Mahoney Surname: Exploring its History and Meaning

Early Origins of Mahoney History

Mahoney was first found in County Cork (Irish: Corcaigh) the ancient Kingdom of Deis Muin (Desmond), located on the southwest coast of Ireland in the province of Munster, where they held a family seat from ancient times.

“The O’Mahonys were anciently located in Cork and Kerry, where they were powerful Chiefs and sometimes styled Princes. They had several castles along the sea-coast. In County Cork an O’Mahony was Lord of Ivaugh, in the Barony of West Carbery, and an O’Mahony was Chief in Kinalea Barony. In County Kerry there was a Chief of the name in the Barony of Iveragh, and there were O’Mahonys in the Barony of Clanmaurice. The majority of persons of the name of Mahony or O’Mahony are still found in these two counties.”

The Book of Munster clearly states: “The O’Mahony family were ‘undisputed kings of Raithlean, and had a right to be kings of Cashel whenever that kingdom happened to be vacant; and from whom the Kings of Cashel had no right to demand anything except a bowing of the head.’ “

The many Irish surnames in use today have long rich histories behind them. The name Mahoney originally appeared in Gaelic as O Mathghamhna, which is derived from the word mathghamhan, which means bear. The modern Gaelic spelling is O Mahúna.

“Hugh Gharbh (or Hugh the Terrible), a younger brother of Laeghaire who is No. 93 on the ‘O’Donaghue’ (of Lough Lein) pedigree, was the ancestor of O’Mathamhna; anglicized O’Mahony and Mahony.”

The O Mahony Society is a great place to learn more about Mahoney history (you can even join the club).

Different Variations of Mahoney

“With more than 1600 known spelling variants, the surname challenge goes far beyond the “with an ‘e,’ without an ‘e,’ with an apostrophe, without an apostrophe” debate.  Spelling variants can be found among siblings, much less from generation to generation.  Be diligent!

O Mathghamhna (derived from the given name Mathghamhnain ~1107)

O Mathamhna     (occasional early variant)

O Mahunus         (early Latin form in the medieval period, first non-Gaelic variant)

O Mahon             (Norman French or maybe an anglicization, most common form to ~1600, variants in the 1500s: Mahunde, Mahound, Maghound, Maghon, Mahoni, Mahone, Mahonie Mahowney, Mahowne, Mahowneye, Mahoone; also Ma[t]thew[s] used as attempted anglicization 1500s-1600s)

O Mathuna          (modern Gaelic form with variant Mhathuna)

O Mahony           (1600+; variants in USA of Mahoney, Mehaney, Mahny, Mahan, Mahn, Mahoon, Mahoune; additional variants on the continent of Mahanie, Mahono, Mahun, Mahuni, Mahuno, Maoni, Mauna, de Mahony)

Greater surname changes occurred in Ireland with a family of O Mathuna Ban anglicized to White, some Kearneys of West Cork may have been originally O Mathuna Ceithearnaigh, and a branch of O Mathuna became Canniffe.


Mahoneys were in every State of the Union by 1850.

Abstracted from Accelerated Indexing Systems (AIS) indexes of all U.S. census indexes through 1850.

Mahana     Mahenny   Mahorny   Mehenoy      Mahanaey   Maheny     Mahoun   Mehoney  Mahanah  Mahona     Mahuna     Mehony    Mahanahen  Mahonah    Mahunia    Mehorny  Mahanan  Mahonay  Mahunna   Mohanna   Mahanas  Mahone        Mahunny    Mohannah Mahanay  Mahonee  Mahuny    Mohanny   Mahane     Mahoney  Mahurne      Mohanue    Mahanee   Mahonrey Mahurney Mohany      Mahaney   Mahony     Mehanay   Mohoney     Mahanna    Mahooney Mehanny   Mohoneya Mahannah  Mahoony  Mehany    Mohony      Mahenna     Mahornay   Mehenny   Mahenney Mahorney   Mehenoe”


From the O Mahony Society

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