Terms used throughout the Clann ÓGallchobhair Pages

a.gif (1151 bytes) 


engun2-b.gif (1491 bytes) 


engun2-c.gif (1311 bytes) 
Cenél Chonaill 

Conal Ghulban 
First son of Niall of the Nine Hostages, Conall Ghulban, King of Tír Chonaill or the "Land of Conall" (Tyrconnell or Tirconnell in anglicized English), the lands to the west of Aileach, which was his share of the family's conquests in north-western Ulster after 425.  His descendants, known as the Cenél Conaill, formed one of the principle branches of the Northern Uí Néill, and until the 12th century their kings were inaugurated at the sacrifice of a white mare, going down on all fours like a stallion and lapping its broth.  As the kindred of St. Columbia, members of this branch were also Abbots of Iona 563-891 or later, Abbots of Dunkeld from the 9th to 12th centuries, and Kings of Scots from Duncan I (slain by MacBeth 1040) to Alexander III (died of a fall from his horse 1285/86). 

Conall's brother Eoghan became king of the lands to the east, which became known as Tyr Eoghan (known today as Tyrone).  Conal of Ghulban (or the mound of Bulban, or Binn Ghulban, a geographical feature near Sligo now know as Benbulbin).  Conall was a son of Niall Naoighiallach (Niall "of the nine hostages"), a high king of Tara during the fourth century from the Connacht.  Another of Niall's sons, Eoghain, fathered the Cenéal Eoghain, and these two branches dominated the Uí Néill (Uí means "family," with connotations of royalty) of the Ulaíd (now Ulster -- the northern territories of Ireland).  It is said the brothers were very close, (one story has them being twins, but this is most likely a fantasy) and that Eoghain ("Owen") was the more religious of the two, being the first of the Ui Néill to be baptized of St. Patrick himself.  Several stories have Eoghain dying of grief upon hearing that his brother had been killed in battle. 

King Conall Ghulban was slain by the Firbolgs before 465. 

County Donegal  The most northwestern county in Ireland.  Not part of Northern Ireland, but remaining a member of the Republic of Ireland, the territory County Donegal was roughly what was once known as Tyrconnell to the English, from the Irish Tir Chonaill, or "Conall's Land."   The name is taken from the Irish dun n'ghall, or "fort of the foreigner's," a likely reference to the capital city of the county, which began as a port of Viking raiders. --
Cu Cuchulainn 



Four Masters (the) 


engun2-g.gif (1422 bytes) 
the genealogy from Conall: 

 • son Fearghus Cinnfhada (also Fergus 0f Fal), who married Erca, daughter of Lorcan I, king of the Dial Riahda of Scotland. 
 • grand-son Seadna "from whom are the noble Siol Seadna, Cineal Lughdhach ... and the host of Fanad."  The name Seadna bears a striking resemblance to Seatna, the "earthly" father of mythical super-star Cu Cuchulainn. 
 • great-g.s. Aonmireach (557 A.D.) 
 • Aodh ("Hugh") Uairiodnach. 
 • Maollchba, aka Mael Cobo (620 A.D.) 
 • Cellach, son of Mael, who became a high king of the Ui Néill dynasty. 
 • Donal. 
 • Donncha. 
 • Rurai (Rory). 
 • Gallchobhar. 
 note:  the annals say Gallchobhar was sixth in descent from high king Cellach, tho' I have only four known generations.  One of the earliest references to the name in the annals (referring to the Four Masters) is in 1022, when Mael Cobo ua Gallchobhair, abbot of Scrin Adamnain, died. 

given name  
or "Christian name ," is the first name of an individual listed before their surname. "Middle names", do not seem to have been used in either Ireland or Scotland until some time after the 16th century. 
  In both Ireland and Scotland,  men used male given names, and women used female given names. There was only a small group of given names that could be used for both men and women. 
  The typical Irish byname is a patronymic, which would indicate who your father is. Mac means "son of" and ingen "daughter of" in Middle Irish.  


engun2-m.gif (1654 bytes) 
Irish and Scotch Gaelic prefix meaning "son of."   Also m' and "mic," giving rise to the racial slur for Irish men as "micks," "mics," or "micky's."  
     Scottish and Irish patronymic surnames frequently have the prefix Mac or Mc. When these surnames were originally developed, they were formed by adding the Gaelic word mac, which means son of, to the name of the original bearer's father.  For example, the surname MacDougall literally means son of Dougal. In later times, these prefixes were also added to the occupation or nickname of the bearer's father.  For example, MacWard means son of the bard and MacDowell means son of the black stranger.   
      Numerous variations of this prefix emerged, for a number of reasons. It was rendered Mag before vowels and aspirated consonants.  Historical records concerning Irish and Scottish names reveal that the common prefix Mc and the less common prefixes M' and Mcc developed as abbreviations of the original Gaelic prefix Mac.  Thus, the popular beliefs that Mc is a distinctively Irish prefix while Mac is exclusively Scottish, and that one prefix is used by Catholic families while the other one is specifically Protestant are erroneous.   In actuality, the same person often had his surname recorded using both Mac and Mc on separate occasions.  


