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
- Breandán Breathnach, music collector and uilleann piper
- Cárthach Bán Breathnach, actor and DJ
- Conchur Breathnach, Boyne RFC rugby player
- Cormac Breathnach, teacher and politician
- Edel Bhreathnach, academic and historian
- Deasún Breathnach, writer and journalist
- Fiachra Breathnach, Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) sportsperson
- Gearóidín Bhreathnach, sean-nós singer
- Lucilita Bhreatnach, Sinn Fein politician
- Maire Breathnach, actress
- Máire Breatnach, musician and educator
- Mícheál Breathnach (1881-1908), writer
- Micheál Breathnach (1886-after 1954), educator and writer
- Niamh Bhreathnach, Irish Labour Party politician
- Paddy Breathnach, film director and producer
- Pádraic Breathnach, actor and producer
- Seán Bán Breathnach, radio and television personality
- Séanna Breathnach, Provisional Irish Republican Army and Sinn Fein member
- Kenneth Branagh, actor and film director
- Míchael Breathnach GAC, a Gaelic Athletic Association club
- 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.
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