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Breathnach or Bhreathnach (meaning Welshman) is an Irish surname, indicating a person of Welsh descent. It is the Irish-language version of surnames such as Brannagh, Brunnock, Brannick, Walsh, Wallace, Wallis.

However, it does not necessarily mean that the ancestor concerned was from modern-day Wales; Robert Bell notes that Wallace was a surname indicating a Brittonic native of Strathclyde or any part of the Old North (Hen Ogledd), stating "In Scotland generally the Latin name Wallensis meant just that. The name appears in twelfth-century records of Ayrshire and Renfrewshire, parts of the old Strathclyde kingdom ... Wallace has also been used as a synom of Walsh." (Bell, p.244). The best known bearer of the name from the area was Uilleam Breatnach (William Wallace).

John de Courcy (1160–1219) planted significant numbers of British people from Cumbria during his lordship of Uladh. Gaelic-Irish sources such as Dubhaltach MacFhirbhisigh concur, referring to such people as breatnaigh, denoting a British person and/or one who spoke British (see Old Welsh) (Medieval Ireland, p. 514).

Bearers of the name[edit]

See also[edit]


  • The Book of Ulster Surnames, Robert Bell, 1988.
  • Walsh:Breathnach, Dáithí Ó hÓgáin, Gill & Macmillan, Dublin, 2003
  • Welsh Influence in Medieval Ireland:An Encyclopedia (2005), ed. Seán Duffy, p. 514.

External links[edit]