This is one of those famous Irish surnames which have many different spellings, and as many explanations as to their meaning and origin. According to various prominent researchers and in particular Edward MacLysayght, the doyen of Irish etmologists it derives from the pre 10th century O' Maolshathairne. If so this would seem to translate as 'The descendant of the son of the tonsoled one!' If correct this is a reference to a monk or holy man, one who had the shaved head of a man who had taken holy vows.However it is also possible that it was a nickname and as such referred to a bald man. Given that monks and other holy men were supposed to be celibate, this would be a logical explanation. It appears that the spellings of this name vary according to the geographical situation so that as MacLarney it is a Mid Irish name, whilst in the province of Ulster to the north it becomes Maclerney, MacAlearney or McAlarney. To add to the confusion it may also be one of the few Irish names which are recorded both with a prefix O' meaning male descendant of as in O'Mullarney, 'Mac' meaning son of, or without any prefix at all as in Mullarney, Larney and Learney.
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