
Pron. (without preceding forename) ō Kes′-ă-dă (S Armagh, SÓhA)
|Ó Catháin||O'Kane (Derry, Omeath)
The monosyllabicity and vowel sound of the anglicization are probably true to the local Gaelic.
Re the vowel, Fr Patrick Hegarty writes "Chaoin" in list of Colonsay converts in 1624
(ref. Kevin Byrne, Colkitto! — A celebration of Clan Donald of Colonsay (1570-1647), an appendix culled from Vatican records by Catholdus Giblin)
|Callan (Farney, N Louth)|
|Ó Cathasaigh||Casey (S Armagh)
Pron. (without preceding forename) ō Kaa′-see (S Armagh, SÓhA)
|Mac Cathmhaoil||Campbell (Tyrone etc)
McCaul, McCawell (Down)
|Mac Cealbhaigh||McKelvey (Donegal)
|Ó Ceallacháin||Callaghan (S Armagh)
Pron. (without preceding forename) ă kaL′-ă-hăn (S Armagh, SÓhA)
|Ó Ceallaigh||O'Kelly, Kelly (S Derry, Farney, and many other places)|
|Ó Ceithearnaigh||Kearney (S Armagh)
Pron. wō-kaer′-Nee, (female form) nee h-yaer′-Nee (S Armagh, SÓhA)
|Ó Cianaigh||Keeney (Donegal)|
|Ó Cianáin||Keenan (Fermanagh, Tyrone)
Kinnane (S Armagh)
Pron. (without preceding forename) ă kin′-ăan (S Armagh, SÓhA; so pronounced also in Farney, EÓT)
|Mac Cionnaith||McKenna (N Monaghan; S Armagh; S Tyrone; to S Derry
from Monaghan in 17thC)
Pron. wah-keN′-ă (S Armagh, SÓhA)
|Ó Cléireacháin||Pron. Ó Cléirighean by Eoin Ó Cianáin of the Clarkes of
Fallagh (Tyrone), although Ó Tuathail writes Ó Cléirigh and takes "ionn"
to be a separate word.
Spellings Clerin and Cleri(o)n found in Tithe Applotment (1830) for Fallagh.
Clerkin (Ballinascreen, Monaghan, Cavan)
Clarke is the prevalent anglicisation in many areas.
|Ó Coinneacháin||Kinahan, Counihan, Cunningham (S Armagh, SÓhA, An
See also Mac Cuinneagáin
|Mac Coirthe ???||Carr, Kerr (S Armagh)
Pron. (without preceding forename) ma-Kŭr′-hă or mah-Kir′-hă (S Armagh, SÓhA)
McCorry, Carr, Corr, pron. ma-Kir′-hă (S Armagh, SÓhA, An tUltach 5:5:3)
|Mac Colla||Cahill (Farney)|
|Mac Comhdháin ???||Cowan (S Armagh)
Pron. wah-Koo′-ăn (S Armagh, SÓhA)
|Mac Comhghaill||McCole (Donegal)|
|Ó Conacháin||Conaghan (Donegal)|
|Mac Conaglaigh||McConagly, McGonigle, Connolly (N Donegal)|
|Mac Con Allaidh
|McAnally, McNally (N Tyrone), pron. (m)akɔn′•aLU
from Ó Ceallaigh JRSAI LXXXI 39
but see also Mac Con Uladh
Ó Ceallaigh says McNally in Tyrone has no connection with the Mayo name Mac an Fhailghigh
|Mac Con Deacair||Hardy (Omeath)
Pron. Mac 'on Deacair (Donn Piatt, An tUltach 46:6:7)
|Mac Condhuibh||(final stress) McAniffe, McAnuff, (Donegal) McEniffe
(?initial stress) Cunniff, Ginniff
(Mac Gainimhe) Sands (Co Armagh, 1791)
|Ó Conghalaigh||Connelly (Monaghan, elsewhere)
Pron. ă Kon′-ă-lee (S Armagh, SÓhA)
|Mac Con Mhaoil||McConwel > McConville (N Armagh)|
|Mac Con Midhe||McNamee (W Tyrone)|
|Mac Conmhaigh||McConomy > Conway (N Tyrone). Probably from Cú
?McCooey (S Armagh), but this is also similar to McCoy
|Mac Conshnámha ?||(Mac Giolla an Átha ?, Mac an Átha) Forde (Leitrim)|
|Mac Conuisce||Watters (S Armagh)|
