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Surname MacHay - Meaning and Origin

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MacHay: What does the surname MacHay mean?

The surname MacHay (pronounced Mack-hay) is a Scottish surname primarily associated with the Lowlands and the Highlands of Scotland. It can be traced back to the Gaelic Mac Gille Chath, meaning "son of the servant of St. Cath" and originated in the early Middle Ages. The spelling of the name has varied over the years, from MacKeth, M’hay, M’keth, and Mackay, and may suggest the family’s affiliation with a religious order or location.

The MacHay family was well‑established in the Highlands and the Lowlands of Scotland by the mid‑16th century. Families of the name are first mentioned in records dating back to John MacKay, who received a debt from James V, King of Scotland in 1538; in 1597 a family of the name was reported as living in the parish of Rosskeen in Ross and Cromarty.

Most members of the MacHay family are thought to have come from the remote Highlands and Islands of Scotland, settling in certain areas as the need for land and jobs increased in theLowlands. The family name has been scattered around much of Scotland since then, with records of the name found in areas such as Midlothian, Ayrshire, Lanarkshire, and the northern coast of Scotland.

As well as being a common surname in Scotland, the MacHay family has left its mark on Scotland’s culture; for example, Alexander MacKay (1735-1797), a Scottish Highland folk singer, was one of the most celebrated musicians of his time and was known for selecting traditional Scottish and Irish melodies for new lyrics. The family largely remains in Scotland today, though some have relocated to the United States, Canada, and Australia.

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MacHay: Where does the name MacHay come from?

The last name MacHay is both commonly found throughout Scotland and Ireland today.

Within Scotland, MacHay is primarily found in the Highlands and in particular, within the region of Strathspey. It is thought that this last name originated in the 12th century when the wife of the chief of Clan Chattan chose the last name MacKay for her clan. This meant that the chief also needed a name derived from his own clan, thus developing the name MacHay.

In Ireland, the last name MacHay is more commonly found in Ulster, specifically within the province of Armagh. This region holds strong links with Scotland as the population descends from those who were forced to move from the Highlands and Islands of Scotland in the 17th century as part of the Plantation of Ulster.

In more modern times, MacHay is still heavily associated with these regions, however its use as a last name has spread throughout the world. In the USA it is the 644th most common last name, while in Canada it is the 1720th most popular.

Due to its association with Scotland and Ireland, MacHay has retained a strong following throughout the world, including in countries such as Australia, South Africa, and New Zealand.

Variations of the surname MacHay

The surname MacHay has many variants and related spellings in different languages.

In Scotland, the name is commonly spelt MacKay, and in Ireland, it is MacKee. A less common spelling in Scotland is MacKey. Other variants are MacCay, MacGee, and MacGy.

In England, the surname may be spelled MacHee, MacKey or MacKie. An alternate version in France is de MacKye.

Some other surnames of the same origin as MacHay include McCay, McCaige, McGee, and McGy. Maccay and Macgee are also variants found mostly in Scotland.

There are even some non-European versions of the surname, including MacKai from Japan, MaChai from Thailand, and MaKezi from Zimbabwe.

The surname may also change within the same family: different members in the same family may possess different variant names, such as MacKee, MacKay, MacKey, and MacGy, while still having the same common origin.

Famous people with the name MacHay

  • Gail MacKay: Scottish actress known for her work on Doc Martin, The Bill and The Bill: Bedfordshire.
  • MacKenzie MacKay: Canadian actress known for her roles on Murdoch Mysteries and Lost & Found Music Studios.
  • Rick MacKay: American actor best known for his role in The Wizard of Oz and In Cold Blood.
  • George McKay: British broadcaster, journalist, and historian.
  • Tom MacKay: American singer–songwriter who is part of the duo MacPherson/MacKay.
  • Vincent MacKay: English actor known for his leading role in the musical White Christmas and on BBC’s Call the Midwife.
  • Pierric MacKay: Scottish artist, illustrator, and art director.
  • Sebastian MacKay: British film director best known for directing and producing films such as Spark and The Silent Radiance.
  • Gawn Grainger: English actor best known for playing Dr. Watson in the BBC television series Sherlock.
  • Sophie McShera: English actress best known for her roles in Downton Abbey and Cinderella.

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