Celtic Origins of Certain Surnames

Celtic Surnames

Celtic Surnames

“For the Tongue of the Gael” by Tomas O Flannghaile, 1896

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Welsh family names are generally easy to recognise, but in many cases they have suffered assimilation to English forms and are often ignorantly mistaken for English names. Such names as Tudor, Gwynn (Wynn) Morgan, Meredith, Owen, Griffith, Rhys (Rees, Rice) Lloyd, Howell, Evan, Vaughan, and Craddock–even in the English spelling which most of them have assumed–are of course unmistakable, but now they are found in all parts of England. The last mentioned–Craddock–if not one of the most distinguished, is certainly one of the most ancient of them, for it is but the English spelling of Caradoc (accent on the second syllable) a later form of Caratauc which represents Caratacus (corruptly ‘Caractacus’) the name of the British warrior who fought so valiantly against the Romans. The Irish had the same name Cárthach whence MacCarthaigh or ‘McCarthy’; hence Welsh ‘Craddock’ equals Irish ‘Carthy.’ At the beginning of the Christian era the Irish form was most probably *Carathachas.

Then we find these and other names with the sign of the English genitive added on, as Owens, Griffiths, Evans, Maddox (i.e., Maddocks from Madoc), &c. Those also are numerous that contain a trace of the Ap found in Welsh mediaeval names and genealogies, representing the older map (now mab), a son; as Preece, Pryce, Price (for Ap Rhys, i.e., Map Rhys, son of Rhys), Powell and Pole (Ap Hoel Ap Hywel), Pugh (for Ap Hugh); and such Norman-Welshnames as Prichard (ApRichard), Probert (Ap Robert), Probyn (Ap Robin) Penry (Ap Henry) Parry, (Ap Harry). Some show a trace of the weakened form. Ab (for mab), as Bowen (Ab Owen–though of course all the Bowens are not Welsh) Bevan (Ab Evan) Bethell, (Ab Ithell), &c. Then come the later and far more numerous sort consisting mostly of Biblical, Norman, or Saxon names generally with the English genitive s added on, as Davis (Davies) Daniels, Peters, Jones (John’s) Williams, Roberts, Edwards, Hughes, &c., &c. But though these non-Celtic names generally denote Celtic families, they do not necessarily indicate a Welsh orign, and many of them are pure English.

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