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Irish Surnames - Egan and Keegan

Egan/Keegan (Irish Mac Aodhagáin)

If you are a lawyer/solicitor and your surname is Egan, then you are in the perfect job for you!

The name derives from the Irish MacAodhagáin, 'son of fire' with the eventual meaning of 'little bright eyed one'. Some sources state that this name was linked to a pagan fire deity.

Other sources simply state the name as being 'son of Hugh', the same origin as the Irish surname Hughes. From this, there are also links with the surname Hagan.

The clan were Brehons, judges, who were hereditary lawyers initially to the Ó Conchobhair, the Kings of Connacht. As Brehons, some of the clan were also teachers.

One of the strongholds of the Egans was modern-day County Galway, notably Duniry, near Loughrea, and Tuam, with a branch (unsurprisingly) in Ballymacegan, County Tipperary, The castle owned by the Egan clan is Redwood Castle, in County Tipperary, which was owned in the seventeenth century by one Conly MacEgan.

In 1602, militant bishop Owen MacEgan encouraged a Spanish invasion of Ireland, which landed at Kenmare, in County Kerry. Owen MacEgan referred to himself as 'Owen Hegane'; at least, this was the name he used in a letter he wrote at this time. MacEgan/Hegane died in battle shortly afterwards.

An eighteenth century Archbishop of Tuam rejoiced in the name and title of The Most Rev Boetius Egan. Half a century later, the more conventionally named Cornelius Egan was Bishop of Kerry.

The further anglicised variant of Keegan is known in north Connacht and County Wicklow, and was recorded in 1792 in County Kildare. Within one year, in the 1840s thirty two Keegans were recorded as arriving in New York as famine immigrants.

If your name is Egan, but you don't have Irish roots, the surname also has a completely separate German origin. The surname comes from the personal name Egen/Egon/Egan, and 'Egon' is still used as a personal name today. Its roots in Germany are in the Swabian region, Swabia is modern day Bavaria and Baden – Wuerttenberg,

Alternative Egan/Keegan spellings

MacEgan, Egen, Eagan, Keigan, McKiegan, and McKagan.

Famous Egans

 •  John Egan, Irish jockey, and his son David, also a jockey.

 •  Peter Egan, 'Downton Abbey' actor.

 •  Desmond Egan (b 1938) Irish poet

 •  Eddie Egan (1930-1995) actor and real-life 'French Connection' detective

 •  Jennifer Egan, Pulitzer Prize -winning novelist.

 •  Kian Egan, singer and member of the band 'Westlife'.

 •  Cardinal Edward Michael Egan (d. 2015), former Archbishop of New York.

Famous Keegans

 •  Kevin Keegan, English international soccer player and manager

 •  Michelle Keegan, British actress.

 •  Sir John Keegan, military historian and author.

 •  Marina Keegan, (d 2012) American author, playwright and journalist

 •  Mayo GAA footballer Lee Keegan

Keegan has also become popular as a forename, less commonly, Egan has also been used.


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