|Mac Con Uladh||McAnulla (N Tyrone) ??> McCullagh
McAnella, McNellis (S Armagh)
Pron. (without preceding forename) mah′-ăn-ul′-ă (S Armagh, SÓhA)
Connelly (Farney), from Cú Uladh 'ac Mathghamhna, fl. 1375, according to Livingstone
cf Mac an Ultaigh
McAnally, McNally (S Antrim, N Down, Monaghan), according to Ó Ceallaigh, JRSAI LXXXI 39
cf Mac Con Allaidh
|Ó Corragáin||Corrigan (Fermanagh, Monaghan, elsewhere)|
|Ó Creag||Craig (Donegal)|
|Mac Criostail||McCrystal (Tyrone)|
|Ó Cróiligh||Crilly (S Derry) cf Mac Raghallaigh|
|Mac Cuarta||McCourt (Omeath)|
Hollywood (N Tyrone, S Armagh)
Hollywoods in Badoney formerly "Cul-yin" (RBÉ MS1782.209)
|O'Quinn, Quinn (Armagh, Tyrone)
Pron. Klin (or Klan) wee CHŭn for "The Quinns" (Clann Uí Chuinn) (S Armagh, SÓhA)
|Mac Cuinneagáin||Cunningham (S Armagh, Monaghan)
Pron. ă Kŭn′-ă-Găan or Kŭn′-ă-hăn (S Armagh, SÓhA)
See also Ó Coinneacháin
|Mac Cuirc ??||McGurk (S Armagh)
Pron. wa-Gŭrk′ also Klin vee GHwirk′ for "The McGurks" (S Armagh, SÓhA)
(from Daueid Ó Dochartaigh — PÓG)
(2) McDaid (from interchangable shortened form Mac Daeid)
(3) (with lenition)McKevitt (S Armagh, N Louth), McCavitt (Down)
|Ó Dálaigh||Daly (Farney)
Livingstone says they originated in Westmeath.
|Mac an Déanaigh||McEneany (Farney, S Armagh)
Pron. wah′-ă-nae′-nĕe (S Armagh, SÓhA)
Livingstone derives it from a McMahon, Dean of Clones, who died in 1365.
(Mac an Éanaigh) Bird, Birdy
|O'Doherty, Doherty (Inishowen)|
|Ó Doighre ??||Deery (S Armagh)
Pron. ă dhöo′-ree (S Armagh, SÓhA)
|Ó Dolacháin||Dullaghan (S Derry)|
(Clann Domhnaill; some as gallóglaigh in E Tyrone)
|(1) McDonnell, McDonald (Antrim, elsewhere)
(2) (with lenition) Mac Dhomhnaill: McConnell, McGonnell (Portadown)
Pron. wa-Kōn′-năl (S Armagh, SÓhA); so pronounced also in Munterloney (EÓT)
|Mac Dhomhnaill Óig
(from Domhnall Óg Ó Dochartaigh — PÓG)
|(with lenition) McConnellogue (Donegal)|
|Mac Donghaile||Dudley (Omeath)
Pron. Ma-doo′alĕ (doo very nasal) (Omeath, SÓC)
|Donnelly (Tyrone, elsewhere)
Pron. ă dhon′-ă-la, nee DHon′-ă-lă [?recte nee GHon′-ă-lă] (S Armagh, SÓhA)
|Mac Donnchadha||Donaghy (S Armagh)
Pron. wah-Kŭn′-ă-CHoo, nee GHŭn′-ă-CHoo (S Armagh, SÓhA) — note lenition of male form (= McConaghy) and Ó-like female form
Elsewhere in Ireland, we have Ó Donnchadha becoming Donoghue (Munster), and Mac Donnchadha becoming McDonagh (Connacht).
|Mac Donnchaidh||(1) Donaghy, Dunphy
(2) (with lenition) Mac Dhonnchaidh: McConaghy; in Scotland, Robertson.
|Ó Doraidhean||Dorrian (Donegal)|
|Mac Dhubháin||Historically associated with Tír Éanna (Donegal), see Donegal Annual (2014).
Has been suggested as the original form of the Northern Mac Gabhann (q.v.)
|Ó Dubhrais||Doris (E Tyrone)|
Dooey (Antrim; so pronounced too in Donegal, Tyrone, even though written Duffy)
See Mac Dúithche
|Diven, (stress shift) Devine (N Tyrone, S Derry)|
|Mac Dhuibhinse||(with lenition) McAvinchey (Armagh) See Oates 2017.
