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Gaelic Ireland and the over-kingdom of Ulaid circa 900 A.D.

McGowan is a surname. It is an Anglicization of the Irish and Scottish surname Mac Gabhann.[1] Belonging to the Uí Echach Cobo, located in modern-day County Down, Northern Ireland, they produced several over-kings of Ulaid. By the late 12th century, the English had expelled the McGowans to Tír Chonaill in modern-day County Donegal, Republic of Ireland.[2]


As noted further in source by John O'Hart, though not an occupational surname, MacGowan evolves as an Anglicization of the original Gaelic language personal description or nickname gobha, meaning "blacksmith". For this reason, the surnames of some septs of the MacGowan are alternately anglicised to Smythe or Smith. Mac, which may appear in anglicised contraction as Mc, sometimes written Mc or, further, abbreviated M', means in English "son",[3] but, when an element used to form a Gaelic language patronymic in its usage of "They have no share in the promise made to the sons of Adam“,[4] that is "descended" of a thereafter personal named or nicknamed (sometimes by description as in Gaelic language Duinneshliebhe, anglicised Donlevy, "brown haired chief of the mountain fort", Gaelic language gobha "the smithy", anglicised Gowan, or the Gaelic language Ultaigh, anglicised Nulty, "the Ulidian") founding ancestor or sire of a Gaelic clan.[5] The surname Mac Gowan, therefore, translates from Gaelic language to English language as "descended of the smith".

Notable people[edit]

USS McGowan (DD-678), the namesake of Rear Admiral Samuel McGowan USN
Rear Admiral Samuel McGowan USN



Other uses[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Dictionary of American Family Names P. Hanks ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press (2003) Vol. 2 G-N p 554 ISBN 0-19-508137-4 (set)
  2. ^ John O'Hart, Irish Pedigrees; or, The Origin and Stem of the Irish Nation, 5th edition, in two volumes, originally published in Dublin in 1892, reprinted, Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Company, 1976, Vol. 1, pp 311–312, 819–820 and 872, for described general historical context for Ulaidh, see, also, The Encyclopedia of Ireland, B. Lalor and F. McCourt editors, © 2003 New Haven: Yale University Press, p. 1089 ISBN 0-300-09442-6
  3. ^ 4th MacEachen's Gaelic-English Dictionary, Inverness, The Northern Counties Newspaper and Printing and Publishing Company, Limited, 1922, p. 280
  4. ^ Oxford English Dictionary, in 2 volumes, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1971, 26th printing July, 1987, Volume 2 (P-Z), p. 2918 at "son"
  5. ^ The World Book Dictionary, in 2 volumes, Volume 2 (L-Z), Chicago, World Book, Inc., 2005, ISBN 978-0-7166-0201-9 (set), ISBN 0-7166-0201-6 (set), p. 1528 "patronymic … a name derived from name of paternal ancestor, especially by addition of a prefix … (usage example) MacDonald meaning 'descendant of Donald' …”, Mac in this context is used to claim a national, clan or dynastic membership.