Caibidil a hAon: The Noun (an tAinmfhocal)
In Ireland there are two different groups of first names:
- Gaelic-originating and gaelicised names:
- Gaelic e.g. Tadhg, Niall, Eoghan, Domhnall, Brian, Conchubhar/Connór, Diarmaid, Donncha, Cathal, etc.
- Many names were given an English "translation" due to the phonetic similarity,
despite having different origins: Áine > Anne, Aoife >
Eva, Tadhg > Timothy, Eoghan > Eugene, Owen
- Especially the Norman or Christian names were gaelicised like Seán
= Jean, Séamas = James, Searlas = Charles, Gearailt = Gérard,
Annraoi = Henry, Micheál = Michael, Sinéad = Jeannette,
Liam = Guilliaume/William, Peadar = Peter, Pól = Paul, Eoin = John,
- male names are often inflected as the 1st declension:
Seán - genitive Sheáin - vocative a Sheáin,
Niall - Néill - a Néill, Tomas - Thomais - a Thomais
but there are some in other declensions: 3rd declension:
Diarmaid - Dhiarmada - a Dhiarmaid; Mathúin - Mhathúna
- a Mhathúin, 4th declension: Donncha
- Dhonncha - a Dhonncha
- fem. first names mostly belong to either the 2nd
or 4th declension : Sinéad -
Shinéide = a Shinéad, Síle - Shíle
- a Shíle
Many fem. first names are formed using the diminuitive suffix -ín:
Nóirín, Máirín, Póilín.
This can also be used for male first names: Seáinín =
- 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.
Here, there are a few different groups. Mostly, the surnames for men and women
I: Gaelic and gaelicised surnames (Sloinnte Gaelacha
agus Sloinnte Gaelaithe)
This is the largest group. It includes all those names with Ó
("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.
- names with Ó and Mac
- The most common group is that of the Gaelic (und gaelicised) surnames
with Ó ("descendent, grandchild")
and Mac ("son"). Mac is mostly
pronounced [@k] and it is sometimes even written so: 'ac
Although the words ó and mac mean "grandchild of
","son" this doesn't mean that someone was named after his father or grandfather.
These surnames are mostly unchanged since centuries (like German names
with -son, -sen) and point to a very distant ancestor. Set surnames like
this exist since the 11th/12th C., some of them were added later.
- After Ó or Mac follows the first name of the ancestor in the
Ó Donnaill = "grandchild of Donnall's", a descendent of
a certain Donnall (angl. O'Donald),
Ó Caoibh = "grandchild of Caobh's", a descendent of Caobhs
Ó Cinnéide = "grandchild of Cinnéide's", a
descendent of Cinnéides (angl. O'Kennedy)
Ó Cathasaigh = "grandchild of Cathasach's", a descendent
of a certain Cathasach (angl. O'Casey)
Mac Aonghusa = "son of Aonghu's'", a son of a certain Aonghus (angl.
Mac Carthaigh = "son of Carthach's", a son of a certain Carthach
Mac Diarmada = "son of Diarmaid's", a son of a certain Diarmaid
- Sometimes the words Maoil (genitive
of Maol = "worshipper, disciple") or Giolla
("servant") are seen, mostly with names of saints,
Mac Giolla Íosa = "son of the servant of Jesus" (angl.:
Mac Giolla Phádraig = "son of the servant of Patrick" (angl.
Mac Giolla Easpaig = "son of the servant of the bishop" (angl.
Mac Giolla Phóil = "son of the servant of Paul" (angl.:
Ó Maoil Eoin = "grandchild of the disciple of John" (angl.:
Ó Maoil Aoidh = "grandchild of the disciple of Aodh" (angl.
Ó Maoil Mhichil = "grandchild of the disciple of Michael"
Ó Maoil Bhríde = "grandchild of the disciple of Brigid"
- the name prefix Con (genitive of
Cú = hound) is part of the following names, Con- is not lenited.
Mac Conmhaoil = MacConwill
Mac Conmara = MacNamara
- sometimes the name of the ancestor is added on account of their trade,
origin etc. These are mostly with the article an.
