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Irish Surname - Moloney / Molony

The surname Moloney is an ancient one. The history of this name was recorded by Saint Colum Cille (Anglicised as St Columba) as early as the 6th century.

The meaning of the Moloney surname

The meaning of the surname is a little intriguing. A translation of the name in its original form, Ó Maoldomhnaigh, is given as 'descendant of a servant of the Church.' (Maol meaning bald, allegedly refers to the tonsure, or shaved head, of the early Christian church.)

Saint Molua

Clearly, the vow of celibacy did not reach all the members of the church, if this is indeed the case. Tradition has it that one of the early church members who fathered children was Saint Molua. The link between Molua and Moloney seems almost too obvious, There is nothing other than tradition and ancient (or perhaps more recently invented) rumours of the saint fathering children to support this.

The roots of Saint Molua's clan, a sept of the Ui Fidgenti, (spellings vary) were in northern modern-day Limerick. They extended into County Clare, and the town of Killaloe in County Clare is said to have been named after Molua, the name meaning 'Church of Lua'.

10th Century Moloney Clan

What is more certain is that by the tenth century the Moloney clan were a powerful sept in County Clare, and Chiefs of Kiltanon, in the county. They held land there before and after Henry II's invasion of Ireland.

Burke's History and Genealogies

In Burke's History and Genealogies of The Landed Gentry of Great Britain and Ireland he lists the Molonys of Kiltanon as being the O'Molonys. This was until James Molony (d. 1728) switched sides from King James to King William before the Battle of the Boyne, and dropped the O. (Burke's spelling is Molony.)

Moloneys of County Tipperary

The Molonys/Moloneys spread into the neighbouring counties, including County Tipperary, where the Moloney surname is also common in the modern era. Place names linked with the Moloneys include Ballymoloney in Killokennedy parish in County Clare. This is a short distance from Killaloe, and Feenagh, the Anglicised name of which is Moloney.

In Griffith's Valuation, the surname is widely recorded as Molony.

A survey with data from 1890, 'Surnames of Ireland', based on a registry of births in that year, showed Moloney to be the 97th most popular name in Ireland. At that time there were an estimated 8,300 people having that name. (Murphy was the most popular.)


In Northern Ireland the name Mac Giolla Dhomnaigh (Anglicised as McEldowney) was one also used for the illegitimate sons of the clergy. However, the origin of the McEldowney surname is also recorded as being O Dúnadhaigh, with 'Dun' being a fort.

Alternate Spellings for the Moloney surname

Moloney, Molony, Maloney, Mullowney.

Famous People with the Surname Moloney/Molony

Noted award-winning journalist Edmund (Ed) Moloney (b.1948. ) former Irish Journalist of the Year, who wrote a number of best-selling books on 'The Troubles'. He has written for most major Irish, British and American newspapers.

American actress Janet Moloney (b. 1969, California) 'Donna' in the TV series 'The West Wing'.

Patrick 'Paddy' Moloney, (b. 1938, Donneycarney, Dublin ) Irish composer, musician and producer, and founder (in 1962) of the world-renowned traditional Irish band, The Chieftains. Among other honours, Paddy received Mexico's highest cultural honour the Ohtlí, in 2012, for his work in strengthening the ties between Mexico and Ireland.

Australian actor Ryan Moloney (b. 1979) known for his role as 'Toadfish' Rebecchi, in the long-running Australian soap 'Neighbours'.

Dr Mick Moloney (b. 1944, Limerick) is a professor of both music and Irish studies in the USA. As a musician, he has worked with renowned musicians such as The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem. He is now based in the United States.

Helena Molony (b. 1883, Dublin -d.1967, Dublin) actress at the Abbey Theatre, Easter Rising veteran, feminist and Trade Unionist. Helena Molony was the second female president of the Irish Trades Union Congress.

Moloney Family Crest

One crest is recorded as being a gold quiver containing three golden arrows, alongside a golden bow, on a blue background

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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