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Language: Mag, Mac, Úa, Ó, etc.


The following are some of my vague basics. Purists will, hopefully, neglect. For female forms of the names, go to the detailed exposé from Sharon Krossa.


Basically the "i" in the middle of Irish names simply indicates the genitive (possesive) form of the name which follows an Ó ("descendant of") or a Mac ("son of"). In English an "'s" indicates. So Leannáin = Leannán.
Conclusion is that the deep "i" is irrelevant, since all are almost always qualified - son "of", tribe "of", etc.. So if we find a Leannain, we have a Leannan. A Mac becomes a Mic, but usually with a "h" after the M.


Long accents effectively lengthen vowels. But often they are forgotten. So bear in mind, in searches, and try both formats. An "a" with an accent brings the sound much closer to "o" - i.e. awhww.
Dots over consonants, now represented by "h's", soften consonants and produce the missing consonants in the Roman alphabet (i.e. b dot=bh=w, etc.). Do not forget that the Irish alphabet lacks j, k, q, & v to z.


Now we start coming to the crunch pronunciations, correspondingly difficult to describe. Effectively most "ean" end up as "aane" if no accents. "Sea", which is "yes" is not pronounced "see" (as in English), but "sheah". What opens an "a" or "e" is the "fada/stroke" on top, not the proximity of e and a. The fada gives an "aw" for á (bán = bawn) and "ay" for é as in "Erin". But in early spellings we may even find something like ogoneks (which exist in Polish, Lithuanian and Navajo). In present day Polish (neglecting Navajo) these change "eh" into "en". But since we already have an "n" after the "e", this is pretty irrelevant. We still have "laane". But it could account for the subtle "Lan"/"Len" divergence, i.e. "lyaane". Alternatively from material on the medieval St. Gabriel site that "In some Gaelic scripts, there is a character that looks approximately like a lowercase f, but without the crossbar. This character sometimes represents "e" and sometimes "ea" depending upon the context of the text.


Úa (or genitive Úi), or often "hua" or "hui" was undoubtedly earlier than Ó. But the same thing - clan, tribe, descendant of. Incidentally, Ó is never O' in Irish - only in English.

"Mac" VERSUS "Mag"

"Mhic" is generally the genitive of mac (it could also be the vocative, but this is irrelevant for our purposes). Mac = son of, with genitive case changing the "a" to "i" and acquiring a dot on the M = "Mhic". Obviously there was an initial son. But after that things could eventually become very complicated MacX MhicY etc.. So the MacX became the surname in some instances and many important Irish families bear Mac names. The "Ó" form tended, however, to be predominant. The Grant page on the Doire site notes a change from Mac to O, but comments that "I think this can be regarded as a case of the not infrequent substitution of O for Mac with names beginning with C,G or k."
On Mag, from Hugh McGough's website we learn, along with much else, that "MacLysaght comments that it is often the case that when the prefix Mac is followed by a vowel, it becomes mag. Although he doesn't say so, the use of a G was hardly ever used in the written form of Mac Eochaidh and seldom appears in the ancient annals. The use of a G seems to be mostly an oral or phonetic phenomenon that first became apparent when the Gaelic name was translated into English."..."Since the process of anglicization of Irish names must ordinarily have been based on the oral pronunciation of a Gaelic speaker as reduced to writing by an English speaking person, when a Mac sounded like a mag to an ear used to receiving only in English, Mac sometimes became M'G, MacG, or McG. Examples abound."..."Occasionally, a gaelic mac G name has been anglicized to a mac C name." Of specific relevance to these pages he suggests the equivalence "Englishized" = (Mac) Glennon, McGlennan, "Irish Early" = Mac Leannaín, Mag Leannáin, "County Origin" = Leinster, "Other roots and comments" = Mag Leannáin, leann, a cloak. But, I am reliably informed that Mag also appears in Irish where there is an aspiration of a consonant e.g. Mag Fhloinn (Mac Flynn).


These are not too different from those without the "e". A take on this is suggested by an extract from McLysaght on Eddie Geoghegan's site. "The internal H is not the only stumbling-block for English people and anglicised Dubliners. They pronounce Linnane as Linnayne and Kissane Kissayne. Our "ane" sound, which is intermediate between the English "Anne" and "aunt", is not heard in English speech.", i.e. = án. As an "anglicised Dubliner" I take due note!

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