A Guide to Irish Surname Prefixes

Last Update 2014-09-29 10:26:51 | Posted On 2014-09-29 10:06:59 | Read 7291 times | 0 Comments

A guide to Irish Prefixes

“Mac”
Mac is given to mean “son of” and is a prefix associated with many Irish Surnames. This prefix was usually put in front of the name of your father. There are a few variation of Mac that have developed over time. The 4 most common form are Mac, Mc, M’ and M. The shortening of Mac is understandable and was often necessary for a census taker to complete his work fast. 

“O”
The O prefix before your surname is a certainty of Irish origin. It comes of the old Gaelic form of “Uá” which literally translates to “grandon of” which in today’s terms would mean “descendant of”. Hence O’Lochlainn would be grandson or descendant of Lochlainn. Interestingly enough the apostrophe normally found after the O is said to be remnant of the accent mark  - the “síneadh fada” which is found at the end of “Uá”. So by carrying the apostrophe in your name you are unknowingly using some old Irish Language. 

As with most Irish prefixes the “O” has been added and dropped at will. One of the main reasons the “O” was dropped was due to discrimination against the Irish! Did you know that there was once a time when there was legal declarations against anyone who dare used the “O” or “Mac” prefix on there names.(Mostly around the Dublin area). 

“Kil”, “Gil”
Both Kil and Gil are said to originate from the Irish word “giolla”, which mean “follower of” or “servant of”, perhaps more in a religious sense than actually being in a work sense.For example Kilbride and Gilbride are both the same in Irish language, and refer to the followers of St. Bridget. 

“Fitz”
Nowadays the name Fitz is recognised as being Irish but it was introduced into Ireland during the Norman Invasion of the 12 century. The prefix itself has died out in its homeland but continues to be strong in Ireland to this day. The spelling of Fitz has rarely change over the years which would be common amongst wealthy families and background. 

De, de, de la
This is another prefix of Norman origin. For example Decourcey and Delahunt are proud representatives in Ireland. Please be aware than many De,de, de la prefixes have been dropped over times, say Delahunt has been shortened to Hunt etc… The De,de, dela prefix is only found on early documents and has been dropped a lot in recent times. 

“C” and “G” Names
Name that begin with the letter “c” or “g” may actually have had a “Mac” there once upon a time. In short, new Irish surnames were created when the “Ma” was dropped from the name. 
For example, MacAuley become Cauley. Sometime the “c” became a “g” due to the similarity of the sound. Hence, MacAuley could become Gauley or even Gawley. This needs to be considered when you see Irish surnames that begin with a “C” or “G”.