engun2-n.gif (1445 bytes) 
(also nee and nighean or inghean or even inghean uí) In the Irish patronymic naming system, indicates that the individual is the daughter of the man whose surname follows.  The form is:  <single given name> inghean uí <eponymous clan ancestor (in genitive case)>, which means:  <given name> daughter of a male descendant of <eponymous clan ancestor>.  
  For example:  Dearbhorgaill inghean uí Conchobhair' which means:  Dearbhorgaill daughter of a male descendant of Conchobhar (or, fully Anglicized, Dervorgilla daughter of a male descendant of Connor). Later the word inghean was corrupted to nighean, which was further shortened to ni.  

Níall Naoighiallach "of the Nine Hostages"  
The first truly historical king of Ireland (400 AD until his death), and perhaps the most illustrious of all.  The youngest son of Eochu Mugmedon (King of Tara, living 360AD)  who earned his nickname "Slaves Lords" by slave raids on Roman Britain, in one of which he carried off and married a princess of the Ancient Britons called Carina, by whom he had a son.)  In Niall's rise to Kingship he had to overcome his wicked stepmother, Mongfhinn, who abandoned him as a baby, naked on a hill.  He is raised by a wandering bard, Torna Eices.  Sithchenn the Smith foretells he will be High King.  Then he comes across an old hag who demands that he and his companions give her a kiss.  Only Niall has the courage to do so, and she turns into a beautiful woman named Flaithius ( Royalty), the personification of sovranty.  She foretells that he will be the greatest of Ireland's High Kings.

Of Niall’s youth there are many legends, but one in particular shows the working of his destiny.  One day, the five brothers being in the smith’s forge when it took fire, they were commanded to run and save what they could.  Their father, who was looking on (and who, say some, designedly caused the fire, to test his sons), observed with interest Neill’s distinctiveness of character, his good sense and good judgment.  While Brian saved the chariots from the fire, Ailill a shield and a sword, Fiachra the old forge trough, and Fergus only a bundle of firewood, Niall carried out the bellows, the sledges, the anvil, and anvil block - saved the soul of the forge, and saved the smith from ruin.  Then his father said:  "It is Niall who should succeed me as Ard Righ of Eirinn".

   "Niall succeeded Criomthainn and was the 126th monarch of Ireland.  He was a stout, wise and warlike prince and fortunate in all his conquests and achievements ...  He was also called Niall Naoighiallach, i.e., Nial of the Nine Hostages, from the hostages taken from the nine several counties by him subdued and made tributary, viz., Munster, Leinster, Connacht, Ulster, the Britons, the Picts, the Saxons and the Morini, a people of Gaul towards Calais and Picardy;  From whence he marched with his victorious army of Irish Scots, Picts and Britons further into Gaul in order to the conquest thereof;  and encamping at the River Loire, was treacherously slain as he sat by the riverside by Eochaidh, King of Leinster, in revenge of a former wrong by him received from the said Niall, A.D. 405.  And in the 27th year of his reign St. Patrick was first brought into Ireland at the age of 16 years, amoung 200 children brought by the army out of Little Brittany, called Armorica, in Gaul.  He was the first that gave the name of Scotia Minor to Scotland and ordained it to be called so ever after, till then (and still by the Irish) called Albion." - From The Lebor Gabala Erren, or The Book of the Taking of Ireland, Book of Leinster 1150 A.D.

Niall of the Nine Hostages was the greatest king that Ireland knew between the time of Cormac MacArt and the coming of Patrick.  His reign was epochal.  He not only ruled Ireland greatly and strongly, but carried the name and the fame, and the power and the fear, of Ireland into all neighboring nations. He was, moreover, founder of the longest, most important, and most powerful Irish dynasty. Almost without interruption his descendants were Ard Righs of Ireland for 600 years.

In 405 he led an expedition against Britain, where it is rumored that he may have captured a young Romano-British boy named Patricus, son of Calpurnius, a local magistrate. Patricus later came to be known as St. Patrick.  Niall was famed for his raids on Britain along with his brothers and sons. He eventually came to control most of the Northern half of Ireland. He conquered the Ulaíd aristocracy, which ruled in Ulster, and by this victory and subsequent consolidation of power was able to found a dynasty, the Uí Neill, which gave rise to the O'Neill clan. Three of his sons founded kingdoms in Ulster (collectively the Northern Uí Neill), other sons founded kingdom in the Irish midlands (the Southern Uí Neill).

