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Irish Surname - Donoghue / O'Donoghue

Several spellings of this important Irish surname can be found. It is an Anglicised form of the Gaeilic Ó Donnchadha or Ó Donnchú - 'descendant of Donnchadh'. The Gaelic compound Donnchadh was a personal name composed of the elements donn meaning 'brown-haired man' and chadha a 'warrior or fighter'. There is no strong evidence of who this "brown-haired fighter" was, but he may have been a monk or a holy man, and "warrior" could have meant one who fought (for example) paganism.

The O'Donoghues were originally in West Cork, but were driven into Kerry by the MacCarthys, where they became very powerful and their main territory was known as Onaght O'Donoghue. The Onaght O'Donoghues split into two septs, the head of one was O'Donoghue Mor, with his seat on Lough Leine at Ross Castle (still an important tourist attraction near Killarney); the other was O'Donoghue of the Glen. O'Donoghue Mor estates were confiscated during the Elizabethan wars, but O'Donoghue of the Glen held on at Glenflesk, also in Kerry. Geoffrey O'Donoghue of the Glen, one of the leading Gaelic poets and scholars of the 17th century, if not himself chief of the Name was most probably son of the chieftain Geoffrey O'Donoghue (d. 1678). A 12th century O'Donoghue founded the beautiful Jerpoint Abbey in Co. Kilkenny.

Other septs moved up to Galway, Kilkenny and Cavan, where their descendants were usually Donohue. They claim descent from a King of Munster who fought Clontarf in 1014. Another minor O'Donoghue sept belonged to Ossory but these are now called Dunphy.

Variations of the O'Donoghue Surname

The original Gaelic spelling as O'Donnchadha is now found under various forms such as Donoghue, O'Donoghue, O'Donohue, Donohue, Donaghy and Donahue. Some of these variations exist in Northern Ireland and Scotland, with the same elemental meaning in Scots Gaelic.

Famous People with the O'Donoghue Surname

John O'Donoghue (born 28 May 1956) in Cahersiveen, County Kerry, is a former Irish Fianna Fáil politician. He was a TD for the Kerry South constituency from 1987 to 2011. He is a former Ceann Comhairle (chairman) of Dáil Éireann, the lower house of the Oireachtas. He resigned as Ceann Comhairle on 13 October 2009 due to controversy about his expense claims. He previously served as Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism (2002-2007) and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (1997-2002).

O'Donoghue Family Crest

An arm in armour embowed holding a sword the blade entwined with a serpent all proper.

The O'Donoghue Motto

Nunquam non Paratus, Never Unprepared.

Please Note

There is often limited information available on a specific coat of arms and motto for an Irish surname. Sometimes there are many variations, sometimes none, we have compiled a representative, but by no means exhaustive, selection. Please visit our Coat of Arms and Motto page for more information.

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