The origins of my name

A friend emailed me regarding my post about Dingle signage commenting on Eamonn O Cuiv’s surname and how likely it would be for him to change his name to O Caoimh. His email prompted me to search and I found this interesting titbit.

An Leiriu Shimpli simplified the Irish spelling system by eliminating extraneous letters from a word or surname. Thus, O Seaghdha became O Se and O Laoghaire became O Laoire. However, the only ‘simplification’ in all of the thousands of Gaelic surnames to add a foreign letter (in this case ‘v’ was the adulteration of O Caoimh to O Cuiv, a very recent introduction made within the last three generations.

Irish surnames are the oldest permanent surnames in Europe and O Caoimh is one of the most ancient, becoming permanent by the end of the 10th century.

According to this page the “O Caoimh” surname first appeared in the 11th century and has an interesting history.

O’Keeffe, and Keeffe, are the anglicised versions of the Irish O’Caoimh, from caomh, meaning ‘kind’ or ‘gentle’. The original Caomh from whom the family descend lived in the early eleventh century, and was a descendant of Art, King of Munster from 742 to 762.

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PS. Thanks Derek!


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11 thoughts on “The origins of my name


  1. There’s not supposed to be one. The apostrophe came into use as an Anglicised version of the sine fada.

    Since my name is as Gaeilge I don’t use the apostrophe and discourage it if I can!

    That apostrophe caused all sorts of problems for me when I tried to claim my mortgage interest relief. The bank and Revenue had different spellings of my name. One with, one without the apostrophe. It took me several months to sort out but when it was finally sorted out my mortgage payment was halved that month with all the accumulated interest relief..


  2. Well, you’ll be glad to hear you’ve always appeared correctly in my address book then. Imagine I’ve wondered that since shortly after I met you and never got around to asking you. :)

    adam


  3. All hail the King of Munster. I also have an apostrophe in my name. Causes lots of issues alright. I once got a package addressed to “John O[Undefined End of String]”

    What was that you were saying about the apostrophe not being true Irish. My last name is Ó’Ríordán (although I don’t speak much Irish). I always use the apostrophe (although we did drop the i)


  4. Thanks I never knew about the apostrophe! I always leave it out of my name too. Mainly because I’m afraid of bugs in software…. BTW how many Derek OKeeffes are there in Cork????


  5. Thats right. I have relations in the states that spell their name with one “f”. They are descendants from people that emigrated in around 1920. Maybe the people that processed the immigration documents thought “nah we dont need that second ‘f’”


  6. I like being Irish blood . Im from Australia and being O’Keeffe is interesting. Father was John born 14.6.1933 died 30.3.1977 me 30.6.66 Shon Hourigan 19.9.1965. the second f is significant

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