See Article History Alternative Titles: Just as the latter has become initial P, as in the modern names Price or Pritchard, Mac has in some names become initial C and even K—e. The Gaelic countries were among the earliest to adopt hereditary surnames , their introduction in Ireland dating from the 11th century with a few early ones in the 10th. A cursory examination of early medieval Gaelic records gives the impression that surnames in the modern sense were in use much earlier, because such personal names as Domhnall Mac Gormain occur continually.
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See Article History Alternative Titles: Just as the latter has become initial P, as in the modern names Price or Pritchard, Mac has in some names become initial C and even K—e. The Gaelic countries were among the earliest to adopt hereditary surnames , their introduction in Ireland dating from the 11th century with a few early ones in the 10th.
A cursory examination of early medieval Gaelic records gives the impression that surnames in the modern sense were in use much earlier, because such personal names as Domhnall Mac Gormain occur continually. This name, however, does not in fact imply the existence of the surname MacGorman in the 9th century but merely indicates that this Domhnall Donnell was the son of a man whose Christian name was Gorman. Most names that contain Mac are formed from a Christian name, as is Mac Aonghusa modern MacAinsh or MacGuinness, which both derive from the forename now anglicized as Angus.
Many have been still farther removed from their original form by the substitution of the terminal -son for the prefix Mac—e. Several of the best-known Mac names embody Norse forenames—e. Later, Norman names were likewise incorporated—e. Most English surnames are formed from trades, personal attributes, or places.
The first two categories occur also in the Gaelic system, though less frequently. Place-names, naturally, do not combine readily with Mac. Start your free trial today for unlimited access to Britannica. In Gaelic Scotland there are now relatively few O names. Ogilvie is a toponym a place-name derivation. There are numerous modern anglicized forms of names beginning in Gaelic with mac giolla—e. Indeed, some of the more corrupt forms of such names bear little resemblance to their original: Meikleham for MacIlquham is a Scottish example of this.
A Macnamara in that locality is invariably known colloquially as Mac, and children of Macnamara families were sometimes formerly registered as Mack. The same abbreviation occurs to a lesser extent in other counties for different Mac names. In Scotland the Mac prefix has been generally retained, but in Ireland, as a result of the Gaelic submergence in the 18th century, it was widely discarded, as was the cognate O.
It is interesting to note that since the s these prefixes have been resumed to a considerable extent. It was once a popular illusion that the bearer of a Mac name was Scottish it is hard to know how it ever arose with names like MacMahon, MacCarthy, and MacDermot so common.
Another fallacy has proven much more resilient , however: This is entirely without foundation. This article was most recently revised and updated by Michael Ray , Associate Editor. Learn More in these related Britannica articles:
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