Keane/Kane – descended from a courageous warrior

History of the Irish name Keane. Image copyright Ireland Calling

The names Keane and Kane are both popular Irish surnames and they come from the same origin. There are also several other variations including Kean, Keene and Keen.

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The Keanes have numerous origins in different parts of Ireland. The three main clans came from Ulster, Munster and West Clare.

Origin of the name

The name Keane comes from the old Gaelic name O’Cathain. The o prexix to the name means ‘grandson of’ or ‘descendent of’. Cathain was a given name and came from the Gaelic word ‘Cath’ which means ‘battle’.

This suggests that Cathain was born to be a warrior. It is also possible that the name came from the old English word ‘cene’ which was a nickname for a proud and courageous man.

Another early origin is from the pre 7th century English first name ‘kene’ which was a derivation of names ‘cene or ‘cyne’.
These names indicated royalty and came from the word ‘cyning’ which meant ‘chieftain’ or ‘king’.

The name evolved over time

The name developed differently in different parts of the country. Keanes from Co Clare descended from the MacCathain clan. Elsewhere in Munster a separate clan called the O Cein had become an important family, they were part of the Uí Fiachraigh group of tribes. In Ulster it was the O Cahain who were the ancestors of the modern Keanes.

All of these families are likely to have been named after a strong and brave warrior who would been the leader of the clan.
As the centuries went by and names became more anglicised and modern. People in Munster and Connacht were more likely to change their name to Keane while those in Ulster were more likely to become Kane.

In the late 12th century Murtagh O’Loughlon was heir to the throne of Ireland. He was slain by Bloskey O’Kane. O’Kane’s descendants were the MacCloskeys of Co Derry.

Famous Keanes and Kanes from around the world

Roy Keane. Photo copyright Vintagekits CC3There have been a number of famous people called Keane or Kane to have excelled in their fields.

Roy Keane was a soccer player from Cork whose ferocious attitude on the field of play could be seen as a throwback to his warrior ancestors. He is regarded as one of the Republic of Ireland’s greatest ever players and led them to the world cup in 2002 before being sent home after launching a verbal assault on team manager Mick McCarthy.

Keane was captain of Manchester United during one of the most successful spells of the club’s history. He won several league titles and cup competitions with the club and helped them win the European Champions League in 1999 although he didn’t play in the final.

Robbie Keane

Another Keane is also one of Ireland’s best ever soccer players. Robbie Keane is the country’s highest ever goal scorer with more than double the tally of his nearest rival.

He has played for some of the biggest clubs in Europe including Liverpool, Inter Milan and Tottenham Hotspur.

Musical Keanes/Kanes

Delores Keane is a folk singer from Co Galway. She was a founder member of the traditional band De Dannan. She has also had a successful solo career and was described by American singer Nanci Griffith as: “the queen of the soul of Ireland… she has a sacred voice.”
Sean Keane is a musician from Dublin.

He is best known as the fiddler for the traditional band the Chieftains. He has had a successful career with the band having joined in 1968 and playing to hundreds of thousands of people over the decades. The band also won six Grammy awards.

Miles Kane is a singer songwriter from Birkenhead, England. He is well known as a solo artist and has collaborated many times with Arctic monkey’s singer Alex Tuner, most notably temporarily forming the ‘supergroup’ The Last Shadow Puppets.

Christian Kane is a singer and actor from Dallas, Texas. He is known for his roles in American TV series such as Angel and Into the West. He is also the lead singer of country rock band, Kane.
John B Keane was a popular 20th century Irish writer.

Video histories of popular Irish names

Irish names and their meanings

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