Vincent (South Derry, Monaghan)
|Ó Duide||Duddy (Derry)|
|Ó Duinnín||Dunnion (S Donegal)|
(with lenition) Mac Dhuinnshléibhe: McAleavy (Armagh, Down)
Leevison (W Tyrone), Levison (Portadown)
Livingstone (SW Scotland)
Ultach (Donegal), cf Mac an Ultaigh
|Ó Duirnín||Durnin, Durning (Donegal)
Durnan (S Armagh)
Pron. ă dhŭr′-nĭn (S Armagh, SÓhA)
|Mac Dúithche||Duffy (S Armagh)
Pron. wah-dhooh′-yĕ (S Armagh, SÓhA), ă dúiche (Farney, EÓT)
|Ó hEachain / Ó hEochaidhéin||Haughian (N Down, S Antrim)
(Ó hEachain) Haughan, Hawkins (Antrim)
|Mac Eachmharcaigh||McCafferky, McCafferty (Donegal)
? McGourky, McGourty (Fermanagh)
? McCarthy (Omeath, ?? Kilcoo)
Pronounced in Donegal Irish as if "Mac Amharcaigh"
|Mac Eairc||McGurk (Tyrone, Derry)|
|Mac Eochadha||McGeough (S Armagh)
Pron. (without preceding forename) mă-gau′-ă (S Armagh, SÓhA)
?? McHugh (S Armagh)
Pron. (without preceding forename) mă-kōh (S Armagh, SÓhA)
|Ó hEochadha||Hoy, Hoey (N Louth, S Armagh)
Pron. A hă′-hoo (second h very light) (Omeath, SÓC)
|Mac Eochaidh||McCaughey, McGaughey, Hackett|
|Ó hEochaidh||Haughey (Down, Armagh, Tyrone, S Donegal)|
|Mac Eoghain||McKeown (S Armagh)
Pron. wa-kaun′, (female form) nee kaun′, Klin vĭ-kaun′ for "The McKeowns" (S Armagh, SÓhA)
McGeown (N Armagh)
Seaghán Ó hAnnáin writes (An tUltach 3/1928, p7): Mac Eoghain .i. McKeown (pron. mă-kaun′) — níl sloinne ar bith ins an Ghaedhealtacht d'ár scríobhadh Mac Eoin air. Do cuireadh mar Ghaedhlig é ar Johnson...
|Mac Fhearadhaigh||McGarry, Megarry
Possibly mistranslated to Hare.
Compare Mac a' Rí.
|Mac Fhearchair||Carragher (S Armagh, Monaghan)|
|Mac Fheidhlimidh||McPhilemy (W Tyrone)|
|Mac Feilim ?
(? from Feilim Finn Ó Gallagher — PÓG)
|Mac Fhibín||(with lenition) McKibben (Down)|
|Mac Fhilip||(with lenition) McKillop (Antrim)|
|Mac Fhinn||(with lenition) Maginn (S Armagh, S Down)
Pron. wah-gin′ (S Armagh, SÓhA)
|Ó Fionáin ??||Fanning (S Armagh)
Pron. ă fwin′-ăn or ă fŭn′-ĭn (S Armagh, SÓhA)
|Mac Fhionnachtaigh||(with lenition) McGennity, McGinnity (S Armagh, Fermanagh)
Pron. (without preceding forename) mah-gin′-ăad (S Armagh, SÓhA)
|Ó Fionnagáin||Finnegan (Farney)
Livingstone says they came to Farney from Cavan.
|Mac Fhionnlaoich||(with lenition) McGinley (Donegal)
|Mac Gabhann||Goan [o:], McGowan [o:], [au], ?McCone, ?Coan (Ballyshannon)
Smith (Cavan, Monaghan)
In the North, the main syllable of Mac Gabhann is pronounced [o:].
For the pronounciation [au], see also under Mac Mathghamhna.
There is some historical evidence to suggest Mac Dhubháin (q.v.) as an earlier form for some (at least) of this group.
|Mac Gabhráin||McGoran [o:] (Down)
cf Mac Shamhráin
|Mac a' Ghallóglaigh
(Gallóglaigh, is dóiche!)
|Gartlan (S Armagh, Farney)
Pron. ă Garth′-lăn-ă (S Armagh, SÓhA)
Originally Gernon, according to Livingstone.
|Mac Géibheannaigh ???||McGeeney (S Armagh)
Pron. wah-gee′-nee (S Armagh, SÓhA)
|Ó Geimhinn||Given (S Donegal)
Consider also 'ac Dhuibhín as source
|Mac Giolla||Magill (S Armagh)
Pron. (without preceding forename) mă-gil′ (S Armagh, SÓhA)
A final slender ll is reminiscent of gille in Scottish Gaelic surnames, but in any case we often find the forms gilla or gille for giolla in Ulster Gaelic manuscripts.