Emain Macha,  the capital of the Uliada,  which Niall captured early on, became the capital of the Airgialla (lit: "givers of hostages") which is said to explain Niall's second name Nóigiallach =  "of the Nine Hostages".

· MacDermot of Moylurg: The Story of a Connacht Family; Dermot MacDermot,   ©1996 , Drumlin Publications, ISBN 1873437161.
· A History of Ireland: Peter & Fiona Somerset Fry, Rutledge, ©1988; Barnes & Noble [reprint] ©1993, ISBN: 1-56619-215-3

engunc-o.gif (2068 bytes) 
Irish and Scotch Gaelic prefix to a patronymic name literally meaning "of the generations of," or the more commonly understood term "grandson."  


engun2-s.gif (1356 bytes) 

The last, or "family name" of the individual.  All Gaelic surnames are patronymic," it is the father, and not the mother, whose given name was used to form this type of byname.   Gaelic bynames formed from the mother's name (metronymics) are vanishingly rare to nonexistent in both Scotland and Ireland. No examples have yet been found for medieval Scotland, and only one example of a metronymic has been found in Ireland, which occurred in highly unusual circumstances.  
  In Ireland, clan affiliations were often used to form bynames. Simple patronymic bynames and clan affiliation bynames are the two most common types of Gaelic byname found in medieval and early modern Ireland.  
     Men:  The standard form of Irish clan affiliation bynames for men is:  
<single given name> ó <eponymous clan ancestor (in genitive case)>, the ó being a contraction/corruption of , which gives us the meaning:   
<given name> male descendant of <eponymous clan ancestor 
  For example:  Donnchadh ó Conchobhair, which means  
Donnchadh male descendant of Conchobhar (or, fully Anglicized, Duncan male descendant of Connor).   
     Women:  Women patronymics are formed the same way, so the standard way to form Irish clan affiliation bynames for women is:  
<single given name> inghean uí <eponymous clan ancestor (in genitive case)>, which means:  
<given name> daughter of a male descendant of <eponymous clan ancestor 
  For example:  Dearbhorgaill inghean uí Conchobhair' which means:  
Dearbhorgaill daughter of a male descendant of Conchobhar (or, fully Anglicized, Dervorgilla daughter of a male descendant of Connor). Later the word inghean was corrupted to nighean, which was further shortened to ni.  

     Note the the nominative form of Conchobhar is Conchobar.   The h in Chochobhar is the result of a feature of Gaelic called "aspiration," their way of recognizing the living or inherent "spiritual" aspect of names.  Most consonants are aspirated after ingen nighean and ni, but in the period when ingen was used, this aspiration usually wasn't reflected in the spelling.  Also note that the parental name is often modified even further.  For example, if you are Cormacc son of Aed, the Irish would be Cormacc mac Aeda.   This is because Gaelic has a distinct genitive or possessive case that looks (and often sounds) different from the nominative case;  for instance, Aeda means "of Aed" or "Aed's."  
     A subgroup of patronymic style names is formed from the father's occupation, status or nickname instead of his given name.  Ó Gobhann means "(male) descendant of (the) smith."  Mac an Bhaird means "son of the bard." Mac an Ghoill means "son of the foreigner." Mac an tSionnaigh means "son of the fox." (These are modern spellings; in Middle Irish these might have been Ua Goband, Mac in Baird, Mac in Gaill and Mac int Shinnaig.)  
     There are other forms of Irish bynames, including epithets, occupational name and locatives.  An epithet is a descriptive phrase added after the given name.  These tended to be extremely simple and concrete.  A color might be added to describe a person's hair or complexion.  Maine with the red hair might be called Maine Ruad.  Little Lugaid might be called Lugaid Beag. Cathan, who is clever like a fox, might be called Cathan Sinnach.  Locative names state that someone is from a particular place.  In Mulind, in modern Irish an Mhuilinn means "of the mill" and indicates that the person lived at or near a mill.  Muimnech, now spelled Muimhneach is a byname meaning "Munsterman, the man from Munster."  
(From Choosing an Irish Name, by Dame Cateline de la Mor la souriete, aka Kristine Elliott, and © 1997.)  

