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The Daltaí Boards » Archive: 1999-2004 » 2000 (July-December) » Creating a surname « Previous Next »

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Amy Amoon
Posted on Saturday, July 22, 2000 - 03:31 pm:   Edit Post Print Post

Glad to have found you; have read thru previous postings on this subject. I seek a new surname. One motive: dismay at how impossible it is to trace the lives of women in the past except through the surnames of their husbands/fathers. I want the new name to be Irish, but all names of my Irish foremothers are of the men they were connected to. Another motive: personal triumph over adversity, and this being a milestone year in my life. I have some ideas, but need some help - not only with conjugation & pronunciation, but also for your sense of what might work best as a name. Some of the ideas i've had:
(1)how hard would it be to render "daughter of many Irish mothers" into a manageable surname, and it would it sound bizarre to a native speaker? (2)Looked in dictionaries for variations on rose - but the sense i really wanted was around the word eirigh. Is there a single word that might connote rebellion, resurrection & recovery? Some of this sense was in a previous posting on the word Saoirse - freedom from bonds, but unless that's the main thing a hearer would think of, the point might be lost. I need the most help on how to avoid connotations opposite to the sense i'm after. Other possibilities: roisce (bright/shining/polished/wisdom?); and, from the discussion board: sli fein (her own way); or feileacan (butterfly?). Get the idea? Any suggestions? MANY THANKS.

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Laigheanach (ts16-094.dublin.indigo.ie - 194.125.177.94)
Posted on Saturday, July 22, 2000 - 05:42 pm:   Edit Post Print Post

Here's two, I'll think about it and see if I can think of more:

Ní Chlaochlaithe
(Daughter of transformation/change)
NEE CLAY-CLA-HE

Ní Ghaelbhan (Daughter of irish women)
NEE GWAIL-VON

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Amanda
Posted on Monday, July 24, 2000 - 09:55 am:   Edit Post Print Post

I think this is so odd that this thread has been started now. I just made the decision to change my name as well. My father wants nothing to do with me, and I no longer want to carry his name. I've been thinking about what to change to, and I wanted someting Irish since my mother is Irish (dad's mexican). I was just thinking I would change it to her maiden name, McDivitt, but I do believe I like your idea better.

How would you say something like "Born of God"? I also like Ní Ghaelbhan. I will have to think of something with meaning. I'm really glad you gave me this idea!

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Laigheanach (ts13-079.dublin.indigo.ie - 194.125.173.79)
Posted on Monday, July 24, 2000 - 01:51 pm:   Edit Post Print Post

I wouldn't advise this made up names thing to become a trend.I respect your and Amy's wish to change your names, but are you sure making it up is the way to go, even if it's irish(Excellent choice though!).Making up your name can cancel out the cultural and historical depth of having it in irish.A bit like making a MacDonald's version of instant names.I don't see anything wrong with Amanda using her mother's name McDivitt, which more than likely has a long and interesting history.(Which you should research, to back up your new identity).
Are you sure it's not "MacDavitt" instead?I can't find "MacDivitt" in any book.

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Amanda
Posted on Monday, July 24, 2000 - 04:40 pm:   Edit Post Print Post

I can't find it anywhere, either, but that's how they spell it now. My uncle was into genealogy, and we are apparently descendants of King David. Next time I see him, I plan on getting some info out of him.

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Seosamh (1cust145.tnt11.nyc3.da.uu.net - 63.23.134.145)
Posted on Monday, July 24, 2000 - 10:42 pm:   Edit Post Print Post

I think McDivitt is a variation of MacDavitt, which seems to have more than the usual range of variation in names: McDavitt, Davitt, Mac Devitt, Devitt, Mac Daid, Mac Dade, Davison. 'Mac', of course, is often 'Mc' and is also often dropped, as you can see. The original Irish form for these names is Mac Daibhéid which, means 'son of David'.

Some one that some of us have known in Irish language venues on the Internet had a similar idea to Amanda and Amy, and uses Ní Dána, Dána meaning 'bold, daring, confident; forward, audacious'. I don't know if she changed it legally or uses it generally.

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Amanda
Posted on Tuesday, July 25, 2000 - 08:39 am:   Edit Post Print Post

I like that one, too. How would you pronounce Mac Daibhéid or Ní Dána? I think I kind of like the idea of having the original Irish for of my family name, although it might also be nice to have something of such personal significance. (Don't worry--I'm trying to think this through thoroughly. This isn't just a rash "fad"). Thanks. Seosamh, you seem to answer just about every question I ask! I'm very grateful to you. You're quite knowledgable.

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Seosamh
Posted on Tuesday, July 25, 2000 - 01:18 pm:   Edit Post Print Post

I just have Edward MacLysaght's The Surnames of Ireland. That's the place to start (though not the last word).

Mac Daibhéid is pronounced MAHK DAH-vaydge. The last syllable in northern Irish is pronounced between the English words 'wage' and 'wedge' (but with a 'v' instead of a 'w'). The surname originates in Donegal and Derry, in the northwest of Ireland. Some people will pronounce it closer to MAHK DAH-vade.

Ní Dána would be pronounced NEE DAH-nuh (northern)or NEE DAW-nuh.