(Mac Coiligh) Cox
Compare also Mac a' Ghoill.
|Mac Giolla Ádhaimh||(Mac Clamha, Mac Láimh) McClave, Hand|
|Mac Giolla Ádhmhair||Lucky (S Armagh)
Pron. (without preceding forename) mal-aa′-wŭr (S Armagh, SÓhA)
Family tradition among the Luckies of Drummuckavall was that the surname derived from Irish sona. The 1766 census of Creggan has a Bryan Sonna resident in the townland, but no Luckies. In 1828 (tithe applotment) there are Luckies but no Sonnas. Murray, History of the Parish of Creggan in the 17th and 18th Centuries JCLAS 8.2 (1934): "A very interesting name is Brian Sonna of Drummackewall — represented today by numerous families who call themselves Lucky."
|Mac Giolla Bhrighde
(from Giolla Brighde Ó Dochartaigh — PÓG)
|McBride (W Donegal)
(Mha'l Bhrighde) McBride, Kilbride (S Armagh, Monaghan)
Pron. (without preceding forename) mal-vree′-dă (S Armagh, SÓhA)
|Mac Giolla Bhláin||Blaney (N Armagh) — from St Blane|
|Mac Giolla Bhuidhe||McGilvoy > McEvoy (Down, S Armagh)
Pron. (without preceding forename) maK-ĭl-wĕe or mah′-il-wee′ (S Armagh, SÓhA)
McElwee (Donegal), possibly also McKelvey
|Mac Giolla Cheara||McElhar, McIlhar
Carr, Kerr (Donegal)
|Mac Giolla Chiaráin||McElheran (Antrim)
|Mac Giolla Chomhghaill||Coyle (NW Donegal)|
|Mac Giolla Chomhghain||McElhone > Coyle (Tyrone)|
|Mac Giolla Domhnaigh||McEldowney, Downey|
|Mac Giolla Dhuibh||McIlduff (Tyrone)
('ailte Dhuibh) Black (Rathlin)
|Mac Giolla Eáin||McErlean (Derry)
Pron. ac’il-aan (Derry, SÓC) — cf Scottish pron. of Mac Gill-Eathain
|Mac Giolla Eoin||Maglone (Tyrone, S Derry)
cf Ó Luain, Mac Giolla Uain, Mac Leocháin.
|Mac Giolla Easbuig||Gillespie (Donegal)|
|Mac Giolla Fhinnéin||McLennan
McGlennon (E Down)
McAleenan (S Down)
(Mac Shlinneáin) Shoulder (S Armagh)
Pron. waK-lin′-ăan (S Armagh, SÓhA)
|Mac Giolla Ghunna||McElgunn, Gunne
Pron. (Kaa′ĕl bwee′) wal-γun′-ĭv or mal-γun′-ĭv (Farney, SÓhA, Irisleabhar na Gaedhilge 14:177 810)
|Mac Giolla Íosa||Gilleece (Fermanagh)
|Mac Giolla Mháirtín||Martin (Farney)|
|Mac Giolla Mhura||Gilmore (Down, S Armagh)
Pron. (without preceding forename) ma-gil′-mŭr (S Armagh, SÓhA)
Ó Ceallaigh says this name refers to St Mura of Fahan.
?> Murray (Down)
Morrison (Rathlin, Scotland)
Mac 'Ille Mhoire is often used by Morrisons in Lewis. In Rathlin, a similar form is used (though not very distinct) by Alec Morrison on tape T1080 of the School of Scottish Studies. The written form of Morrison used in Sgéaltan X Rachreann is Mac Giolla Mhuire.
|Mac Giolla Phádraig||McIlfatrick
|Mac Giolla Pheadair||Kilfedder|
|Mac Giolla Riabhaigh||McAreavey, Reavy (N Armagh)|
|Mac Giolla Ruaidh||McElroy (Fermanagh, S Armagh, elsewhere)
Pron. (without preceding forename) mah-ĭl-roo′-ei (S Armagh, SÓhA)
Gilroy (Leitrim, stressed on second syllable), Kilroy
|Mac Giolla (t)Seanáin||Gilsenan, Shannon
(Mac Uinnseannáin) McGunshenan, Nugent (S Armagh, Tyrone, Derry), Leonard. See Oates 2017.
|Mac Giolla Uain||McCloone, McLoone (Donegal)
McAloon (Donegal, Fermanagh)
(Mac a' Luain) Mundy (South Donegal)
See also Ó Luain, Mac Giolla Eoin.
|Mac Giolla Uidhir||McAleer (N Tyrone)|
|Mac a' Ghirr||McGirr, Short|
|Mac Glaisín||Green (Glenvar)|
|Mac Gofhraidh||McGorry (Tyrone, Derry)|
|Mac a' Ghoill||McGuill (S Armagh, N Louth)
Pron. (without preceding forename) mă-Gŭl′ (S Armagh, SÓhA)
McGill (S Donegal)
The McGills in the Ardara area are supposed to have come from Co Antrim after Scariffhollis (Béaloideas 8 p109).
