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Surname MacElroy - Meaning and Origin

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MacElroy: What does the surname MacElroy mean?

The last name MacElroy is an Irish surname that originated from the Gaelic Mac an Ghoill, meaning “son of the stranger” or “son of the foreigner.” It was often adopted as a name by immigrants coming to Ireland from other countries. The MacElroy surname is most commonly found in the province of Ulster in Northern Ireland and is also common in the United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. Initially, the MacElroy family was a sept of the O'Neill dynasty in Ulster. During the plantation of Ulster, many of the people associated with the O'Neill family had their names changed and some became known as MacElroys.

The name MacElroy is associated with a number of prominent figures throughout history, including members of the Irish nobility, priests, farmers, and political activists. Examples include General William MacElroy who was a US ambassador to Ethiopia, and Patrick MacElroy, an Irish providing aid to the African nation of Lesotho.

The most documented use of the MacElroy surname today is in the USA, where it is largely associated with people of Irish descent. Examples include singer, songwriter, actor, and cat-lover Patrick MacElroy, public figure Blue MacElroy, and the late former Prime Minister of Canada, Brian MacElroy.

The MacElroy surname continues to be a source of pride and identity for those who bear it today. Those who carry this name remember their ancestors who helped shape the families they are part of today. They also remember the legacy of those who used the name as a stepping stone in their journey to a better life.

MacElroy: Where does the name MacElroy come from?

The last name MacElroy is most commonly found in the United States and Canada. According to, the MacElroy surname can be found most prevalently in the United States and Canada, combined accounting for over nine-tenths (91%) of all MacElroys in the world. The region most heavily populated with MacElroys is the western United States, stretching from Oregon to California and up to Idaho and Utah. After the western United States, a significant portion of the MacElroy population is present in Canada. This second most populous area of MacElroy activity is located within the provinces of Ontario and Quebec.

Outside of North America, MacElroys are most prevalent in the United Kingdom and Australia/New Zealand. The remaining MacElroys in the world are scattered throughout Europe, primarily in England, Ireland, and Scotland.

Interestingly, it appears that much of the MacElroy population has not strayed too far from home. Most of the locations where the name is most common now are within the same region where it originated centuries ago. For example, England has been called home to MacElroys for centuries, while Ireland and Scotland are also fairly well populated with the name. This suggests that many MacElroys are still quite comfortable living in the same region where their ancestors called home.

In general, the MacElroy name is quite prevalent in the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Ireland, Scotland, Australia, and New Zealand, with the western region of the United States holding the largest population of MacElroys.

Variations of the surname MacElroy

Variants, spellings, and surnames of the same origin for the surname MacElroy can include:

MacAlroy, MacElrea, MacElrea, McAlroy, McElroy, McLroy, M'Elroy, O'Elroy, O'Halroy, O'Halroh, and O'Hellow.

The MacElroy name has an Irish origin, and is a variant of the name Mac Giolla Riabhaigh, derived from the Gaelic phrase for "son of the follower of Riabhach". This surname is closely related to MacAlroy and MacElrea, both derived from the name Mac Giolla Riabhaigh. The Gaelic phrase translates to "son of the follower of Riabhach", a title of great respect that typically denotes a brave warrior who fought vigorously at the Battle of Aughrim, fought in 1691 between the forces of William III and James II.

The various spellings of MacElroy can be found in Irish, Scots-Irish and Ulster Scots contexts as well as in England and Scotland. The McElroy spelling is most common in Scotland, while MacElroy is found more commonly in Ireland. Variations such as O'Elroy are typically found in Irish contexts. Other spellings such as O'Halroh and O'Hellow are also related to MacElroy but typically found in Scotland.

The modern spelling of MacElroy is fairly standard, but the different regional spellings of this surname show a variety of ancestral and cultural influences. Although the main variants share a similar ancestry, individuals with the surname MacElroy have roots that span many different cultures and locations.

Famous people with the name MacElroy

  • Benjamin MacElroy: American actor and producer best known for his role as Harry Sykes on the Netflix series, Virgin River.
  • Bridget MacElroy: Former track and field athlete for the U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program (WCAP) who won a gold medal in the 20 km race walk at the 2014 Military World Games.
  • Harry MacElroy: Legendary football coach who led the University of Maine to six consecutive Yankee Conference Championships in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
  • James MacElroy: British Army Officer and Victoria Cross recipient who served as commanding officer of the 20th Battalion, West Yorkshire Regiment at the Battle of Loos during World War I.
  • Michael MacElroy: American jazz drummer who played with notable musicians such as Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock, and George Coleman.
  • Charlotte MacElroy: Award-winning poet and playwright whose works include “Toys in the Garden” and “The Trick is Not to Break.”
  • Sabrina MacElroy: Contemporary textile artist whose art has been featured in numerous publications and galleries worldwide.
  • William MacElroy: Television producer, director and cameraman whose work includes many of CBS’s most popular sitcoms, including Everybody Loves Raymond and Still Standing.
  • Larry MacElroy: Former Major League Baseball pitcher who played for the New York Yankees and Kansas City Royals.
  • Tyler MacElroy:international author and public speaker whose books include the best selling novel, “The Curses of Gray Mesa”.

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