Mac (an) Gabhann = "son of the smith" (angl.: McGowan),
Mac an Bhaird = "son of the bard" (angl.: MacWard, Ward)
Mac an Bhreithiún = "son of the judge" (angl.: MacBrown,
Mac an tSaor = "son of the freeman" (angl.: MacAteer/McIntyre),
Mac an tSaoi = "son of the wise man" (angl.: MacKenzie)
Mac an tSagairt = "son of the priest" (angl.: MacTaggart)
Mac an Lia = "son of the doctor" (angl.: MacAlee, MacLee)
Mac an Ghaill = "son of the foreigner" (angl.: MacGill)
Mac an Ultaigh = "son of the Ulsterman" (angl.: MacNulty)
- in the anglicised form, O' is written instead of Ó and in some
cases Mc instead of Mac, by men and women alike (often O' and Mac are
even omitted) Some Norman names get Fitz in English instead of Mac (Mac
Gearailt = FitzGerald) Fitz comes from fr. fils = son.
Some of the English forms of the name is quite a stretch of the original
Mac Oisdealbha = Costello, Ó hEachthairn = Ahern, Ó Tuathail
= O'Toole, Mac Aonghusa = Guinness
some also have variant spellings, even literal translations are made:
Mac Gabhann = Smith/Smithson
- The spelling reform of the 40s was generally applied to surnames as
e.g. Ó Seaghdha > Ó Sé, Mac Mathghamhna >
- form of the name for men:
The man's name beginning with Ó
or Mac (also Mag
preceding a vowel).
The name that follows is then unlenited (after Ó), partially lenited
(after Mac), after Ó an h-prefix precedes vowels
Seán Ó Cathail = "John, grandchild of Cathal",
Pádraig Ó Laoghaire = "Patrick, grandchild of Laoghaire"
(angl.: Patrick O'Leary)
Pádraig Ua Duinnín = "Patrick, grandchild of Duinnín"
(angl.: Patrick Dinneen),
Peadar Ó hÓgáin = "Peter, grandchild of Ógán"
(angl.: Peter [O']Hogan)
Seán Ó hAonghusa = "John, grandchild of Aonghu"(angl.
Pól Mag Uidhir = "Paul, son of Odhar" (angl.: Paul Maguire),
Séamas Mag Fhinn = "James, son of Finn" (angl.: James MacGinn),
Liam Mac Phaidín = "Liam, son of Paidín" (angl.:
Brian Mac Mathúna = "Brian, son of Mathúin" (angl.:
- form of the name for unmarried women: ("maiden name")
Here, the words
Ní = "descendent, grandchild
of " (actually a contraction of Iníon Uí = "daughter of
descendent/grandchild of ") and
Nic = "daughter" (actually a contraction
of Iníon Mhic = "daughter of son")
After Ní and Nic lenition occurs (except c and g
Máire Ní Cheallaigh = "Maria, grandchild of Ceallach's"
(angl. als Mary O'Kelly),
Aoife Ní Mhaoil Mhichil = "Aoife, grandchild of the disciples
of Michael" (angl.: Eve O'Mulville)
Áine Nic Mhathúna = "Anne, daughter of Mathúin"
(angl.: Ann MacMahon),
Máire Nic Aoidh = "Maria, daughter of Aodh" (angl.:
- form of the name for married women (after taking the name of
her husband. This is not required: the maiden name can continue to be
The form of the name is made by a prefixing of the word Bean
= woman, the surname (of the husband) is then completely in the genitive,
Ó becomes Uí, Mac becomes
Mhic, to add up to (Bean)
Uí or (Bean) Mhic.
(Bean can also be omitted.)
After Uí and Mhic one lenites (except c and g after
Máire (Bean) Uí Cheallaigh = "Maria (Wife) of the descendent
of Ceallach" (angl.: Mary O'Kelly),
Áine (Bean) Mhic Mhathúna = "Anne (Wife) of the son of
Mathúin" (angl.: Ann MacMahon)
- form of the name ending in -ch
Out of those names with Ó and Mac (provided, a personal name in
the genitive follows) forms ending in -ch can be made. These are actually
The words Mac and Ó are omitted, and all of these
forms end in -ch (or -each, -ach,
This form of the name is always written with the article (except
in the vocative ) and always used without the first name.
These forms are uncommon for names with Maoil, Giolla by those
names coming from trades and similar titles.
