This is a famous Irish surname of great antiquity. It is recorded in at least twenty spellings including Houlaghan, Hoolohan, Holohan, Holian, Houlihan, Honahan, Honaghan, Honigan, Hounihan, Honeyghan,as well as Honeyman in County Leitrim, Holland in County Clare, Nolan in Roscommon as Nolan, and Merry in Kilkenny! However spelt the origination is either the pre 10th century Gaelic O' hUallachain, which translates as the male descendant of the proud and arrogant one, or O' uambrach meaning the male descendant of the terrible one. Altogether a very interesting surname which like the majority of Gaelic surnames originates from a nickname for the original chief or chiefs of the clan, perhaps a thousand years ago. It is said that distinct branches of the name arose in County Offaly, and also in Counties Clare, Limerick and Tipperary. In due course the septs spread southwards and westwards into County Cork, with Holland and Nolan resulting from confusion over the original Gaelic forms of the name in 17th Century records. In the 1659 census the majority of namebearers were recorded in County Kilkenny where Holohan is today the most popular spelling. In a pardon of 1558 Richard Merry, alias Richard O' Howloughane was recorded in that county, whilst Michael Honnighan is recorded in Milford, County Cork, in 1865. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Donal O'Hoolahan, the Archbishop of Cashel. This was dated 1171, in the "Ecclesiastical Records of County Tipperary", during the reign of King Rory O'Conor, last native High King of Ireland, 1166 - 1175. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to "develop" often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.
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