McCabe (surname)

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The coat of arms attributed to Alexander MacCabe.[1]

The surnames McCabe and MacCabe are Scottish and Irish surnames. They are Anglicisations of the Gaelic Mac Cába, a patronymic name meaning "son of Cába". The nickname or personal name Cába is of uncertain origin.[2] The surname can be written in modern Scottish Gaelic as MacCàba and MacCaibe. Patrick Woulfe considered that the surname was possibly derived from a nickname, meaning "a cap", or "hood".[3] Henry Harrison suggested the name was from the Gaelic Mac Aba, meaning "son of the Abbot".[4] If Harrison is to be believed then the surname would have a similar etymology as the surnames MacNab, McNab, which are from the Gaelic Mac an Aba, Mac an Abadh.[2]

Bearers of the surname are considered to have settled in Ireland from the Western Isles of Scotland sometime around 1350, employed as gallowglass (mercenary soldiers) to the O'Reillys and O'Rourkes which were the principal septs of Breffny.[5] According to a pedigree written by Dubhaltach Mac Fhirbhisigh, the MacCabes descend from the MacLeods.[3] In time the MacCabes became a recognised Irish sept, with the chieftain being called "Constable of the two Breffnys". According to MacLysaght in the mid 20th century, statistics then showed that the surname was more numerous in the Breffny area than anywhere else. MacCabe landowners are however more associated with Co Monaghan and Co Cavan; however the principal families of the name lost all their estates after the Battle of Aughrim in 1691.[5]

According to a genealogy which purports to date from the 17th century, Alexander MacCabe (fl.1689) was a descendant of the last chieftains of the MacCabes. Within the genealogy, his arms are blazoned: vert a fesse wavy between three salmons naiant argent; crest a demi-griffon segreant; motto aut vincere aut mori.[1]

In the 1990 United States Census the surname McCabe was ranked 1,200th most common surname, and MacCabe was ranked 43,031st.[6] For the 2000 United States Census neither surname ranked among the top 1,000 most common surnames.[7]

Notable people with the surname McCabe[edit]

Notable people with the surname MacCabe[edit]


  1. ^ a b D'Alton, John (1861). Illustrations, Historical and Genealogical, of King James's Irish Army List. 2 (2nd enlarged ed.). London: John Russell Smith. pp. 753–755. 
  2. ^ a b "What's in a name?". Retrieved 13 December 2009. 
  3. ^ a b Woulfe, Patrick (1993). Irish Names and Surnames. Genealogical Publishing Company. p. 324. ISBN 978-0-8063-0381-9. 
  4. ^ Harrison, Henry (1996). Surnames of the United Kingdom: A Concise Etymological Dictionary (Reprint ed.). Genealogical Publishing Co. p. M2. ISBN 978-0-8063-0171-6. 
  5. ^ a b MacLysaght, Edward (1957). Irish Families, Their Names, Arms and Origins. Dublin: Hodges, Figgis & Co. pp. 69–70. 
  6. ^ "Frequently Occurring First Names and Surnames From the 1990 Census (Name Files)". Archived from the original on October 7, 2010. Retrieved 10 May 2009. 
  7. ^ "Frequently Occurring Surnames From Census 2000". Archived from the original on 19 November 2007. Retrieved 10 May 2009.