This is not to be confused with those names actually ending in -ch, to
which there is no Ó or Mac form (see: 2nd
substantivised adjective ending in -ch as a name)
It is used
- the part of the name following Ó/Mac of the ancestor is set
back into the nominative (Ó Néill > Niall)
and the suffix -ch is added (an Niallach)
- by names ending in -igh (= genitive form of a personal name
ending in -(e)ach) one only needs to set the name back into the nominative
(Mac Cárthaigh > an Cárthach, Ó Ceallaigh
> an Ceallach)
- sometimes there is syncopation:
Ó Cadhain > an Cadhafter, Ó Siadhail > an Siadhlach
(statt *an Cadhanach, *an Siadhalach)
- This form is normally declinable (1st declension:
genitive and vocative, also nominativ plural: -igh)
e.g.: an Carthach - an Charthaigh (gen.) - ag an gCarthach (dat.)
- a Charthaigh (voc.) - na Carthaigh (nom. pl.) - na gCarthach (gen.
- if the male name-bearer is named or addressed without the first
name or title e.g.: "(Mr.) Smith", [ 1
e.g.: an Mathúnach = (Mr.) MacMahon (wörtl. in etwa:
Tá an Ceallach ann = (Mr.) O'Kelly is here (wörtl.:
"is the Ceallach in-it")
Tháinig an Niallach isteach = (Mr.) O'Neill came in. (lit.:
"came the Niallian inside")
a Cheallaigh! = Mr. O'Kelly!
- in uses for fem. name-bearers in the sense of "Mrs." together with
bean = wife
e.g.: Bean an Cheallaigh = Mrs. O'Kelly
- in the plural to denote the family
e.g.: na Ceallaigh = the O'Kelly's
- it is also used with double names (in the case of the name in the
Séamas Ceallach Ó Néill = James Kelly O'Neill
Seán Gearáltach Ó Cinnéide = John FitzGerald
- Forms for "Sir ..."/"Mr. ..."
Besides the aforementioned form ending in -ch
with the article, there is also:
Mac Uí (for both those names
ending in Ó or Mac)
e.g.: Mac Uí Mhathúna = an Mathúnach = Mr. MacMahon
Mac (in names with Mac, or in names
with Giolla, or with the article)
e.g.: Mac an tSaor = Mr. MacAteer
an tUasal (lit. "the high, noble")
This is only used in letters (similar to Esquire)
e.g.: an tUasal Seán Ó Sé = Seán Ó
Sé, Uas. = John O'Shay, Esq. = Sir John O'Shay
- Forms for "Madam..."/"Mrs. ..."
Bean Uí for names with Ó
Bean Mhic for names with Mac
also Bean an with the form of the
name ending in -ch (here genitive -igh)
e.g.: Bean Uí Chadhain = Bean an Chadhnaigh = Mrs. O'Cain
e.g.: Bean Mhic Mhathúna = Bean an Mhathúnaigh = Mrs.
it is not quite modern (but also
still used in English) to use the first name of the husband (then in the
(e.g. Bean Sheáin Uí Cheallaigh = Mrs. John O'Kelly)
- Forms for "Miss ..."
Iníon Uí for names with
Iníon Mhic for names with Mac
also Iníon an with the form
of the name endingin -ch (here genitive -igh)
e.g.: Iníon Uí Cheallaigh = Iníon an Cheallaigh
= Miss O'Kelly
e.g.: Iníon Mhic Mhathúna = Iníon an Mhathúnaigh
= Miss MacMahon
- Forms for "the O'Kellys"/"the O'Kelly family"
Muintir for names with Ó
(instead of Ó):
e.g.: Muintir Cheallaigh = the O'Kellys / the O'Kelly family
Clann Mhic for names with Mac
e.g.: Clann Mhic Mhathúna = the MacMahons / the MacMahon
family [ 2 ]
Clann Uí for names with Ó
e.g.: Clann Uí Mhaoil Eoin = the Malones / the Malone family
Forms auf -ch im plural (also -igh):
e.g.: na Ceallaigh = the O'Kelly's, na Mathúnaigh = the MacMahons
- Substantivised adjectives ending in
-ch as a name
- very few of such names have Ó, Mac or de. They
always end in -ch (and mostly -each/-ach).
