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Friday, September 7, 2012

Rerun Friday - O'McFitz - What does that all mean? Irish Surnames

"O'McFitz - What does that all mean? Irish Surnames" was originally posted on Saturday, August 14, 2010

Have you ever wondered what the "O'" in O'Brien means? How about the "Mc" in McGuire? Those Fitzpatrick's make me wonder what "Fitz" is all about. Irish surnames derive from Gaelic and Norman roots primarily. The further north in Ireland you go, the more the names derive from Gaelic. During the 1600s and 1700s, the English definitely discouraged the continued use of Irish surnames in favor of English surnames. Maybe that's why there are Smith's in Ireland.

When the surname begins with "Mc" (or even "Mac" which is typically Scottish), the surname suffix means "son of". When the surname begins with "O'", the surname suffix means grandson of. When the surname suffix begins with "Fitz", it means that these Irish are French. Just kidding! Well, maybe. It does have something to do with the French.
"Fitz" has a Norman origin, from the Latin flius, meaning son. The Normans were from Normandy, France. They conquered the Irish in 1169. So...The Normans were French and brought that Fitz name with them when they conquered Ireland. Then the Normans were converted to being Irish. That is really making a long story and hundreds of years seem like a short story.

Are the Irish, French? The Irish were conquered by many including the Vikings, Normans, and English. Take your pick on the ancient national origin of Ireland. Was Ireland the original melting pot? One could certainly find an argument for that. I suppose I get my love of meat and potatoes from the English. The Irish improved upon it though.

When I toured Ireland in 2004, our tour guide was full of fascinating trivia. As we entered the City of Galway, he indicated that at one point in its history, the residents tried to keep out anyone whose surname began with an "O'" or a "Mc". I can't recall the whole story but I would imagine that applied to many Irish. Of course, that did not last long for Galway. This McGuire's thought of Galway was, "What a beautiful city it is!" No hard feelings from a "Mc" here.

"O'", "Mc" and "Fitz" live on for Irish surnames although some have dropped the leading suffix for a more English or even Americanized style of surname.

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