I often get asked “Is xxxx an English or an Irish name” – for example – here’s a question from Sandra Lee:
“I wonder if you can tell me if the names Bagley and Begley were sometimes interchanged. I read someplace where that sometimes happened. My father’s name was Bagley and my mother’s maiden name was Turner. I always thought of Turner as an English name, but I see you have t-shirts with the name Turner on them, so is Turner also Irish?”
My answer? These names are BOTH English and Irish. But let’s dig a little deeper. Remember that Ireland is a country which at one time had its own native language – all surnames were spoken in that language for hundreds of years.
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We also had a number of “visitors” over the centuries who heard these Irish names spoken – and the only way they could relate to them was with reference to familiar English names and sounds.
Let’s go back to “Bagley” – in fact, let’s start with the Irish name Ó Beaglaoich – which comes from a nickname “little hero”. When this was translated phonetically into English, it became the name “Begley” we know today. However, in some parts of the country – Ó Beaglaoich was heard and it equated with a near-sounding English name: “Bagley”.
So, over the centuries – some Bagleys in Ireland derive from the Irish Ó Beaglaoich and some are the original English/Scottish planters who brought the English version of the name with them.
The story behind Turner is somewhat similar to Bagley – except it is mostly an English and a Scots Gaelic name. The Scots Gaelic version is “Mac an tuirnéir” which gets anglicised as Turner. So, you will probably find both kinds of Turners in Ireland through plantations over the centuries.
In summary – is this name English or Irish? Well, it’s both – that’s the simple answer. A more specific answer for Sandra is that it depends on your specific family history.
What do you think? Comments and questions welcome below!
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