Caibidil a hAon: The Noun (an tAinmfhocal)

The Names (na hAinmneacha Dilse)

first names (ainmneacha pearsanta)
surnames (sloinnte)
forms of address
place names (logainmneacha)

first names (ainmneacha pearsanta):

In Ireland there are two different groups of first names:

  1. Gaelic-originating and gaelicised names:
  2. English names (also anglicised names or Norman or Gaelic origin) likeTom, Donald, John, Gerald, William, Janet. These names are not declined, they are also mostly neither lenited nor eclipsed.
    The Irish mostly have "2" forms of their names, an English (or anglicised) and a Gaelic (or gaelicised) names, that are used depending on the preference and language being spoken.

surnames (sloinnte):

Here, there are a few different groups. Mostly, the surnames for men and women are different.

I: Gaelic and gaelicised surnames (Sloinnte Gaelacha agus Sloinnte Gaelaithe)
This is the largest group. It includes all those names with Ó and Mac
("And if he lacks both O and Mac no Irishman is he").
There are however a few typical Irish names without Ó and Mac, some of these end in -ch and some have a de.

  1. names with Ó and Mac
  2. Substantivised adjectives ending in -ch as a name
  3. names with "de"
  4. other gaelicised names

II: English / foreign surnames
These names were not incorporated into Irish spelling. Their bearers are immigrants of the recent centuries ("na Nua-Ghall"), e.g. Miller, Dickens, Warwick, etc.
In the Irish language, these names behave like the Gaelic and gaelicised names, but are not lenitable and are not inflected! Forms ending in -ch are not common.
Also German and foreign surnames are handled this was in the Irish language.
e.g.: Seán Miller = John Miller, Mac Uí Miller = Mr. Miller, Bean (Uí) Miller = Mrs. Miller, muintir Miller = the Millers
e.g.: Hans Schmidt, Mac Uí Schmidt = Mr. Schmidt, Bean (Uí) Schmidt = Mrs. Schmidt, muintir Schmidt = the Schmidts

