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Irish Surname - O'Malley

O'Malley is an ancient Irish clan name coming from the gaelic ‘Ó Máille/Ní Mháille', originally from County Mayo and is thought to derive from he Celtic word for chief (maglios) . It has retained the prefix ‘o' unlike most other original Irish surnames and can be traced back to the 10th century.

The O'Malleys held a ‘family seat', which was usually a manor house that denoted political or economic influence in the region.

A relatively small clan, the O'Malleys controlled the baronies of Burrishoole and Murrisk in the west of Ireland and were known for their maratime prowess. Another point of note is that the clan was often led by women

Famous People

One such female leader of the O'Malley family was the legendary Grace O'Malley, better known as Gráinne Mhaol, a sea captain and pirate who rose to power in a male dominated world, her refusal to conform to social norms making her eventful life even more extraordinary.

From an early age Gráinne Ní Mháille was involved in sailing and shipping and her mix of nautical prowess and ruthlessness led her to become a fearsome presence on the Irish seas.

Though better known for her exploits as a pirate, she also held and defended fortresses as early as in her 30s.

Researching Irish Surnames

We have researched many sources for the origins of Irish surnames and extracted a fair representation of the origins of each. As there are many variations we have compiled a representative, but by no means exhaustive, selection.

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