Compare also Mac Giolla.
|Mac Gormáin||Gorman (Monaghan)|
Grimes, Graham (Tyrone)
|Mac Gránna||McGrann, McGrane (N Armagh)
Grant (S Armagh, S Down)
Pron. wah-Graa′-nă (S Armagh, SÓhA)
|Ó Gránna||Grant (Inishowen)|
|Gréamach||Graham (thus Gaelicised), Grimes (S Armagh)
Pron. (without preceding forename) grae′-mă (S Armagh, SÓhA)
|Mac Grianra||McGrenera, McGrenery (Termon, Donegal)
(Mac Grianna) Greene (NW Donegal)
|Ó hInneirghe||O'Henry, Henry (S Derry)|
|McKeever (Mid Armagh)
|Ó hIomna||Hanimnagh, Ansbro, Hanbury, Hanmore (S Armagh)
Pron. (without preceding forename) ō hin′-ĭm-nah′ (S Armagh, SÓhA)
Spelled Ó hAinmneach in Sgéalaidhe Óirghiall.
|Ó hÍr||O'Hare (Down, Armagh)
Pron. mah-ă-yeer (? for "Maca Uí Ír") cf under Ó hAodha (S Armagh, SÓhA)
ă heer (Omeath, EÓT)
The Irish spelling (í) and its Oriel pronunciations (ee) are at odds with the long open e in O'Hare. O'Growney appears to have no symbol for this sound but uses a close e (ae) where open e would be expected (eg. féar).
|Mac Labhraidh||(1) (with abh > av) Lavery
(2) (with abh > o:) McClorey
(3) ? Lowry [au]
cf: Labhrás > Lowrass in Oriel, Lavrass in Derry
RBÉ MS1470.270: the McCloreys of Burren (?Carrickmacstay) came from "Knock below Rathfriland"
|Mac Laithbhheartaigh||McClafferty (Donegal)
|Ó Laithbheartaigh||O'Lafferty, Laverty (S Armagh)
Pron. (without preceding forename) ō Lif′-ăr-thĕeh (S Armagh, SÓhA)
|Mac Leocháin ???||Malone (S Armagh)
Pron. nee lōh′-ăn (female form) (S Armagh, SÓhA); also Klin′ vĭ-klō′-hăn for "The Malones" — note Ó-like female form.
Possibly a reduced form of Mac Giolla Eoin, which see.
Compare also possibly McLogan.
|Mac Leóid||McGlade (S Armagh)
Pron. (without preceding forename) mă-glae′-ăad (S Armagh, SÓhA)
|Ó Líonacháin||Lenaghan (S Armagh)
Leenaghan, Linehan, Lenihan
Pron. (without preceding forename) ă lee′-nă-hăn (S Armagh, SÓhA)
|Ó Lorcáin||Larkin (Armagh, N Louth)|
|Ó Luachráin||Loughran (Tyrone, Armagh)|
|Ó Luain||Lambe (S Armagh, N Louth)
Pron. ă Loo′-ăn or wō loo′-ăn (S Armagh, SÓhA)
Lamph (N Armagh)
May be reduced form of Mac Giolla Uain. cf also Mac Giolla Eoin.
|Mac Maghnuis||McManus (Fermanagh)|
|Ó Maicill||Mackle (North Armagh, South Tyrone) See Oates 2017.|
|Ó Maolagáin||Mulligan (Monaghan, S Armagh, elsewhere)
Pron. ă mwil′-ă-Găan, (female form) nee wil′-ă-Găan (S Armagh, SÓhA)
|Ó Maoláin||Mullan, Mullen, Mullin (S Derry)|
(from Maol Charthach Ó Maoldoraidh — PÓG)
|Mulhartagh, McCarthy (Ballyshannon)|
Pron. "mu-HOLL-am" in the Portadown area.