Table of Examples of Irish surnames

engl. husband/son
(e.g. first name Seán)
Mr. wife
(e.g. first name Úna)
Mrs. daughter
(e.g. first name Síle)
Ms. family
nominative vocative
Seán Ó Briain
a Shéain Uí Bhriain
Mac Uí Bhriain, 
an Briaafter
Úna Uí Bhriain
Bean Uí Bhriain
Bean an Bhrianaigh
Síle Ní Bhriain
Iníon Uí Bhriain
Iníon an Bhrianaigh
Muintir Bhriain, 
na Brianaigh
Seán Ó hÓgáin
a Sheáin Uí Ógáin
Mac Uí Ógáin, 
an tÓgánach
Úna Uí Ógáin
Bean Uí Ógáin, 
Bean an Ógánaigh
Síle Ní Ógáin
Iníon Uí Ógáin, 
Iníon an Ógánaigh
Muintir Ógáin,
na hÓgánaigh
Seán Ua Duinnín
a Sheáin Uí Dhuinnín
Mac Uí Dhuinnín, 
an Duinníneach
Úna Uí Dhuinnín
Bean Uí Dhuinnín, 
Bean an Dhuinnínigh
Síle Ní Dhuinnín
Iníon Uí Dhuinnín, 
Iníon an Dhuinnínigh
Muintir Dhuinnín, 
na Duinnínigh
Seán Ó Maoil Eoin
a Sheáin Uí Mhaoil Eoin
Mac Uí Mhaoil Eoin, 
Úna Uí Mhaoil Eoin
Bean Uí Mhaoil Eoin, 
Síle Ní Mhaoil Eoin
Iníon Uí Mhaoil Eoin, 
Clann Uí Mhaoil Eoin, 
Seán Mac Mathúna
a Shéain Mhic Mhathúna
Mac Uí Mhathúna,
an Mathúafter
Úna Mhic Mhathúna
Bean Mhic Mhathúna, 
Bean an Mhathúnaigh
Síle Níc Mhathúna
Iníon Mhic Mhathúna, 
Iníon an Mhathúnaigh
Clann Mhic Mhathúna, 
na Mathúnaigh
Seán Mac Cárthaigh
a Sheáin Mhic Cárthaigh
Mac Uí Chárthaigh, 
an Cárthach
Úna Mhic Cárthaigh
Bean Mhic Cárthaigh, 
Bean an Chárthaigh
Síle Nic Cárthaigh
Iníon Mhic Cárthaigh, 
Iníon an Chárthaigh
Clann Mhic Cárthaigh, 
na Cárthaigh
Seán Mac Conmhaoil 
a Sheáin Mhic Conmhaoil 
Mac Uí Conmhaoil, 
an Conmhaolach
Úna Mhic Conmhaoil 
Bean Mhic Conmhaoil, 
Bean an Conmhaolaigh
Síle Nic Conmhaoil
Iníon Mhic Conmhaoil, 
Iníon an Conmhaolaigh
Clann Mhic Conmhaoil, 
na Conmhaolaigh
Seán Mac Giolla Íosa 
a Sheáin Mhic Giolla Íosa
Mac Giolla Íosa, 
Úna Mhic Giolla Íosa
Bean Mhic Giolla Íosa,
Síle Nic Giolla Íosa
Iníon Mhic Giolla Íosa, 
Clann Mhic Giolla Íosa, 
Seán Mac an tSaor
a Sheáin Mhic an tSaor
Mac an tSaor, 
Úna Mhic an tSaor
Bean Mhic an tSaor, 
Síle Nic an tSaor
Iníon Mhic an tSaor, 
Clann Mhic an tSaor, 
Seán Mag Uidhir
a Sheáin Mhig Uidhir
Mac Uí Uidhir, 
an tUidhearach, 
Úna Mhig Uidhir
Bean Mhig Uidhir, 
Bean an Uidhearaigh
Síle Nig Uidhir
Iníon Mhig Uidhir, 
Iníon an Uidhearaigh
Clann Mhig Uidhir, 
na hUidhearaigh
Seán Breathnach
a Sheáin Bhreathnaigh
Mac an Bhreatnaigh, 
an Breathnach
Úna Bhreathnach
Bean an Bhreathnaigh, 
Síle Bhreathnach
Iníon an Bhreathnaigh, 
na Breathnaigh, 
Seán de Búrca
a Sheáin de Búrca
Mac an Bhúrcaigh, 
an Búrcach
Úna de Búrca
Bean an Bhúrcaigh, 
Síle de Búrca
Iníon an Bhúrcaigh, 
Muintir Bhúrca
na Búrcaigh
Seán Céitinn
a Sheáin Céitinn
Céitinn, Mac an Chéitinnigh
an Céitinneach
Úna Céitinn
Bean an Chéitinnigh, 
Síle Céitinn
Iníon an Chéitinnigh, 
Muintir Chéitinn, 
na Céitinnigh
Seán Miller
a Sheáin Miller
Mac Uí Dickens, 
Úna Miller
Bean Miller, 
Síle Miller
Iníon Miller, 
Muintir Miller, 

the form of address:

When addressing someone, in oral or written form, one uses a special case, the vocative and the vocative particle a. This particle causes lenition.
Only in the1st declension of nouns is there a special vocative form, which looks like the genitive. In all other declensions, the nominative form is the same as the vocative form.
Although, most of the male first names belong to the 1st declension and also the in surnames common word Mac belongs to it. Also the irregular word Ó has a vocative form, which looks like the genitive.
e.g.: Seán: a Sheáin = John!, Séamas: a Shéamais = James!,

Following changes occur in surnames:

The general address form (engl. Sir!, Madam!):

male: a dhuine uasail! = Sir!
female: a bhean uasal! = Madam!
group: a dhaoine uaisle! = Ladies and Gentlemen!

place names (logainmneacha):

