Delaney – Irish and French origins

History of the Irish name Delaney. Image copyright Ireland Calling
History of the Irish name Delaney. Image copyright Ireland Calling

Delaney is an ancient Irish surname that has separate origins in both Ireland and France. It is a common name in Ireland and across the world.

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There are several variations of the name including Daddow, Dando, Daunay, Dauney, Dawnay, Dawney, Delany and Deleaney.

Irish origin

History of the Irish name Delaney. Image copyright Ireland CallingIn Ireland Delaney is derived from the old Gaelic name Ó Dubhsláine. The ‘O’ prefix to the name means ‘grandson of’ or ‘descendent of’. Dubhsláine is a personal name made up of two parts. Firstly ‘Dubh’ which means ‘black’ and secondly ‘Slaine’ which referred to the River Slaine. So the name Ó Dubhsláine meant ‘descendent of a black haired person who lived by the River Slaine’.

The River Slaine is now known as the River Slaney and flows through the Wicklow Mountains and across counties Carlow, Wicklow and Wexford.

The Delaneys are most associated with nearby Co Kilkenny although the name is popular all across Ireland today.

French origin

The name also has origins in France and was brought to Ireland by the Normans. The French surname was deAunou which meant ‘of an alder grove’. People with the surname would have come from or lived near an area of alder trees.

It came from the town of Orne in Normandy and is a variant of the French word ‘aunaie’, which translates to ‘alder grove’. In the local dialect of Orne the word ‘aunou’ was used instead of ‘aunaie’.

Could it be Scandinavian?

There is another theory that the French surname could have come from a Scandinavian personal name – possibly from when the Vikings had invaded France several hundred years earlier. However, there is little evidence to support this idea and there is no stand out candidate as to who the Viking ancestor may have been.

The French Delaneys arrived in Ireland in the 12th century. The Norman conquest of England happened in the mid-11th century and in 1169 and 1171 they invaded Ireland from Britain.

The Norman invaders stayed in Ireland and many married the native Irish. After a few generations the families had become Irish.

The surname develops

The name became anglicised in the Middle Ages as Ireland was under British rule and it was hard for people with non-English sounding names to find work.

The name spread across the world in the mid-19th century. The potato famine devastated the country. Millions died of starvation and disease and millions more had to leave in search of a more prosperous future.

They went to places like America, Australia, Britain and Canada. Irish names are now very common in all of these countries and many more.

Famous Delaneys

Pádraic Delaney is an Irish actor. He has starred in a number of films and TV shows such as The Wind That Shakes the Barley, Raw and the Tudors.

Ron Delany was an Irish athlete from Arklow, Co Wicklow. He was a middle distance runner and won a gold medal in the 1956 Melbourne Olympic Games. It was Ireland’s last gold medal for 36 years.

Cassandra Delaney is an Australian actress. She appeared in a number of films in the 1980s and 90s such as Fair Game, One Night Stand and Vietnam. She is married to American singer John Denver.


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