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Irish name: MacPhilib, MacPilib
Ireland location Monaghan.jpg
Ethnicity Irish, Scottish, Celtic[1]
Current region Ulster
Earlier spellings MacPhilip, MacPhillip, McPhilip, MacPhillips
Place of origin County Monaghan, Ireland[2]






  • Cohesion, Kevin McPhillips is founding member & lead guitarist of the Manchester Band
  • The Coronas, Dave McPhillips is lead guitarist of the Irish Indie Rock Band
  • John McPhillips, Irish composer


Connected families In Ireland:
McMahon, McArdle, Mathews
In Scotland: see McKillop
Motto A cruce salus: Salvation comes from the cross
Name origin and meaning patronymic form meaning "son of Philip"
McKillop, Philbin, Phillips, Phillipson
Surnames are of different origin.

Although some historians claim the McPhillips surname is of Scottish origin,[4][5][6] the surname is found predominantly in Ireland, in Cavan, Fermanagh and Monaghan counties. In Ulster, the McPhillips are in Gaelic MacPilib or MacPhilib. Other historians claim they are a branch of the McMahons clan of Oriel, descendants of the coarb of Clones Abbey, Philip MacMahon.[2][7][8]

Etymology and early Irish origins[edit]

The Christian name Philip was brought to Britain and Ireland by the Normans in the 12th century and was soon gaelicised to Pilib. The surname is of patronymic form and derives from the Gaelic Mac Pilib, meaning "son of Philip", which was adopted by many Irish clans.[9] The surname is particularly common in the Irish Annals, in South Ulster and used interchangeably among the McMahons of Oriel, O'Reillys of Breifne & Maguire's of Fermanagh between the 14th–17th centuries. Seán mac Pilib Uí Raghallaigh (of the O'Reilly clan) was ruler of East Breifne from 1392–1400 and was succeeded by Giolla Iosa mac Pilib.[10] Tomas Mór mac Pilib Mac Uidhir (of the Maguire Clan) ruled County Fermanagh from 1395–1430 and his grandson, Seán mac Pilib meic Thomáis Mhóir was ruler from 1486–1503.[11]

Historian Peadar Livingstone also claims it is possible that some Maguire's of Fermanagh may have anglicised to McPhillips,[12] but generally the surname owes its origins to Pilib mac Séamus Mac Mathghamhna (Philip MacJames MacMahon). He was related to the Kings of Oriel and he was the coarb of Clones Abbey up until his death in 1486.[7][13][14][15] His son, Séamus mac Pilib Mac Mathghamhna, was Bishop of Derry from 26 November 1503 until his death in 1519.[16][17]

The McPhillips surname was found to be the 31st most numerous in its homeland of County Monaghan in 1970. It is almost exclusive in Dartry where it is the 7th most common surname.[18] In Connacht, Phillips is an Anglicisation of McPhilbin which is one of the Hibernicised branches of the Burke clan. The surname was used interchangeably with Mac Philib & McPhillips, but most later dropped the Mc/Mac prefix.[2][5][8]

Early Scottish origins[edit]

In Scotland, different variations of the surname can be found in Inverness-shire and Argyllshire. The most common version is McKillop, which can be represented in Scottish Gaelic as MacFhilib and MacPhilip. [4][8][19] The McPhillips surname is largely found in the Scottish Lowlands around Lanarkshire and West Lothian, where the surname is the 37th most common surname; the 1841 Scotland Census records indicated that most were of Irish origin at that time.[20][21]

17th century and the Flight of the Earls[edit]

On 14 September 1607, mention by Tadhg Ó Cianáin is made of an attendant called Seán Mac Philib.[22] He fled Ireland with the O'Donnells. He and 13 others chose to remain in Leuven, and followed Owen Roe O'Neill into the Spanish Army of Flanders, while the rest travelled to Rome. The regiment were fighting the Dutch during the Eighty Years' War.[23] The McPhillips clan of Dartry in County Monaghan were also involved in the Irish Rebellion of 1641.[24]