Every Irish town that thinks anything of itself has 2 names, an Irish and an English one. Mostly the Irish form is the older one, the English name just a poor approximation of the original. Some coastal cities have English names of Scandinavian (Viking) origin (Wicklow, Wexford, etc.)
Irish place names may defy the spelling reform (e.g. often one sees Cois Fhairrge instead of Cois Fharraige).
One finds also some now uncommon grammatical forms (e.g. eclipsis after once proper words: e.g.: Loch nEachach, engl. Lough Neagh, An Muileann gCear, engl. Mullingar). Sometimes the eclipsis is not recognisable at first sight: (Loch Garmáin instead of the earlier Loch gCarmáin, engl. Wexford, a citizen of Wexford: Carmánach)
River and country names appear mostly with an article (e.g. an Life = Liffey, an tSionnain = Shannon, an Bhoinn = Boyne, an Ghearmáin = Germany, an Fhrainc = France, an Iodáil = Italy, an Rúis = Russia) Exceptions to this rule: Meiriceá = America, Sasana = England, Ceanada = Canada, Albain = Scotland (however they take an article in the genitive), Éire/Érinn = Ireland (also taking an article in the genitive).

The names of the 3 provinces Ulster, Leinster and Connacht and the word for England Sasana are originally plural words, naming those people who lived there. Singular forms of the names for these peoples are no longer common. Today, they are fabricated using the suffix -(e)ach.
It is through this plural character that one finds the explanation for the genitive forms (genitive plural) and older dative forms (dative plural).

Today the 3 province names are almost exclusively encountered in the genitive together with the word Cúige = province, to avoid the plural character.
Sasana on the other hand is seen as a singular word (4th decl., fem., gen./dat. Sasana). The development ran parallel but similar to the German, where the word "Sachsen" also once used to describe the tribe of the Saxons, is today a singular word "(das) Sachsen".

an Mhumhain = Munster is always a singular word: 5th decl., fem., older nominativ Mumha, gen. Mumhan, dat. Mumhain
but also most commonly seen with Cúige: Cúige Mumhan = province of Munster. A native of Munster is a Muimhneach

The English suffix -ster in the province names comes either from the Irish or Anglo-Norman tír = terre = land.
The word Cúige = province means "fifth", because a 5th province used to exist: altirisch Míde = "middle". The modern day counties of Meath (an Mhí, Contae na Mí) and Westmeath (an Iarmhí) carry this name, but historically, the province was much larger.

The names of the counties are mostly the names of the capitol cities or of a geographical region, with which they, more or less, correlate. The counties were instated through the Brit. occupation and are (at least w.r.t. their boundaries) not traditional.
Traditional Irish geographical names are clan or tribe oriented, describing those who once (or still) settled there. So in the East of Ulster, after a tribe that had once settled there known as the Oirghialla in Irish. The peninsula Corca Dhuibhne (engl. Dingle) is named after another such tribe (Ir. corca = tribe). Also the names of certain chieftains appear in geographical names (e.g. Tír Chonaill = Conall's Land, engl. Tyrconnel, as the older name of Co. Donegal, Tír Eoghain = Eoghan's Land, engl. Tyrone. The area around Waterford known as na Déisí, engl. the Decies, names after the tribe of the Déisí.
Munster was earlier divided into subkingdoms, that were simply named for the compass points: Deasmhumhain = South Munster, engl. Desmond, Tuadhmhumhain = North Munster, engl. Thomond, Urmhumhain = East Munster, engl. Ormond, etc.
Some geographical names, like islands, describe the form/condition of the area, so Arainn, the Aran Islands, after the shape of the main island, which resembles a kidney.

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© Lars Braesicke 2001

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[ 1 ] The full surname with Ó without the first name or other additions, e.g. Ó Néill was earleir in old Gaelic culture as a regal title of the current king or chieftain (Taoiseach Cine) . (e.g.: Ó Néill ="the O'Neill", was the chieftain of the O'Neills, and the King of Ulster or. later the count of Tir Eoghain/Tyrone).
Today the form "Ó Néill" without a further title or such is only to be used, if one is claiming to be a descendent of Niall.
In sentences like: "Tháinig Ó Néill isteach = O'Neill came in" is always meaning a famous O'Neill, and in no way some regular Paddy O'Neill off the street. If one wishes to talk about him, one must say "Tháinig an Niallach isteach" !

[ 2 ] Less commonly Mhic is omitted, preceding s a t-prefix may be used: Clann tSuibhne = the MacSweeney family