The most common prefixes in Ireland are the Celtic prefixes O and Mac.

I have received the following reports as to the resumption of the prefix O by Celtic families:—

Armagh District—“A very large number have added ‘O’ as a prefix. Those who were formerly known as Neill are now O’Neill; Reilly, now O’Reilly; Hagan, now O’Hagan, &c. Indeed I think every one in my district who by any possibility could prefix the O has done so, and this was only commenced a few years ago. I have known earlier births registered without the O, but later ones of same family must have the O prefixed.”

Mountshannon District—“It is becoming customary with the people of this district to add an O to such names as Callaghan, Kelly, Flanagan, Grady, Farrell, and call themselves O’Callaghan, O’Kelly, O’Flanagan, &c.” On the other hand, the Registrar of Broughshane District, Ballymena Union, reports—“Some families have dropped the O, as O’Hamill, Hamill; O’Kane, Kane; O’Mellan, Mellan; O’Donnell, Donnell; O’Dornan, Dornan.”

Prefixes may affect the Index in several ways. The name may be given without the prefix, or the prefix may be added to the name so as to form one word, or it may be incorporated in a modified form, producing a fresh variety of the name.

The following are instances:—

Prefix Fitz.NameHarris.
With PrefixFitzHarris.
Prefix incorporatedFeeharry.
Prefix Mc or Mac.NameGuinness.
With PrefixMcGuinness.
Prefix incorporatedMaginnis.

The prefix Mac with surnames beginning with “Il” is sometimes incorporated as “Mackle,” thus:—“MacIlhatton”—“Macklehattan”; “MacIlmoyle”—“Macklemoyle.”

Prefix O.NameReilly.
With PrefixO’Reilly.
Prefix D’, De and De La.NameCourcy.
With PrefixD’Courcy, De Courcy.
With PrefixDe La Hunt.
Prefix incorporatedDelahunt.
Prefix Le.NameFevre.
With PrefixLe Fevre.
Prefix incorporatedLefevre.

In some instances the name with the prefix has become obsolete. Thus for example the Registrar of Keady District (Armagh Union) reports:—

“I may mention that my own family name Dorman has been abbreviated from De Dormans.”

Other prefixes have been reported from various districts.

The prefix “St.” (abbreviation of Saint), is found incorporated in several names in a modified form, thus:—“St. Clair”—“Sinclair”; “St. John”—“Singen” or “Cingen”; “St. Leger”—“Sellinger.”

The Registrar of Moira District has supplied an interesting note regarding various prefixes to the name Lavery. He states:—

“Of Laverys there are several races in this vicinity, all having prefixes, and all rigidly denying relationship or common descent. They are Baun-Lavery (Bawn—White); Roe-Lavery (Rue—Red); Trin-Lavery, and Hard-Lavery. Of these Baun is the most usually or persistently adhered to, so much so that several people about here are known only by their prefix, as Charley, Ned, or Dan Baun. Many people would not know where any of these people lived were you to call them by the name Lavery without the prefix; indeed the last-named man in the above samples denies the Lavery altogether.

“Of Roe-Laverys, none now use the prefix that I am aware of. One man (who died recently at a very advanced age), used to be called Hugh Roe simply. … His sons are simple Laverys, and never have I heard them referred to as Roes.

“The Trin-Laverys call themselves Armstrong. I can’t see the connection, but it is worth noting.[1] I am not aware of any Trin-Laverys in this immediate neighbourhood, but there are a good many Armstrongs about four or five miles off, who I suspect are Trin-Laverys.

“Hard-Laverys are few. I only know one race. They have been occasionally called Hardy, but this name attends only two branches, and is not likely to be entered as a surname, having lapsed into a mere colloquial distinction.”

It may be mentioned that the use of a prefix in connection with the name Lavery, has been reported to exist in other districts. Thus in Crumlin District (Antrim Union), the name appears as “Trim-Lavery,” in Aghalee District (Lurgan Union), as “Tryn-Lavery,” while in Glenavy District (Lisburn Union), the prefix is incorporated with the name forming “Trin-lavery.”

The Registrar of Aghalee District also reports that the prefix Baun is used in his district with the name Lavery, and that Trin-lavery and Armstrong are used interchangeably.

The tendency of a prefix to take the place of the entire name has been observed in several names such as “Mack” for Mackaleary, McDermott, McDonald, McEvoy, McInerney, McNamara, and McNamee, &c., and “Fitz” for “Fitzgerald,” “Fitzsimons,” “Fitzpatrick,” &c. With regard to this last name a Registrar reports with respect to a Birth Entry where this peculiarity was observed,—“The name originally appears to have been ‘Fitzpatrick,’ but the name ‘Fitz’ has been used by this family for a generation, and it was the name which they have entered in the local Church Marriage Register.”

The Assistant Registrar of Garvagh District (Coleraine Union) reports that “Fitz” is a familiar contraction almost everywhere of all names so beginning, just as “Mac” is similarly used for all names beginning with it.


[1] The prefix “Trin” or “Tryn” is probably the anglicised form of the Irish “tréun”—“strong,” and the synonymous use of the name “Trin-Lavery” with “Armstrong” may, perhaps, be explained by the fact that “Strong-handed” is in Irish “tréanlaṁaċ” [treanlamhach], from treun, strong, and láṁ (lamh) a hand.