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The Irish Rose

McCarthy Name History

McCarthy Coat of Arms and Family Name


MacCarthy or McCarthy (Mac Cárthaigh in Irish), meaning "Son of the Loving One" or "Loving," is a common surname that originated in Ireland. There are several forms today, including Carthy and Carty. Sixty percent of people with the surname in Ireland still live in County Cork where the family was very powerful during the medieval period.

McCarthy origins

The origin of the name begins with Carthach, an Eóganacht Chaisil king, who died in 1045 in a house fire deliberately started by one of the Lonergans. Carthach was a contemporary and bitter rival of the semi-legendary Brian Boru, and what would become known as the McCarthy Clan were pushed out of their traditional homelands in the Golden Vale of Tipperary by the expansion of that sept, in the middle of the twelfth century.

His son used the appellation Muireadhach mac Carthaigh (Muireadhach, son of Carthach), a common practice. Muireadhach (anglicized as "Murray") died in 1092. His sons, Tadhg and Cormac adopted MacCarthy as a proper surname. Following the treaty of Glanmire in 1118, dividing the kingdom of Munster into Desmond and Thomond, this Tadhg became the first king of Desmond, comprising parts of the modern counties of Cork and Kerry. For almost five centuries they dominated much of Munster, with four distinct branches: those led by the MacCarthy Mór (Great MacCarthy), nominal head of all the MacCarthys, who ruled over much of south Kerry, the Duhallow MacCarthys, who controlled northwest Cork; MacCarthy Reagh or Riabhach ('grey') based in the Barony of Carbery in southwest Cork; and MacCarthy Muskerry, on the Cork / Kerry border.

Each of these families continued resistance to Norman and English encroachment up to the seventeenth century when, like virtually all the Gaelic aristocracy, they lost almost everything. An exception was Macroom Castle, which passed to the White family of Bantry House, descendants of Cormac McCarthy Laidir. This was burnt in 1922 and is part of the local golf club today.

The number of references to the MacCarthys in the Annals, especially the "Annals of Innisfallen," is very great. Cárthach was the son of Saorbreathach, a Gaelic name which is anglicised as Justin, and in the latter form has been in continuous use among various branches of MacCarthys for centuries. Another Christian name similarly associated with them is Finghin, anglice Fineen, but for some centuries past, for some obscure reason, Florence (colloquially Flurry) has been used as the English form. From the thirteenth century, when Fineen MacCarthy decisively defeated the Geraldines in 1261, down to the present day, Fineen or Florence MacCarthys and Justin MacCarthys have been very prominent among the many distinguished men of the name in Irish military, political and cultural history.

Until the dissolution of the kingdom in 1596, the crown was vested in the hereditary possession of the Mac Carthy (by the law of tanistry).

The McCarthy Septs

Eleven septs of the illustrious McCarthy family in Kerry are given in Kings History of Co. Kerry:

  1. Sliocht Owen Mór of Coshmaing
  2. Sliocht Cormaic of Dunguile
  3. Sliocht Fyneen Duff of Ardeanaght
  4. Sliocht Clan Donnell Finn
  5. Sliocht nInghean Riddery
  6. Sliocht Donnell Brick
  7. Sliocht Nedeen
  8. Sliocht Clan Teige Kittagh
  9. Sliocht Clan Dermond
  10. Sliocht Clan Donnell Roe
  11. Sliocht MacFyncen

Related to McCarthys

The McCarthys are closely related to a number of other Munster families. These include the O'Sullivans, O'Callaghans, O'Keeffes, O'Donoghues, and O'Donovans. An early sept of the McCarthys themselves are the MacAuliffes.

Rulers of the Kingdom of Desmond, the MacCarthys stood among the greatest Irish dynasties of the last millennium.

More about the McCarthy family and surname

Variant Spellings of the Irish surname McCarthy include MacCarthy, MacCarty, Carty, McCarty, MacArthy, MacArty.

The Framed Irish Family Name History, (#1760) has more information on the McCarthy surname. We have a wide selection of McCarthy coat of arms products at The Irish Rose. Please visit the Irish Coat of Arms page.

