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Surname O'Connelly - Meaning and Origin

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O'Connelly: What does the surname O'Connelly mean?

The surname O'Connelly is an anglicized form of the Irish-Gaelic name O'Conghaile. The Gaelic prefix "O" means "descendant of," while the root "conghaile" is derived from the ancient personal name "Conghal", which has the literal meaning of "fierce as a wolf."

Traditionally, the O'Connelly surname was associated with the ancient kingdom of Tir Eogain, located in modern-day County Tyrone, Northern Ireland. This clan played a significant role in the politics of this region, being among the powerful families of ruling Lords and Chieftains that fought to establish political control.

The O'Connellys were known to be resourceful and fiercely independent, and have been well-known throughout the centuries for their loyalty and support of the independent spirit. With their ancestral homeland of Tir Eogain being taken over by the English in 1177, the O'Connellys were scattered throughout Ulster and Connacht.

Today, O'Connelly is one of the most popular surnames in Ireland, with an estimated 60,000 households bearing the name. It can also be found in countries such as the United States, Australia, and Canada. Respect and loyalty are still at the heart of the O'Connelly name; while the family isn't united to the same extent as it was in ancient times, the O'Connelly name continues to be a source of great pride to members of the clan.

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O'Connelly: Where does the name O'Connelly come from?

The last name O'Connelly is most commonly found today in Ireland and the areas of former Irish emigration, primarily North America, Australasia and Britain. The O'Connelly surname is thought to be of both ancient Gaelic and Anglo-Norman origins.

The name O'Connelly is commonly found throughout the Republic of Ireland, with concentrations in the Irish provinces of Leinster, Munster and Connaught. As expected, the O'Connelly surname is most numerous in the Connaught region which contains the ancestral homeland of the Clan O'Connelly in Co. Mayo.

Those bearing the O'Connelly surname have also predominantly emigrated in large numbers to North America, with particular concentrations in the USA, Canada and Mexico. In the USA the O'Connelly surname is most commonly associated with states such as New York, California and Texas.

The nascent Irish diaspora has also seen many O'Connellys emigrate to the larger cities of Australasia, with Australia having a large population of the surname from Michael O'Connelly, who left Ireland for Australia in 1847.

In Britain, the O'Connelly surname is most commonly found in the historically Irish communities of the greater London area, in particular places such as Camden, Hackney and Islington.

Variations of the surname O'Connelly

The surname O'Connelly is an anglicised version of the Gaelic Irish surname “Ó Conghaile”. It has had many variations over time, such as O'Connally, Connally, Connelly, Connolly, Conally, Conolly, Conally, and Mac Connolly.

Also, other variations and anglicised spellings of O'Connelly include:

Connely, Conolly, O’Connel, O’Connellee, O’Connail, O’Conneley, O’Connelley, O’Connelliy, Conneally, Connelley, Conoley, Connally, Connally, Connally.

The prefix "Mac" is also sometimes used for surnames of Irish origin, signifying "son of". In this case, "Mac Connolly" could be an alternative for O'Connelly.

In addition, O'Neill (originally Ó Néill) is associated with the O'Connelly surname, due to the fact that, historically, the surnames descended from different branches of the same family. Often times people changed or added to their surname for various reasons such as convenience, social pressure, or simply because of confusion about their original surname.

So, even though they may have the same origin, the names can still differ depending on where the family was located or who was in charge of recording names. The variations in spelling and pronunciation could possibly be explained by the fact that the name was recorded in different regions over the centuries, with the particular dialect used in each region likely to be slightly different from one another.

Famous people with the name O'Connelly

  • Emma O'Connelly, UK presenter
  • Austin O'Connelly, competitive swimmer
  • Miles O'Connelly, UK entrepreneur
  • Joe O’Connelly, Children’s author
  • Margaret O’Connelly, British ambassador
  • Peter O’Connelly, Irish rugby player
  • Helen O’Connelly, business executive
  • Michael O’Connelly, music producer
  • James O’Connelly, ceramics artist
  • Charlie O’Connelly, author
  • William O’Connelly, fashion designer
  • Orla O’Connelly, chef
  • Alison O’Connelly, screenwriter
  • Nathaniel O’Connelly, basketball player
  • Sean O’Connelly, former mayor of Clare
  • Alan O’Connelly, sports psychologist
  • Bernadette O’Connelly, professional dancer
  • Fiona O’Connelly, architect
  • Frank O’Connelly, politician
  • Terry O’Connelly, actor

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