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MacDonald, Macdonald, McDonald
Language(s)Scottish Gaelic
Meaning"Son of Dòmhnall"
Region of originScotland/Ireland
Other names
Variant form(s)Donald, Donaldson (surname), McDonnell, MacDonnell, MacDonell, McConnell, MacConnell, O'Donnell, Donnell

MacDonald, Macdonald, and McDonald are surnames of Scottish and Irish origin. In the Scottish Gaelic and Irish languages they are patronymic, referring to an ancestor with given name Donald.

Origins and variants[edit]

The surname is an Anglicised form of the Scottish Gaelic and Irish Gaelic MacDhòmhnaill or Dòmhnallach.[2] The name is a patronym meaning "son of Dòmhnall". The personal name Dòmhnall is composed of the elements domno "world" and val "might", "rule".[3] According to Alex Woolf, the Gaelic personal name is probably a borrowing from the British Celtic Dyfnwal.

In the context of Scottish clans, the various forms of the name refer to one of the largest clans, Clan Donald. In Ireland the name is largely from this root but may sometimes be a synonym for MacDonnell, which itself may be of distinct Scottish Clan Donald galloglass or native Irish origins.[4]

Frequency and distribution[edit]

In Scottish surname data, no distinction is made between, for instance, "Macdonald" and "MacDonald".[5] According to this data, the following frequency information can be collated:

Year(s) Macdonald Rank %freq[6] McDonald Rank %freq
1855–1858[7] 2 1.23 <50 <0.30
1935[7] 2 1.03 <50 <0.28
1958[7] 3 0.98 <50 <0.26
1976[8] 10 0.59 23 0.40
1990[8] 10 0.55 32 0.35
1999–2001[5][8] 9 0.55 24 0.37
2014[1] 9 0.35 34 0.21
Table References[6][7][9][8]

Frequency data from England of 1891 shows a concentration of families bearing the "Macdonald" surname in Lancashire and Yorkshire with a lower frequency in the northernmost counties, but overall widespread distribution throughout the country.[10] "McDonald" shares the same pattern of distribution.[11] Looking at contemporaneous data from the United States, coast-to-coast distribution of both "Macdonald" and "McDonald" appears in 1880.[12][13] Looking back to 1840 in the United States, the prevalence of "McDonald" is far greater than that of "Macdonald", with concentration in the Ohio-Pennsylvania-New York corridor.[14][15]

Notable people: MacDonald surname[edit]

Born before 1400

Born after 1400

Born after 1700

Born after 1800

Born after 1900

Born after 1950

Born after 1970

Notable people: Macdonald surname[edit]

Born after 1700

Born after 1800

Born after 1900

Born after 1950

Notable people: McDonald surname[edit]

Born after 1800

Born after 1900

Born after 1950


  • Abby McDonald, pen-name of British author Abigal Hass
  • Ian MacDonald (born Ian MacCormick, 1948–2003), British music critic and author.

Given names[edit]


  • Brothers: J.S. Macdonald (b. 1812) ↔ D.A. Macdonald (b. 1817)
  • Brothers: C. McDonald (b. 1955) ↔ D. McDonald (b. 1960)
  • Father-son: A. McDonald (b. 1937) → D. Tennant (McDonald) (b. 1971)
  • Father-Daughter-in-Law: J.A. Macdonald (b. 1874) → M.M. Macdonald (b. 1910)

Fictional characters[edit]

Coronation Street[edit]

Several characters from the soap opera Coronation Street, including:

See also[edit]

Ambiguous human name pages


  1. ^ a b "MacDonald Surname Meaning and Distribution". Retrieved 21 January 2014
  2. ^ Mac an Tàilleir, Iain. "Ainmean Pearsanta" (docx). Sabhal Mòr Ostaig. Retrieved 15 October 2009.
  3. ^ "McDonald Name Meaning and History". Retrieved 2 June 2009.
  4. ^ MacLysaght, Edward (1991). The Surnames of Ireland. Dublin: Irish Academic Press limited. p. 85. ISBN 0-7165-2364-7.
  5. ^ a b "Surnames in Scotland over the last 140 years". Occasional papers. General Register Office for Scotland. Archived from the original on 2010-03-23. Retrieved 2008-02-10. In this new survey of surnames, as in all previous surveys, we have not distinguished between the varying use of capital letters within surnames e.g. MacDonald/Macdonald. However, as in the previous two surveys, each spelling is noted separately in the tables e.g. McDonald/MacDonald.
  6. ^ a b %freq = percentage of the sample population sharing a particular surname.
  7. ^ a b c d "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2006-10-30. Retrieved 2009-09-08.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  8. ^ a b c d "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2006-10-30. Retrieved 2009-09-08.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  9. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2006-10-31. Retrieved 2009-09-08.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link) Note: Quote from GROScotSurnames: "Note that McDonald is shown as more common than MacDonald in 1901, although given the uncertainties surrounding the spelling of these names it would seem wrong to regard this as significant."
  10. ^ macdonald Families Living in England and Wales in 1891 -
  11. ^ mcdonald Families Living in England and Wales in 1891 -
  12. ^ mcdonald Family History Facts 1880 -
  13. ^ macdonald Family History Facts 1880 -
  14. ^ mcdonald Family History Facts 1840 -
  15. ^ macdonald Family History Facts 1840 -