Pron. "Mu-hol-om/um" in ?Burren area of County Down (RBÉ MS1483.226)
|Ó Maolchraoibhe||Mulgrew (Donegal)
Rice (S Armagh, Down; cf Mac Aonghuis)
|Ó Maolfhabhail||Lawel > (stress shift) Lavelle (S Armagh)
See also Mac Giolla Ádhmhair
Has been suggested as source of McFaul.
|Ó Maolmhaodhog||Logue (Donegal, Derry)|
|Ó Maolmhoichéirghe||Early, Eardley (Breifne, S Armagh)
Pron. ă mōh′-ăr-ĕe (S Armagh, SÓhA)
(Ó Machaire) Field(s) (Armagh), Park(es) (Monaghan)
|Ó Maolmhuaidh||Molloy (Donegal)
Loy (S Armagh)
Pron. (without preceding forename) ō Lau′-ĕe (S Armagh, SÓhA)
Compare McCloy ?
|McMahon (Monaghan, S Armagh)
Pron. wah-Gaouh′-nă (S Armagh, SÓhA); "locally pronounced as if spelt Mhag Gamhna — wŏ-Gou′-nă" (Farney, Laoide, Sgéalaidhe Fearnmhuighe, 112); "MhacGamhna, adeirthear" (SÓhA, Irisleabhar na Gaedhilge X:112 60).
Note this pronunciation [au] — could the McGowans/Smiths of Cavan/Monaghan be McMahons?
|Ó Mealláin||Mellon (Tyrone)
Mallon (S Armagh)
Pron. ă maL′-ăan (S Armagh, SÓhA)
(?? from Meanman Ó Domhnaill — PÓG)
|McMenamin (Central Donegal)|
|Meegan (Farney, S Armagh)
Pron. ă mee′-Găan, (female form) nee vee′-Găan (S Armagh, SÓhA)
|Ó Mongáin||Suggested as possibly the original for Moan(e)/Mone (S Armagh, Monaghan)|
|Ó Mothla ??||Moley (S Armagh)
Pron. (female form) nee wō′-lah (S Armagh, SÓhA)
Mynah (S Armagh)
|Mac Muircheartaigh||McBrearty (S Donegal)
?[with lenition] McCurdy (N Antrim), pronounced Mac Curatraigh in Rathlin.
Elsewhere in Ireland, Ó Muircheartaigh gives Moriarty (Munster).
(Mac Mhuirich) Currie (SW Scotland)
|Murray, O'Murray (Monaghan, S Derry, S Down)|
|Ó Muireagáin||Morgan (S Down, S Armagh)
Pron. ă mŭr′-ă-Găan (S Armagh, SÓhA)
|Mac Mhuirneacháin ?||Murnaghan
(with lenition) McGurnaghan, Gordon (Down)
|Mac Murchaidh||(1) Murphy
Obviously (rather than Mac Murchadha) the direct source of English form "Murphy".
South Armagh — by emigration from Muintir Byrne; na Beirnigh
Kintyre: McMurchy, Murphy, etc. (ref.: Angus Martin, Kintyre, the Hidden Past)
(2) (with lenition) Mac Mhurchaidh: Furphy
|Mac Neacaill||McNicholl (Derry)|
|Mac Neachtain||McNaughton (Glens of Antrim)
|Ó Néill||O'Neill (Tyrone, Armagh, elsewhere)
Pron. Klan wee nael′ for "The O'Neills" (Clann Uí Néill) (S Armagh, SÓhA)
|McNelis, McEnealis (Donegal)|
|Mac Partholán||McParland (N Armagh)
McPartlan (S Armagh, N Armagh)
Pron. waK-parth′-lăn-ă (S Armagh, SÓhA)
Bartley, Berkeley (Antrim?)
(with lenition) Mac Pharthólan: McFarland, McFarlane
|Mac Pheadrais||McFetridge (Antrim)
|Mac Péice||McPeake (S Derry)|
|Mac Raghallaigh||Crealey (N Armagh); ?Crilly (cf Ó Cróiligh)|
|Mac Raghnaill||Reynolds (Derry, S Armagh)
Pron. wa-Gran′-ăl (S Armagh, SÓhA)
Crangle (E Down, via Isle of Man)
|Mac a' Rí||McAree
King (Down, S Armagh)
Pron. wah′-ă-ree (S Armagh, SÓhA) — note stress, if correct.
