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Posted on 07/22/2013

I get lots of calls on the Shield And Crest Toll-Free line (866-289-2798) from folk with Irish names who worry about the difference between, for example, O’Connor, Connor, Connors, MacConnor, and Conor. The truth is that all those names are anglicized versions of the original Irish language name O’Conchobhair ( Pronounced O’ Cro-huir).

In 1366 the English Crown passed The Statutes Of Kilkenny, which, among it’s many provisions, outlawed the official use of the Irish language ( Gaelige) in the colony. The decline of the language continued throughout the centuries, reaching it’s peak of decline during The Great Famine ( An Gorta Mor) in 1845-50 when Ireland lost 25% of it’s population due to starvation and emigration. At this time also, all Irish place names were changed from the original Irish form to an English version ( e.g. Gaillimh became Galway) further removing the Irish language from everyday use.

The revival of the Irish language in the past 70 years has resulted in many Irish people reverting to the original forms of their surnames. The male form of the name will usually have the prefix O or Mac (Mc) meaning “son of” while the female form of the surname is always “Ni”, with an accent on the I, meaning “daughter of”. Many well known names like Murphy ( O’Murchadha) and Kelly ( O’Ceallaigh) now officially exist again in their original form.

If you would like to know the Gaelic spelling of your last name, and how to pronounce it, please feel free to contact me at www.shieldandcrest.com or at the Toll-Free number (866) 289-2798. Go ahead, it’ll be fun.

Sean O’Fearghail