Visit a McCarthy's Pub in Ireland

We found at least one McCarthy's Pub to visit in Ireland. McCarthys of Fethard is considered one of Ireland's remaining heritage pubs and is also a restaurant and hotel. It can be found in Fethard in County Tipperary. 

If you can't visit in person, our personalized pub gifts are the next best thing!

Notable people named McCarthy

  • Andrew McCarthy, actor, born 1962
  • Andrew C. McCarthy, attorney and columnist
  • Arch McCarthy, former Major League Baseball player
  • Benni McCarthy, South African Footballer
  • Brandon McCarthy, U.S. baseball pitcher
  • Carolyn McCarthy, U.S. Representative, born 1944
  • Cormac McCarthy, Pulitzer Prize-winning American novelist, born 1933
  • Dalton McCarthy, Canadian lawyer and politician, 1836–1898
  • Danny Mc Carthy, Irish artist
  • Dennis McCarthy, composer of film score, born 1945
  • Douglas McCarthy, Singer in Nitzer Ebb
  • Earl McCarthy (born 1969), Irish freestyle swimmer
  • Eugene McCarthy, U.S. Congressman and Senator, 1916–2005
  • Fabian "Fabe" McCarthy, Australian rugby union player, born 1919
  • Glenn McCarthy, American oil tycoon and businessman, 1907–1988
  • Harry McCarthy, variety entertainer, wrote "The Bonnie Blue Flag" in 1861
  • E. Jerome McCarthy, Marketing scholar and inventor of 4Ps of marketing
  • J. Thomas McCarthy, American educator, author and attorney, born 1937
  • Jenny McCarthy (born 1972), American anti-vaccine activist and former Playboy model and actress
  • Joe McCarthy (manager), Hall of Fame baseball manager, 1887–-1978
  • John McCarthy, several people, including:
  • John McCarthy (AFL football player) (b. 1989), Australian footballer
  • John McCarthy (Australian ambassador), Australian ambassador, born 1942
  • John McCarthy (computer scientist) (1927-2011), computer scientist
  • John McCarthy (journalist), British journalist held hostage in Lebanon.
  • John McCarthy (linguist) (born 1953), American linguist who has contributed significantly to Optimality theory
  • John Thomas McCarthy (born 1939), U.S. ambassador
  • Jack McCarthy (1911-–1977)(radio actor who portrayed the Green Hornet on the radio series)
  • 'Big' John McCarthy famed Mixed Martial Arts referee
  • Joseph McCarthy (lyricist), Tin Pan Alley lyricist ("You Made Me Love You"), 1885-–1943
  • Joseph McCarthy, U.S. Senator, 1908-–1957
  • Kevin McCarthy (1914-–2010), American film actor
  • Kevin McCarthy U.S. Congressman from California (2007–present)
  • Mary McCarthy (fiction writer), Irish novelist
  • Mary McCarthy (CIA), former CIA employee, born 1945
  • Mary McCarthy (screenwriter)
  • Melissa McCarthy, actress
  • Mick McCarthy, football player and manager (former manager of Republic of Ireland), born 1959
  • Mike McCarthy (American football) (born 1963), American, NFL coach
  • Nicholas McCarthy, Guitarist of Scottish Indie band Franz Ferdinand
  • Nobu McCarthy, actress, 1934-–2002
  • Paul McCarthy, American contemporary artist
  • Pete McCarthy, pen name of Peter Charles Robinson, British broadcaster and travel writer, 1952–-2004
  • Rachel McCarthy poet, critic and broadcaster 1984-
  • Steve McCarthy, Canadian hockey player
  • Shaun Lloyd McCarthy, aka Desmond Cory, novelist, screen-play writer 1950-2000
  • Thaddeus McCarthy, Irish bishop, 1455-–1492
  • Thaddeus McCarthy (jurist), New Zealand jurist, 1907-–2001
  • Tom McCarthy, radio play by play announcer for the New York Mets on WFAN 660 in New York
  • Tom McCarthy English Novelist
  • Tommy McCarthy, Hall of Fame baseball outfielder, 1863–-1922
  • Tim McCarthy, US Secret Service Agent injured in a President Reagan assassination attempt
  • William "Bill" McCarthy, drummer of Irish/American alternative rock band Voodoo Loons
  • William C. McCarthy, Mayor of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, 1875-–1878

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