Category: last names as firsts

Smiling Irish surnames

For many decades, baby namers have had a mad romance with Irish family names. From Ryan to Riley to Rowan, Connor to Quinn, the US popularity rolls have been populated with cheery Irish surnames. Below are 12 of the many that embody that infectious Celtic charm—some of them new to the scene, others on their way up, and a few from the past that deserve a fresh look. By Linda Rosenkrantz

Though most of these names read boy, let’s not forget the female examples of Cassidy and Casey and Delaney and Murphy Brown, Tierney Sutton and Rooney Mara—that have gone to the other side!

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Scottish Names

They’re not like those jaunty Irish surnames that kind of jump out and hit you in the face–no way you could see Finnegan or Donovan as anything else.  But Scottish surnames, somewhat more subtly, have affected American nomenclature to a surprising degree.

Many that could pass for Irish or English are actually old Scottish clan names, and several have long been accepted as first names in this country–a list that includes Allan, Bruce, Douglas, Leslie, Mitchell, Murray, Stewart, Gordon, Lindsay, and, of course, Scott.

Scottish surnames are divided into two groups: Highland and Lowland.  Highlanders didn’t use fixed family names until relatively late–until the 1700’s a man was often designated by his father’s name or would adopt the last name of a laird to curry his favor.  It was the Gaelic Highlanders who used the prefix ‘Mac‘ to denote ‘son of”. 

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