Originally recorded as MacCarroll, O'Carroll, and since the 17th century usually Caroll or Carroll, this ancient surname is Irish. It originates from the 12th century Gaelic surnames Mac Cearbhaill or O'Cearbhaill. Both Mac and O' have similar meanings of male descent and relationship, although arguably Mac refers only to "son of" and O' only to "descendant of". The personal name Cearbhall was probably a byname for a fierce warrior, deriving from the word "cearbh", meaning to hack! There were originally two distincts septs of MacCarroll and no less than six of O'Carroll, but today they are largely intermixed in the counties of Kerry, Offaly, Monaghan, Tipperary, Leitrim and Louth. The surname is about 20th in the list of most numerous surnames in Ireland, with approximately sixteen thousand nameholders. Examples of nameholders include the most Rev. John Carroll (1735 - 1815), the first Catholic bishop in the United States of America and the Archbishop of Baltimore, whilst Patrick Carroll, aged 54 was a famine emigrant to New York City. He sailed aboard the ship Columbus of Liverpool in February 1846, together with his wife, Ann, and his son, William, aged 11. The coat of arms most associated with the name has the blazon of Argent, two red lions combatant, supporting a sword erect in pale proper in the dexter chief point a black cross flory. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Maolsuthain O' Carroll. This was dated 1031, when he was the confessor to Brian Boru and contributor to the "Book of Armagh". Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to "develop" often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.
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