Possibly a reduced form of a fuller name, such as Mac Conroi or Mac Fhearadhaigh.
|Mac Riabhaigh||McGreevy (S Down)
|Ó Rodaighe||Ruddy (S Armagh)
Pron. ă rŭdh′-ee (S Armagh, SÓhA)
(some at least in Tyrone were Gallóglaigh)
|McCrory, McRory (Tyrone)
Rodgers (S Down, Tyrone)
Rogers (NW Donegal, S Armagh)
Pron. (without preceding forename) mă-Groo′-ă-rĕe (S Armagh, SÓhA)
Pronounced with c unvoiced (Mac Ruairí) in spoken Irish of Tyrone (Tyrone, EÓT)
|Ó Ruanadha||Rooney (Down, S Armagh)
Pron. ă roo′-noo (S Armagh, SÓhA)
|Ó Ruibhleáin, Ó Reibhleáin||Formerly known in the Derry–Tyrone border area by Lough Neagh
Thought to be a form of Ó Doimhléin. Occurs in story "An Fathach Mór Ó Reibhleáin"
(GJ 119; Sgéalaidhe Óirghiall 26–34 & 149). A different story later appears
entitled "An Fathach Mór Ó Cléireacháin" (Sgeálta Mhuintir Luinigh).
The personal name Ruibhleán became Roland in Omeath.
|Mac a' tSagairt||McEnteggart (S Armagh, N Louth)
Pron. (without preceding forename) mah′-ă-theG′-ărt (S Armagh, SÓhA)
Taggart (W Tyrone, E Down)
|Mac a' tSámhaidh||McAtavvy (S Armagh)
Pron. wah′-ă-thaa′-wĕe (S Armagh, SÓhA)
Tavey (S Armagh)
Pron. ă-thaa′-wee (S Armagh, SÓhA)
|Mac Shamhráin||McGovern [ov], McGowran [o:w]
cf Mac Gabhráin
|Mac a' tSaoir||McAteer (S Down)
|Mac a' tSasanaigh||McAtasney, McAtarsney (N Armagh, E Tyrone)|
|Mac Seagháin||McShane (S Armagh, elsewhere)
Pron. Klin vik shaen′ or Klan shaen′ for "The McShanes" (S Armagh, SÓhA)
Johnston (thus Gaelicised, as well as to Mac Eoghain)
Seaghán Ó hAnnáin writes (An tUltach 5:2, 1928, p7): Cuireadh ... Mac Seoin (Mak-shōn′) ... (agus Mac Séoin) ... mar Ghaedhlig ... ar Johnson ... . The MacShanes are called Clann tSéaghain and even the form is used individually: Mícheál Chlann-tSéagháin (M. Chloinn tSéaghain).
|Ó Scannláin||Scanlon (Finn valley)
Together with Brennans, came from midlands — Kilkenny and Meath are mentioned — after Scariffhollis (Dom 'ac Fhlionn), but Maguire's "History of the Diocese of Raphoe" denies this.
|Mac Seibhleáin||Shevlin (Farney)|
|Ó Siadhail||Shiels (Donegal, S Armagh)
Pron. ĭ-dheeh′ ă-tae′-lee for "in Shiels' house" (S Armagh, SÓhA)
|(with lenition) McGetterick|
|McSorley (Derry, W Tyrone)
Pron. Mac Sōr′le (SÓC)
|Mac Suaigeáin||McSwiggan (Tyrone, Derry)
(Gallóglaigh, associated with Cineál Eoghain)
|McSweeney, Sweeney (Donegal)|
McTeague, Teague (S Derry, Tyrone), later Montague
|Mac Tharlaigh ?
(? from Tarlach Ó Baighill — PÓG)
(with lenition) Harley (W Donegal)
McTernan (Leitrim), Tiernan
|Mac Thoirdhealbhaigh||(with lenition) Curley, McCorley|
|Ó Toirdhealbhaigh||Turley (S Down)|
|(with lenition) Corkill (Isle of Man)|
|Mac Tréinfhir||Treanor, Trainer (Down, S Armagh)
(with lenition) Mac Thréinfhir: McCreanor > Traynor (S Derry)
|Mac Uaid||McQuaid (S Armagh, N Louth)
Pron. (without preceding forename) ma-Kō′-ăd (S Armagh, SÓhA)
|Mac Uibhilin||McQuillan (Antrim)
(? Mac Cuilm) Pigeon (S Armagh)
Pron. (without preceding forename) ma-Kŭl′-ĭn. With forename, nee CHŭl′-ĭn (female form). Klin vee-CHŭl′-ĭn for "The McQuillans" (S Armagh, SÓhA) — note Ó-like female form
|Maguire (Fermanagh and elsewhere); ? Diver (Donegal)
Pron. wah-Giv′-ĭr (S Armagh, SÓhA) — thus Siubhán Nic Uibhir of the song!
