Clooney is an ancient Irish surname that has numerous origins all around the country. There is also a family called Clooney that originated in Scotland.
The name originated separately in three of the four provinces, Munster, Leinster and Ulster.
There are several variations to the surname Clooney including Clowney, MacCluin, O’Cloney and many others. See the end of the article for a list of name variations.
Clooneys of Co Clare
In Munster, the Clooneys originated in Co Clare. The clan was initially known as MacClune. The ‘Mac’;’ prefix means ‘son of’ while ‘Clune’ came from the personal name ‘Cluana’. Cluana is an old Gaelic word with a number of meanings including ‘from a meadow’, or if it is being applied to a person it could have meant ‘rogue’.
However, the most likely and most literal meaning is ‘quick witted’. Most clans took their name from their leader so it is likely that the Co Clare Clooneys descended from the son of a fast thinking chief.
There are two towns in Co Clare named after the Clooney clan – Bally-maclune and Tiermaclune.
Clooneys of Co Wexford
Another Irish clan originated in Co Wexford. They were also took their name from the word Cluana, so are also most likely descended from a quick witted chief.
The spelling of many of the Wexford clan changed to Cloaney or Clowney over the years.
Clooneys of Ulster
A clan of Clooneys also originated in Ulster and was powerful in many areas including what is now Co Derry and Co Down.
There are several reminders today of the Clooneys considerable influence in Northern Ireland. In Co Derry there is a town called Clooney which was once called ‘Ballynecloney’.
Another area named after the Clooneys is the village of Donaghcloney in Co Down. Robin ‘the Jackel’ Jackson, who was a Protestant leader during the Troubles in Northern Ireland, lived in Donaghcloney.
An ancient family named Clooney also originated in Scotland. They lived in a place called ‘Clunie’ in Perthshire in central Scotland. They were part of an ancient tribe known as the Picts.Throughout various times in history, many Scottish Clooneys emigrated to Ireland, Australia and America.
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Variations of Clooney
There are many variations to the surname Clooney including; Cloan, Cloane, Clonee, Cloney, Clowney, Clune, MacCluin, MacClune and O’Cloney.
There are several different spellings because for centuries names were passed from generation to generation simply by word of mouth.
Spellings came in when it became necessary for keeping tax records. People with differing accents would pronounce the name differently which would result in a different spelling. Many families also dropped the ‘Mac’ or ‘O’ prefixes in order to anglicise their name, while many others retained the prefix as a patriotic nod to their heritage.