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Irish names are many and varied. Due to its thousand year history of invasion and conflict, first came the Vikings then the Norman’s and last the the protestant English. All of these groups came to Ireland to conquer her but they fell in love and stayed in Ireland. They married into the local Gaelic families and each other giving Ireland a very wide variety of surnames from all these different cultural influences. Traditional Irish names like Kearney and Doherty with Gaelic roots, Norman names such as Burke and Barry that can be traced all the way back to the 12th century, Viking names like Doyle and of course the hundreds names of Scotsmen who arrived in the 16th and 17th century.
Most traditional Irish names come from four sources; nicknames, place names, occupation names and of course patronymic names. Conghaile the Gaelic for “valorous” became Anglicized to the Irish name Connelly. The tradition of naming for places or landmarks is common throughout Europe. The name Cullen comes from the Gaelic for “holy tree”. The most common occupation name in Ireland is Clark which came from the occupation of church clerks. The patronymic name forms of Ireland are the Mc or Mac names meaning “son of” the “O” form meaning the “grandson” or “family of” and Fitz which is the Norman French version of “Son of”. Now let us explore your name.
The Irish surname Sweeney comes from the Gaelic Suibhne, which means Pleasant. The original Suibhne was a Scottish Chieftains from Argyle. He was off Viking and Irish descent and his people we’re in great demand as mercenaries in Ireland. One of Sweeney’s great great grandsons settled in Donegal in the 1300. His ancestors served as mercenaries to the O’Donnell’s for the next four hundred years. One branch of the family broke off move south to Cork where they served the McCarthys this family prospered and today The Sweeney name is very common in Cork and Kerry counties as well as their original homeland in Ulster.