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McMahon: family name history

Origin of the Surname

McMahon is a distinguished Irish surname with a rich historical significance, closely tied to Ireland’s historical narrative.

Etymology and Meaning

The McMahon surname is an anglicized form of the original Gaelic “Mac Mathúna,” where “Mac” means “son” and “Mathúna” is derived from “mathghamhain,” which translates to “bear.” Hence, the name signifies “son of the bear.”

Earliest Known Usage

The earliest usage of the McMahon surname traces back to the 10th century in the region of Corcabascin, in what is now County Clare.

Geographic Distribution

While the McMahon surname is primarily found in Ireland, particularly in County Clare and the surrounding regions, it has also spread to various parts of the world, primarily in English-speaking countries such as the United States, Australia, Canada, and the United Kingdom.

Original Geographic Location

The original geographic location of the McMahon clan is Corcabascin, a district in County Clare, Ireland. This region, along with much of Clare, was under McMahon rule from the 10th to 17th centuries.

Migration Patterns

Like many other Irish families, the McMahons experienced significant migration, particularly during the Great Famine in the mid-19th century. They settled in the United States, Canada, Australia, and elsewhere, causing the surname to spread globally.

Historical Context

Notable Historical Events

The McMahons were chiefs and rulers of their region for centuries. However, the clan’s power was substantially diminished after the 17th-century Cromwellian Conquest of Ireland.

Involvement in Key Moments in History

The McMahons played a significant role in Ireland’s history, particularly during the medieval era when they were ruling chiefs of their region.

Notable Bearers of the Surname

Famous Individuals

The McMahon surname has numerous notable bearers, including Ed McMahon, the famous American television personality, and Jim McMahon, the renowned NFL quarterback.

Influential Figures

The McMahon family in the world of professional wrestling, including Vince McMahon and his children Stephanie and Shane, are highly influential figures in the industry.

Variations of the Surname

Spelling Variations

There are numerous spelling variations of McMahon, including MacMahon, Mahon, MacMahan, MacMathuna, and others. These differences often resulted from inconsistent anglicization of the original Gaelic name.

Regional Differences

Regional variations of the McMahon surname exist due to phonetic translations and regional dialects, leading to variations in spelling and pronunciation.

Current Statistics and Distribution

Frequency and Global Distribution

McMahon is a fairly common surname in Ireland, and due to historical migration, it has a significant presence in many other countries.

Changes Over Time

The distribution of the McMahon name has widened over the centuries due to migration, particularly during the Great Famine.

Family Coat of Arms

The McMahon family’s traditional Coat of Arms comprises a lion passant on a shield, symbolizing bravery and nobility.


  1. Woulfe, P. (1923). Irish Names and Surnames.
  2. MacLysaght, E. (1985). The Surnames of Ireland.

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