They are substantivised adjectives (e.g. Breathnach = Welsh)
Pól Breathnach = "Paul Welsh" (angl.: Paul Walsh/Brannagh)
Seán Caomháafter = "John Mild" (angl. John Kavanagh)
Tadhg Cinnseallach = "Tadhg Brave" (angl. Teige Kinsella)
Seamas Laighneach = "James Leinsterian" (angl. James Lynagh)
- after fem. first names they are lenited
e.g.: Áine Bhreathnach = Ann Walsh, Máire Chaomhánach
= Mary Kavanagh
- they are declined as in the 1st declension
of nouns (e.g. Breathnach - gen. Breathnaigh - plur. Breathnaigh)
- for "Sir/Mister ..." there is an article or a Mac
e.g.: an Breathnach = Mac an Bhreathnaigh = Mr. Walsh
- "Madam/Mrs..." means: Bean an ...
e.g.: Bean an Bhreathnaigh = Mrs. Walsh
- "the Walshs" is done with the plural-article
e.g.: na Breathnaigh = the Walshs
- names with "de"
- names mit de are always of an Anglo-Norman
origin, where the de is equivalent to the French de = of.
It is used instead of the French le = the and according to some
sources also used in place of the Eng. article the.
It is not the Irish preposition de, and so no lenition
occurs after this de.
Pronunciation mostly just [@].
de Búrca = "de Bourge", angl.: Burke,
de Buitléir = "le bouteillier", angl.: (the) Butler,
de Róiste = "de Roche", angl.: Roche,
de Paor = "le Poer", angl.: Power,
de Blaca = "le Blac", angl.: Blake
- also from these names, the form ending in -ch
can be made (then without "de")
e.g.: an Búrcach = (Mr.) Burke, an Buitléarach = (Mr.)
- in form, Mr.Burke / Mrs.Burke act as the above forms, "de" is omitted:
e.g.: Mac an Bhúrcaigh = an Búrcach = Mr. Burke,
Bean an Bhúrcaigh = Mrs. Burke
- "the Burkes" is muintir Bhúrca or na Búrcaigh
- other gaelicised names
- many names of early Anglo-Norman immigrants ("na Sean-Ghall") v.a. Norman,
English and Welsh origin were gaelicised in spelling and pronunciation
but without the Mac, Ó or de.
e.g.: Seathrún Céitinn = Geoffrey Keating or also:
Standún = Stanton, Puirséil = Purcell, Daltún
= Dalton (d'Alton), Ruiséil = Russell, Dairsigh = Darcy, Seoigh
= Joyce, etc.
- these names are generally not lenited, e.g. teach Sheáin Daltún
= John Daltons Haus
- also from these names, one can form the -ch
form (with names ending in -éir and -éil > -éarach,
-éalach; some names with -igh > -íoch), Mr. and Mrs.
an Céitinneach = (Mr.) Keating; Mac an Chéitinnigh =
an Ruiséalach = (Mr.) Russell; Bean an Ruiséalaigh =
an Dairsíoch = (Mr.) Darcy,
an Seoigheach = (Mr.) Joyce
or: muintir Chéitinn = na Céitinnigh = the Keatings,
na Daltúnaigh = the Daltons, na Ruiséalaigh = the Russells,
na Seoighigh = the Joyces
- another form of the gaelicisation is the simple translation or taking
on of similar sounding Gaelic names, and these act as Gaelic names (e.g.:
Smith > Mac Gabhann, Mary Robinson > Máire Mhic Róibín
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,
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 =
e.g.: Hans Schmidt, Mac Uí Schmidt = Mr. Schmidt, Bean (Uí)
Schmidt = Mrs. Schmidt, muintir Schmidt = the Schmidts
Table of Examples of Irish surnames
(e.g. first name Seán)
(e.g. first name Úna)
(e.g. first name Síle)
|Seán Ó Briain
