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28 July 2014
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Education

BEGINNERS' BLAS
SLOINNTE/ SURNAMES

Charlie Dillon Conlan / Conlon
The anglicised forms of this name, either conlon or conlan, derive from the Irish Ó Conalláin, meaning descendant of little Conall. The differing vowel at the end, either on or an, has stemmed from the fact that no emphasis is placed on this syllable in the Ulster pronunciation of this surname, there being more stress on the initial part of the word, and so this is the part of the name least heavily pronounced. Upon anglicisation, people heard both conlan and conlon, and spelt the name in English according to which they heard. It is a very common Ulster surname, with its origin primarily in Fermanagh with another branch in N. Roscommon.
It has become mixed erroneously with another surname, Ó Caoindealbháin, which has been anglicised Conellan and Conlan, and also Kennellan, Quinlan and Quinlivan. This is based on the compound caoin and dealbhán, meaning ‘gracefully-shaped’.

There is similar confusion around the name Connolly, again common in Ulster. Ó Conghaile, where conghal means courageous in battle, is the origin, but Connacht pronunciation has given rise to the Anglicised form Conneely, and viewers of TG4 will be no doubt aware of the pronunciation Ó Conghaile / Ó Conaola.

O’ Kane
O’Kane, on the other hand, is relatively straightforward to explain. Ó Catháin, descendant of Cathán, were a sept of the Cenel Eoghain and had lands which comprised most of modern day north Co. Derry, an area still known as O’Kane country. These lands were confiscated in the early seventeenth century in the Plantation of Ulster. The name is still very common in the area, and has attached itself to many local placenemes. One thing to be careful about is not to be confused with the Connacht/Mayo surname Ó Cadhain, angl. Coyne, where Cadhan means wild goose; this surname has been translated to Barnacle.

 

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