Recorded in a number of forms as shown below, this an ancient Irish surname. In the modern spellings it is a development of the medieval Gaelic O' Liathain, meaning "The descendant of the grey one". This is a diminutive of "liath", meaning grey, and may have been a reference to a holy man, perhaps a friar, who habitually wore grey. The clan O'Liathain was said to be originally from the Ui Fidhgheinte, the modern day County Limerick, but who later settled in County Cork in two areas. The first to the north of the town of Youghal, and the second in the Courtmacsherry area.Modern spellings of the name are so varied as to sometimes suggest a completely different origin although we have no proof of this possibility . These include O'Lehane, O'Lyhane, O'Leaghan, Leehan, Leehane, Lehane, Leyhane, Lyhane, Lihane, Line, Lyons, and Lyhan. Early examples of recordings in the few surviving Irish church registers before 1865 include the baptism of Catherine, the daughter of Cornelius Leehane and Julia Buckly, on August 5th 1849 at Killarney, County Kerry, and the marriage of Daniel Lehane and Catherine Keeffe on February 18th 1868 at Dromtarriff, County Cork. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Father Matthew O'Leyn. He was a Franciscan monk who it is claimed, was a martyr during the reign of Queen Elizabeth 1st of England, 1558 - 1603. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to "develop" often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.
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