See also[edit]

Place names[edit]


  1. ^ McPhillips at Ancestry
  2. ^ a b c [1], (search by typing "McPhillips"
  3. ^ [2] Who's Who in Western Canada: A Biographical Dictionary of Notable Living Men and Women of Western Canada, Volume 1, 1911. C. W. Parker, editor. Canadian Press Association, Vancouver.
  4. ^ a b Phillips DNA project David Dorward. Scottish Surnames. Published by Collins in 1995, Mercat Press (2002 new edition); ISBN 978-1-84183-045-2
  5. ^ a b The Surnames of Ireland by Edward MacLysaght, p. 245, Irish Academic Press (December 1989); ISBN 978-0-7165-2366-6
  6. ^ DeBhudbh, Sean Slionnte Uile Éireann:All Ireland Surnames, page 284, published by Comhar-Chumann Ide Naofa in 2002
  7. ^ a b McMahon Genealogy page 7
  8. ^ a b c Robert Bell. Book of Ulster Surnames, p. 214, The Blackstaff Press (1988); ISBN 0-85640-602-3
  9. ^ Note: William MacPhilip O'Dwyer from Tipperary, Obligationes pro Annatis Diocesis Lismorensis 1426–1529 by Patrick Canon Power and M. A. Costello. Archivium Hibernicum © 1946 Catholic Historical Society of Ireland
  10. ^ compiled by Dennis Walsh notes taken from Irish Annals
  11. ^ Moody, T.W.; Martin, F.X.; Byrne, F.J. (1976). A New History of Ireland: Maps, Genealogies, Lists, volume 9. Oxford University Press. p. 216. ISBN 0-19-821745-5. 
  12. ^ The Fermanagh Story by Peadar Livingstone published by Enniskillen: Clogher Historical Society in 1969 page 441 (Note: says it's possible & probable)
  13. ^ Peadar Livingstone, The Monaghan Story, published by Enniskillen: Clogher Historical Society (1980), pp. 69, 605; ISBN 0-9501047-4-4
  14. ^ McMahon DNA project
  15. ^ jstor A Dictionary of the Catholic Clergy of the Diocese of Clogher (1535–1835) (continued) by Rev. Pádraig Ó Gallachair, Clogher Record, Vol. 2, No. 1 (1957), p. 176
  16. ^ edition, translation Annals of the Four Masters, Vol. 5 (AD 1501–1588): p.1342 Note:(M1519.1 Semus mac Pilib mic Semais mic Rudhraighe Még Mhathgamhna epscop Doire d'écc.)
  17. ^ edition/ Annals of Ulstertranslation/ Annals of Ulster 1486 page 303 note:Art, son of Mac Domnaill of Clann-Cellaigh, namely, son of Cormac, son of Art Mac Domnaill, was slain in Cluain-eois, in a quarrel he made with clerics Little Christmas Day (namely, with Seamus mac Pilib, son of the Coarb Mag Mathgamna and with the son of Donchadh Mag Mathgamna, that is, the Parson and with Gilla-Padraig O'Connalaigh, that is, the Abbot)
  18. ^ Peadar Livingstone, The Monaghan Story, published by Enniskillen: Clogher Historical Society (1980), pp. 576–77; ISBN 0-9501047-4-4
  19. ^ IrishAbroad: McPhillips surname
  20. ^ McPhillips surname,; accessed 2 January 2014.
  21. ^ Note: 15 McPhillips were listed in the 1841 Scotland Census records; 11 born in Ireland;
  22. ^ Imeacht na nIarlai Tadhg Ó Cianáin notes translated by Cardinal Tomás Ó Fiaich with the help of Padraig de Barra, 1972
  23. ^ followers of the flight of the earls, & Closed
  24. ^ Jstor An Index to the Rebels of 1641 in the County Monaghan Depositions by DM Schlegel (1995), Clogher Record Vol. 15, No. 2 (1995), p. 87. Clogher Historical Society.