St. Columba (Columbcille) 
St. Columba (Columbcille in Gaelic, meaning “dove of the church”).  Grandson of Niall of the Nine Hostages.  Apostle of the Northern Picts, born. 7 Dec. 521 in Co. Donegal, he spent his formative years not among his family but with his foster father, the holy man Cruithnechan, in Leinster. Founded the church of Derry (now Londonderry) 545, and many other monastic churches, also the monastery of Durrow 553,  caused a war in which his kinsmen the Northern Ui Neill defeated the King of Ireland (Diarmaid, head of the Southern Ui Neill) 561, went into voluntary exile, founded the Abby of Iona 563, converted Bruide, King of the Picts; inaugurated his own cousin Aidan  as King of the Scots of Dalriada 574, and died June 9, 597. 

Revered second only to St. Patrick Columba left an incredible theological mark across Ireland and Scotland.    The young Columba spent some time at the monastery in Moville, Ireland. Intrigued by the plentiful books there, he began to make a copy of one of the psalters but was caught in the act by the abbot, who considered this akin to stealing the actual book, and he appealed to King Diarmaid  for judgment.   In what was probably the world’s first copyright lawsuit, the king decided the case in favor of the abbot, saying "as the calf is to the cow, so the copy is to the book."  Infuriated at this ruling, Columba followed a decidedly unsaintly course.  He rallied his kinsmen  and engaged the king’s army in a battle in which more than 3,000 men were killed.

Brought before the religious and royal authorities to face  punishment  for his instigation of the conflict,  but miraculously managed to escape serious penalty.  At the church trial, he reportedly was preceded into the room by a column of white light, a portent that the church elders determined to be a sign from above.  Not wanting to defy a divine omen, they decided not to excommunicate him. When brought before the royal court in the year 563, the king also showed leniency and did not have him executed, but instead exiled him.  Remorseful for causing so many deaths, Columba solemnly vowed to the Irish leaders that he would convert one person for each one that had died during the battle, and went on to found the famous Abby of Iona and become the most beloved saint of all Scotland.

In 575 Columba returned to Ireland on a peace-keeping mission, and while there defended the rights of the non-Christian bardic poets against Aed, son of King Ainmere, who had ordered their banishment.

St. Patrick (Patricus)


engun2-t.gif (1531 bytes) 
In old Irish Teamhair;  Tara, which attained the climax of its fame under King Cormac Mac Art, is said to have been rounded by the Firbolgs, and been the seat of kings thenceforth.  Ollam Fodla first gave it historic fame by founding the Feis (from which we derive our word "feast") or Triennial Parliament, there, seven or eight centuries before Christ. It is said it was under, or after, Eremon, the first Milesian high king that it, one of the three pleasantest hills in Ireland, came to be named Tara - a corruption of the genitive form of the compound word, Tea Mur - meaning "the burial place of Tea" the wife of Eremon, and daughter of a king of Spain.   In its heyday Tara must have been impressive.   The great, beautiful hill was dotted with seven duns ("forts"), and in every dun were many buildings - all of them, of course, of wood, in those days - or of wood and metal.   The greatest structure was the Mi Cuarta, the great banqueting hall, which was on the Ard Righ's own dun.   Each of the provincial kings had, on Tara, a house that was set aside for him when he came up to attend the great Parliament.   There was a Grianan (sun house) for the provincial queens, and their attendants.   The great Feis was held at Samhain (Hallowday).   It lasted for three days before Samain and three days after.   But the Aonach or great fair, the assembly of the people in general, which was a most important accompaniment of the Feis, seems to have begun much earlier.   At this Feis the ancient laws were recited and confirmed, new laws were enacted, disputes were settled, grievances adjusted, wrongs righted.   And in accordance with the usual form at all such assemblies, the ancient history of the land was recited, probably by the high king's seanachie, who had the many other critical seanachies attending to his every word, and who, accordingly, dare not seriously distort or prevaricate.   This highly efficient method of recording and transmitting the country's history, in verse, too, which was practiced for a thousand years before the introduction of writing, and the introduction of Christianity and which continued to be practiced for long centuries after these events was a highly practical method, which effectively preserved for us the large facts of our country's history throughout a thousand of the years of dim antiquity when the history of most other countries is a dreary blank.

 As from the great heart and center of the Irish Kingdom, five great arteries or roads radiated from Tara to the various parts of the country the Slighe Cualann, which ran toward the present County Wicklow, the Slighe Mor, the great Western road, which ran via Dublin to Galway, the Slight Asail which ran near the present Mullingar, the Slighe Dala which ran southwest, and the Slighe Midluachra, the Northern road. "Great, noble and beautiful truly was our Tara of the Kings."

Tír Chonaill 
Literally "Conal's Land," referring to Conal Gulban, son of Niall Naoighiallach "of the Nine Hostages,"  


Family, clann. 

Family, clann. 

Uí Néill  



  © 1998 Gollaher Family Foundation.  All rights preserved.