"Ireland was one of the first European countries in which a system of fixed hereditary surnames developed. The earliest names appear to be those incorporating 'O' or its earlier form 'Ua', meaning 'grandson'." (John Grenham, Irish Family Names. Roberts Wholesale Books Ltd.: Dublin, 2000; p. 22)

"When the process of creating family names got fully underway, it reflected the importance of the church in medieval Irish life . . . the church is the origin of all those names starting with 'Mul-', a version of the Irish Maol, meaning bald, and applied to the monks because of their distinctive tonsure." (Ibid., p. 22/23)

In the seventeenth century, "the prefixes 'O' and 'Mac' began to be dropped, and the names themselves were anglicised and distorted. English officials and landlords, unfamiliar with Irish, transliterated, translated, and mistranslated." (Ibid., p. 26)

Maloney derives from Ó Maol Dhomnaigh and means "descendant of the servant of the church". (Grenham, p. 200; MacLysaght, p. 128)

Ó = "grandson/descendant"; Maol = bald/monk/servant; Dhomnaigh = "Sunday/place of worship/church") (Grenham, pp. 22-23; MacLysaght, pp. 15, 128)

Ó Maol Dhomnaigh, which originated at Tulla, in east County Clare, is now Moloney (the most common spelling), with its variants, Maloney, Molony, and Mullowney,

Records at the Clare Heritage Centre show that, during the 19th century, Moloney (and all its variants) was the third most numerous surname in County Clare.

Edward MacLysaght, Irish Families: Their Names, Arms and Origins. Fourth Edition, Revised and Enlarged (Irish Academic Press Limited: Dublin, 1985), in his entry on O'Moloney (p. 128), says that it is "also found in equal numbers in the adjoining counties of Limerick and Tipperary."

In 1996, it was the 100th most common surname in Ireland.

Note that, despite the apparent similarity in English spelling, the surnames Malone and Mahony are not connected to Maloney.

Malone derives from the Irish Ó Maoil Eoin, "descendant of a devotee of (St.) John." (Grenham, p. 192; MacLysaght, p. 125)

Mahony (O'Mahony), derives from the Irish Ó Mathghamhan (bear), as does McMahon. (Grenham, pp. 238, 176; MacLysaght, p. 124)

Last Updated: 2014-07-10
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