The Straight Dope

Go Back   Straight Dope Message Board > Main > General Questions

Reply
 
Thread Tools Display Modes
  #1  
Old 03-19-2003, 08:18 AM
Phlosphr Phlosphr is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Jun 2001
Location: in a Moot
Posts: 11,619
Where did the "O" come from in Irish names?

O'Connor, O'Reilly, O'Shannon, O' My God?

I have always wondered this secretly and have never asked my Irish American neighbors why the O.

Ah to be sure! there must be a good reason...

So Irish friends.... Why O'Why is their an O before some names?
Reply With Quote
Advertisements  
  #2  
Old 03-19-2003, 08:20 AM
Q.E.D. Q.E.D. is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Location: Richmond, VA
Posts: 22,536
It's a contraction of "Of", so I've been told, which is why the apostrophe.
__________________
SnUgGLypuPpY -- TakE BaCk tHe PiT!
Reply With Quote
  #3  
Old 03-19-2003, 08:22 AM
pierre72 pierre72 is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
IANAI (I am not an Irishman), but I believe it's a shortening of "of" - as in "son of", just as Mc / Mac in Scotland.

On occasion it could be "of" as in "who comes from"...
Reply With Quote
  #4  
Old 03-19-2003, 08:26 AM
pravnik pravnik is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Apr 2002
Location: TX
Posts: 13,323
It's a patronymic affix from "ua", which means "descendant of." Sort of like the -son in "Davidson."
Reply With Quote
  #5  
Old 03-19-2003, 08:30 AM
MC Master of Ceremonies MC Master of Ceremonies is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Nov 2002
Pravnik's correct, but Pierre72, Mac is actually an Irish prefix meaning 'son of' that migrated to Scotland with the Dalriadan Scots, but manyu Irish names still have it as a prefix.
Reply With Quote
  #6  
Old 03-19-2003, 08:30 AM
Phlosphr Phlosphr is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Jun 2001
Location: in a Moot
Posts: 11,619
So it means from...?

and Mc and Mac mean from as well but in Scottish?
Reply With Quote
  #7  
Old 03-19-2003, 08:37 AM
BMalion BMalion is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Nov 2002
Location: Cleveland, Ohio
Posts: 9,480
Also, (going from memory from history of Scot/Irish naming conventions I studied long ago)...

"Mic" son of
"Mac" son of
"Nic" daughter of. as in Padrigin NicTorkelson, Padrigin, daughter of Torkelson
"O" son of
"U" son of. as in U'Seanin...son of Sean
"Mc" son of

Most of these are derivations of the Gaelic words, though I think that "Nic" and "U" are of Norse origins.
Reply With Quote
  #8  
Old 03-19-2003, 08:41 AM
pierre72 pierre72 is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Quote:
Originally posted by MC Master of Cermonies
Pravnik's correct, but Pierre72, Mac is actually an Irish prefix meaning 'son of' that migrated to Scotland with the Dalriadan Scots, but manyu Irish names still have it as a prefix.
Ah - thanks.

That'll teach me for generalising, eh?
Reply With Quote
  #9  
Old 03-19-2003, 08:42 AM
jjimm jjimm is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jul 2001
I'm not entirely sure of the actual word from which it comes, but it's derived from the Irish language, and is definitely not a contraction of the English word "of".
Reply With Quote
  #10  
Old 03-19-2003, 09:42 AM
manwithaplan manwithaplan is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Oct 2001
BMalion, in Ireland 'N' (pronounced knee) is often used instead of 'Nic'. I'm no Irish scholar but I always thought it had the same root as 'inon' (in Ian) which is Irish for daughter. You also have 'U' (ee) or 'Bean U' which is used to denote 'wife of'.

'' is the Irish for 'from' which probably has a similar derivation to that described by pravnik. In many 'proper' Irish surnames is used but it is represented as O' (with an apostrophe) in anglicised versions e.g. Raghaillaigh becomes O'Reilly.

Phlosphr In Irish, Mac means 'son' rather than from (Mc is an anglicised contraction). I presume Scots Gaelic is similar.

MWAP (who's an O' in real life and nearly failed Irish at school)
Reply With Quote
  #11  
Old 03-19-2003, 11:03 AM
elfje elfje is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Feb 2003
manwithaplan is correct, Ni is only used by girls and as a prefix it means daughter of.
Mac or MC means son of, but i have always been told that O' means "grandson of..." (by an Irish person, I figured before it was just bastardised "of", meaning "from", as manwithaplan states...
Reply With Quote
  #12  
Old 03-19-2003, 11:27 AM
Dogface Dogface is offline
BANNED
 
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 3,466
Quote:
Originally posted by Q.E.D.
It's a contraction of "Of", so I've been told, which is why the apostrophe.

Nope. Indeed, the apostrophe is wrong--something added by the English, who mistook a fada for an apostrophe. For example, "O'Brien" should be " Brien", likewise for " Conor", etc. But note that it's "Mac Gobhain", not " Gobhain" for a very old and well-established Irish name. (Yes, that whole "mac is Scottish and o is irish thing is also false.) The "" was originally spelled "Ua", which means "descendent in the line". Thus, Eoin Mahoney would be a man who was a descendent of the original Irish hero Mathuin.

http://scripts.ireland.com/ancestor/magazine/surname/


Oh, and the "Dalriadian Scots" didn't immigrate from Scotland. The Dal Riada was founded by (mostly) Ulster Irish who invaded Scotland from the west.
Reply With Quote
  #13  
Old 03-19-2003, 12:07 PM
pravnik pravnik is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Apr 2002
Location: TX
Posts: 13,323
Quote:
Originally posted by elfje
manwithaplan is correct, Ni is only used by girls and as a prefix it means daughter of.
Mac or MC means son of, but i have always been told that O' means "grandson of..." (by an Irish person)
Yes, that's my understanding as well. "Ua" means "descendant", or more technically, "grandson." Brian Boru had no surname, but his grandson bore the surname "Ua Brian," or "grandson of Brian." Today this is "O' Brian."
Reply With Quote
  #14  
Old 03-19-2003, 05:12 PM
ruadh ruadh is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: May 1999
Quote:
Originally posted by manwithaplan
BMalion, in Ireland 'N' (pronounced knee) is often used instead of 'Nic'... You also have 'U' (ee) or 'Bean U' which is used to denote 'wife of'.
Unmarried women: N is to as Nic is to Mac.
Married women: U is to as Mhic is to Mac.

Don't worry, I can never keep it straight either
Reply With Quote
Reply

Bookmarks

Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is Off
HTML code is Off

Forum Jump


All times are GMT -5. The time now is 05:21 AM.


Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.7
Copyright ©2000 - 2014, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.

Send questions for Cecil Adams to: cecil@chicagoreader.com

Send comments about this website to: webmaster@straightdope.com

Terms of Use / Privacy Policy

Advertise on the Straight Dope!
(Your direct line to thousands of the smartest, hippest people on the planet, plus a few total dipsticks.)

Publishers - interested in subscribing to the Straight Dope?
Write to: sdsubscriptions@chicagoreader.com.

Copyright 2013 Sun-Times Media, LLC.