One of the most distinctive elements of Irish surnames is the way in which the family name is prefixed by O' or Mac.
In this post, we explain the origin and meaning of Mac in Irish surnames.
Ireland was one of the first countries to adopt hereditary surnames. It is believed many of these were devised during the reign of Brian Boru, the High King of Ireland. They are still in use to this day
Irish surnames began as patronyms to differentiate a son from his father or a grandson from his grandfather. This is the reason why these prefixes were first introduced. The origin of 'Mac' in an Irish surname is rooted in the Irish language.
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Mac (often abbreviated to Mc) comes from the Irish word for son 'mac'. It is pronounced "mock". This was attached to the beginning of the father's name or trade to differentiate between a father and a son.
For example, MacConnell translates from Irish to the Son of Connell. This is also seen in many other common Irish surnames such as McCarthy where the Mac is usually shortened to Mc.
To learn more, check out the Irish Family History Centre's blog post on Common Irish Surnames
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