Explanatory Note on Irish Names

Rev Patrick Woulfe

Names of Men and Women.—These are given in both the nom. and gen. case (compare § 6, p. 14). English or anglicised forms not derived from the Irish name either phonetically or by translation, but substituted by attraction or assimilation (see p. 38), are enclosed in brackets. Our names are drawn from several different languages. The original form of each name is given, together with its signification, as far as it is possible to ascertain it. The manner in which foreign names found their way into Ireland is indicated. Finally, a Latin form is added which it is hoped will prove useful for purposes of registration.

Surnames.—Each surname is given in the nominative case masculine, but in several classes of surnames the same form is common to males and females. The declension of surnames is explained in § 6, pp. 24-7. The form of the surname to be used with names of females is shown in § 7, pp. 27-9. The class to which a surname belongs is indicated by a Roman numeral immediately following the surname. These numerals (I-XIV) refer to § 5, p. 23, but for the convenience of the reader an amplified table of the different classes of surnames is given below.

The older English or anglicised forms, now obsolete, are printed in italics. These, which are nearly all taken from the Fiants of Elizabeth and the Patent Rolls of James I, show the different steps in the process of anglicising our surnames and generally supply the links between the Irish surname and its present-day anglicised equivalents. The modern anglicised forms are printed in Roman characters. These have not always been derived from the Irish surname either phonetically or by translation (see pp. 35-7), but substituted by attraction or assimilation (see pp. 37-9). These substituted forms are generally enclosed in round brackets. In consequence of the interchange of surnames (see § 9, pp. 33-5), there is often apparently no connection between the Irish surname and its present English or anglicised equivalents. In this case the English or anglicised form is enclosed in square brackets.

English surnames which are merely equivalents of Irish surnames are similarly enclosed. The original form of the surname, with its meaning, is given whenever possible. The former and present location of the surname is generally noted, and a short sketch added of the family or families who bore it. I have aimed at giving all the genuine variants of each Irish surname, but in the case of certain classes of variants, where to insert all would greatly increase the size of the book, the uniform use of one of the variants was considered sufficient. Thus, Ó is used instead of Ua throughout.

The combinations sc, sp, st are, with a few exceptions which explain themselves, used instead of sg, sb, sd respectively. The uninflected form Maol- is used instead of Maoil- when followed by a broad vowel in the next syllable. Dubh- in similar circumstances is used instead of Duibh-. -éil and -éir are used instead of -éal and -éar respectively in the final syllable of Norman surnames. The alternative forms treated of above (pp. 21, 22) are not included, except in a few instances and for some special reason. See also remarks p. 9, note:—"In the case of names like the present, in which the second element is a proper name, the initial letter of the second part may be a capital, or it may be written small and the second part itself joined on to the first, as Giolla Phádraig or Giollaphádraig, Maol Mhuire or Mailmhuire. After Giolla it is better to separate the second part when it commences with a vowel, as Giolla Íosa, Giolla Iasachta. Similarly Cú Uladh, but genitive Conuladh."