'Ní' before a name indicates that a woman is unmarried or has retained her maiden name, a practice often favored by feminists and traditionalists alike. For Mac/Mc names, it comes out as 'Nic': Nic Dhaibhéid (pronounced NICK GHAH-vaydge -- the 'gh' is a gargled 'g' that will take practice.)

So you would have to choose between Mac Daibhéid and Nic Dhaibhéid. The latter would be most correct; both will mean having to spell them out for people, the latter probably more of a headache than the first. Not that you shouldn't do it . . . Now we need to get you learning Irish.

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Amanda
Posted on Tuesday, July 25, 2000 - 01:23 pm:   Edit Post Print Post

Ha ha! I'm working on that part! I am using the grammar section of this site. Thank goodness they come with audia pronunciation guides!

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Máire Ní Ógáin ( - 194.133.7.60)
Posted on Monday, July 31, 2000 - 06:46 am:   Edit Post Print Post

How about taking your mother's first name and making a surname of it? Most Irish surnames were originally patronymics - son of David, grandson of Conor etc. If your mother has an Irish name or a Biblical one for which translations exist, you could make a surname of it.

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Seosamh (1cust76.tnt14.nyc3.da.uu.net - 63.23.142.76)
Posted on Monday, July 31, 2000 - 06:04 pm:   Edit Post Print Post

Good idea. Like Ní Mháire? When women keep their maiden name, they are retaining a surname that came down through paternal lines anyway -- and may well be a patronymic, like the one above.

It occurs to me that a few Irish surnames are actually -- and simply -- adjectives: Seán Breatnach, Síle Bhreatnach (Breathnach, Walsh(e) or Welsh, in English. The meaning is 'Welsh'.) That might be another possibility.

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Máire Ní Ógáin ( - 194.133.7.60)
Posted on Tuesday, August 01, 2000 - 05:24 am:   Edit Post Print Post

Exactly like that. Other surnames are based on placenames (like Walsh above or Nulty - daughter of the Ulsterman) or adjectives (McGuire, from the adjective odhar, meaing yellow, I think) or occupations (McAteer, meaning son of a mason). I can't think of any metaphorical surnames offhand like the sort Amy is looking for.

However, there are many religious-based surnames, Amanda, mostly for devotees of one saint or another. Pretty much any Irish surname beginning with Gil- is religious, meaning Nic Giolla whoever. A Giolla was a servant or disciple/devotee so you get:
Gildea - Nic Giolla Dé - daughter of a servant of God
Gilpatrick - Nic Giolla Pádraig - daughter of a devotee of St Patrick.
I wouldn't see much harm is adopting or adapting one of these. I keep waiting to meet a Nic Giolla Móchammed one of these days!

Surnames beginning Mul- mean pretty much the same, but I'd have to check the spelling of some of them in Irish. They tend to be more for the older and more obscure saints - plenty of them female, though.

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Seosamh (2cust80.tnt12.nyc3.da.uu.net - 63.23.137.80)
Posted on Tuesday, August 01, 2000 - 12:41 pm:   Edit Post Print Post

Or a Nic Giolla Búda. Just joking, Amanda, don't use that one!

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Amy (nsit-s229-185.uchicago.edu - 128.135.229.185)
Posted on Sunday, August 20, 2000 - 06:34 pm:   Edit Post Print Post

Dear All,

My web access was cut off for a while, or I would have replied sooner. I am grateful for all the replies, it's been educational! However, I wonder if any of you might still have any interest in continuing the discussion a bit.

For ex.: while Laigheanach's suggestion, Daughter of Transformation/of Irish women is right on target, I was glad Seosamh explained the Ní prefix. No offense against others who choose to go this route, but one of my personal objections about only men's names getting passed down, and their not changing regardless of whether they marry, extends to the whole idea of maiden name (and Miss/Mrs. versus the status-ambiguous Mr., while we're at it). So tho the Daughter part is great, and Daughter of Transformation even better, I wouldn't want a name that declares (regardless of whether it might be, or remain true) that it's a *maiden* name and telegraphs marital status.

I think it was Máire who noted that many surnames derive from adjectives or other nouns (like occupations), so I think I'd rather go that route. And in that sense, my name would be no weirder than anyone named Cooper, or Smith, or Wright. Do you have ideas for rendering some of the words i've thought of into a name? Is there a particular connatation of eirigh that would be apt? Some others I saw on earlier postings: a slí féin = her own way; Féileacán = butterfly?; Saoirse; roisce.

I *do* respect the point about history. I seek an Irish name because that is my maternal ancestry. In that sense, it's real. That all the female forebears I could possibly discover bear surnames only of their fathers or husbands is not my fault, and the idea is to start anew - for me to have a name to pass on (to son or daughter) that isn't exclusively derived from my father or my husband. I don't feel at all frivolous about this, and I've been wanting to do this for at least 10 years. I did begin learning Irish, unfortunately have not been able to put much time into its study as I'm working on a dissertation. When I put these questions to the teachers, they seemed to balk, as tho somehow uncomfortable with the idea. But I appeal to you because I do want it to be accurate and to make sense. Wouldn't want, for instance, to just take any old name & only later discover what it really means (as with the Ní). So what do you think? Maybe I'm not grasping how it might be offensive to those whose native language is Irish? If so, I want to try to understand.

Thanks,

Amy

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