So pronounced also in Glengevlin (EÓT); and cf LASID I p XIX (pt 64) mə'gïvʹər
"Maguibhir deir na daoine i gcomhnaidhe" (Donegal, Seaghán Bán 'ac Meanman, Árd-Léightheoir Gaedhilge, II, 57)
?? McKeever (N Armagh, W Cavan, S Derry), McGeever (Cavan), ?? McIvor
cf Mac Giolla Uidhir
|Mag Uidhrín||McGivern (S Down, N Louth — diminutive of Mag Uidhir)|
(Norse, is dóiche!)
|McGuigan (S Armagh, Tyrone, S Derry)
Pron. (without preceding forename) ma-Goo′-găn (S Armagh, SÓhA)
|Ó hUltacháin||Nolan (Fermanagh, W Tyrone)|
|Mac an Ultaigh||McAnulty, McNulty (S Armagh), ??Kinulty (S Down)
Pron. wah′-ăn-ŭl′-thĕe (S Armagh, SÓhA)
cf Mac Con Uladh, Mac Duinnshléibhe
There are circumstances where Ó and Mac can sound the same, and where there may be uncertainty over which one to write, knowing only the pronunciation of a surname.
As pointed out above, in Ulster it is normal for the m of Mac to be lenited or even silent in a surname, when preceded by a forename — it is often then written as Mhac or 'ac. Now, if the next part of the surname begins with C or G, this merges with the c of 'ac, and it is impossible to know from the sound whether the surname contains Mac or Ó. The vowel in either particle will be an obscure one, and the following k sound could come from Mac or from the next part of the name. This has often been noted, e.g. McLysaght (More Irish Families, p. 117) remarks on the "not uncommon substitution of Ó for Mac with names beginning with C, G and K". One such substitution was made by a leading Gaelic scholar when he wrote Ó Coilín for a Donegal 'ac Ailín (Royal Irish Academy Minutes of Proceedings, Session 1931–32, p. 30)! Seán Ó hEochaidh confirmed to me that the family in question there — some of whom later settled in Killybegs — employed the anglicisation "Campbell", as is usual for 'ac Ailín. They are named "Campbell" in the 1901 and 1911 census returns for Mín a' Droighin.
Ó Droighneáin (An Sloinnteoir Gaeilge agus an tAinmneoir, 1972, p. vii) raises the case of the writers from Rann na Fearsaide, the brothers Séamus Ó Grianna and Seosamh Mac Grianna. Their surname is pronounced ə'griəɴə — but should it be written Ó Grianna or 'ac Grianna? The sound cannot tell us which. As schooling and other official matters would have used the anglicised form Greene, the question would not have arisen until the brothers began to write in Irish and the name had to be printed in its original Irish form. The elder brothers, Séamus (1889–1969) and Domhnall (1894–1962), chose the more direct Ó Grianna. Some historical research, however, disclosed that the correct historical form of the name was Mac Grianna (actually, Mac Grianra), and this form was adopted by the younger brothers, Seosamh (1900–1990) and Seán Bán (1905–1979), and also — possibly earliest — by their cousin Domhnall Frank (c1894–1972).
This explanation of the fact that two brothers are known as Séamus Ó Grianna and Seosamh Mac Grianna is very fully given by Gearóid Stockman in his book Cruinneas Gramadaí agus Corrfhocal Eile (1996) on pp. 99–100. Hopefully it has laid to rest the ludicrous suggestion that the divergence of surname may have been "agreed on ... either to avoid confusion of them as writers, or for simple difference of taste when they adopted the Irish forms of the English name Green [sic]" (Brady and Cleeve, A Biographical Dictionary of Irish Writers, 1985, p. 311; partially repeated in McRedmond, Modern Irish Lives, 1996). The problem was not to "invent an Irish form" for Greene; it was to find a way to write the oral ə'griəɴə.
Regarding the second element of the name, like Professor Stockman, I too heard the late Seán Bán Mac Grianna trace the family's origins to Termon near Kilmacrenan. He had arrived at the conclusion that the proper written form is Mac Grianra. Support comes from the fact that McGrenry is a name associated with the Termon area, whence it has spread to Derry and Belfast. But Greene is the preferred anglicisation in north-western Donegal, and McLysaght (More Irish Families, p. 219) notes written Irish forms from Donegal in 1602 which lack the second r. Much of this information is also given by Uinseann Ó Dónaill (Vincie Shíle) in the Donegal Annual (1987) p. 59.