Recorded in many forms of which the most popular are McAreavey, and the only just similar MacGilreevy and MacIlreavy, this is an Irish Gaelc surname. It originates from the pre 10th century spelling of Mac Giolla Riabhaigh, which translates literally as 'The son of the follower of Riabhach', the latter being a personal descriptive name meaning 'grey'. Presumably this person who may have been a holyman, the original chief of the clan, lived to an old enough age to become grey, at a time when few did, an alternative suggestion being that he worse a grey smock. Virtually all Irish clan names originate from a nickname for the first chief of the clan. Many are best described as 'robust' in their meanings, others as almost obscene! Clearly the original recipients did not find them in anyway embarrassing, and in anycase this did not apply with this name. However the spelling over the centuries has caused considerable difficulty, and has lead to the development of spellings far removed from the original form. The name is particularly associated with the province of Ulster, and specifically the counties of Antrim and Down.
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