|a Shéain Uí Bhriain
|Mac Uí Bhriain,
|Úna Uí Bhriain
|Bean Uí Bhriain
Bean an Bhrianaigh
|Síle Ní Bhriain
|Iníon Uí Bhriain
Iníon an Bhrianaigh
|Seán Ó hÓgáin
|a Sheáin Uí Ógáin
|Mac Uí Ógáin,
|Úna Uí Ógáin
|Bean Uí Ógáin,
Bean an Ógánaigh
|Síle Ní Ógáin
|Iníon Uí Ógáin,
Iníon an Ógánaigh
|Seán Ua Duinnín
|a Sheáin Uí Dhuinnín
|Mac Uí Dhuinnín,
|Úna Uí Dhuinnín
|Bean Uí Dhuinnín,
Bean an Dhuinnínigh
|Síle Ní Dhuinnín
|Iníon Uí Dhuinnín,
Iníon an Dhuinnínigh
|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,
|Úna Mhic Mhathúna
|Bean Mhic Mhathúna,
Bean an Mhathúnaigh
|Síle Níc Mhathúna
|Iníon Mhic Mhathúna,
Iníon an Mhathúnaigh
|Clann Mhic Mhathúna,
|Seán Mac Cárthaigh
|a Sheáin Mhic Cárthaigh
|Mac Uí Chárthaigh,
|Úna Mhic Cárthaigh
|Bean Mhic Cárthaigh,
Bean an Chárthaigh
|Síle Nic Cárthaigh
|Iníon Mhic Cárthaigh,
Iníon an Chárthaigh
|Clann Mhic Cárthaigh,
|Seán Mac Conmhaoil
|a Sheáin Mhic Conmhaoil
|Mac Uí Conmhaoil,
|Úna Mhic Conmhaoil
|Bean Mhic Conmhaoil,
Bean an Conmhaolaigh
|Síle Nic Conmhaoil
|Iníon Mhic Conmhaoil,
Iníon an Conmhaolaigh
|Clann Mhic Conmhaoil,
|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,
|Úna Mhig Uidhir
|Bean Mhig Uidhir,
Bean an Uidhearaigh
|Síle Nig Uidhir
|Iníon Mhig Uidhir,
Iníon an Uidhearaigh
|Clann Mhig Uidhir,
|a Sheáin Bhreathnaigh
|Mac an Bhreatnaigh,
|Bean an Bhreathnaigh,
|Iníon an Bhreathnaigh,
|Seán de Búrca
|a Sheáin de Búrca
|Mac an Bhúrcaigh,
|Úna de Búrca
|Bean an Bhúrcaigh,
|Síle de Búrca
|Iníon an Bhúrcaigh,
|a Sheáin Céitinn
|Céitinn, Mac an Chéitinnigh
|Bean an Chéitinnigh,
|Iníon an Chéitinnigh,
|a Sheáin Miller
|Mac Uí Dickens,
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
Following changes occur in surnames:
- Ó to Uí:
Seán Ó Ceallaigh: a Sheáin Uí Cheallaigh = John O'Kelly!
- Mac to Mhic:
Pól Mac Mathúna: a Phóil Mhic Mhathúna = Paul MacMahon!
- names or forms ending in -ch to -igh:
Pól Breathnach: a Phóil Bhreathnaigh = Paul Walsh!
an Brianach: a Bhrianaigh = Mr. O'Brian!
- Bean to Bhean
Máire Bean Uí Cheallaigh: a Mháire Bhean Uí Cheallaigh = Mrs. Mary O'Kelly!
The general address form (engl. Sir!, Madam!):
male: a dhuine uasail! = Sir!
female: a bhean uasal! = Madam!
group: a dhaoine uaisle! = Ladies and Gentlemen!
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).
- Ulaidh = Ulster, actually "Ulstermen", 1. decl., gen. Uladh,
Cúige Uladh = province of Ulster, eigtl. "fifth of the Ulstermen"
Ultach = native of Ulster
- Laighin = Leinster, eigtl. "Leinstermen", 1. decl., gen. Laighean,
Cúige Laighean = province of Leinster
Laighneach = native of Leinster
- Connachta = Connacht, 3rd decl., fem., gen. Connacht,
Cúige Chonnacht = province of Conanacht
Connachtach = native of Connacht
- Sasana = England, eigtl. "the Saxons", 1. decl., gen. Sasan,
(older forms: auch Sacsana, Sacsain, old sing. Sacsan = Saxon)
Sasanach = an Englishman
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)
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.
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.
Gramadach na Gaeilge
© Lars Braesicke 2001
[ 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