Recorded in the spellings of McCathie and McCathay, this is a Scottish surname, but possibly of Irish origins. It is generally recorded in the county of Galloway in South West Scotland, the first occasion beuing in the year 1481 when Gilbert Makcathy was given as being a landholder of Grange, at Ballyndune. The closeness of the spelling to the great Irish Clan McCarthy suggests a possible link, not the least because in ancient times Galloway was much influenced by Irish affairs, although it must be stressed, that no absolutely positive association has been proven. It is also possible that the origin is shared with the mainly Western Isles surnames of McCathen or M'Cathen, which are belived to derive from an ancient personal name Cathal, also found in surnames such as MacCathail or MacCavell. The vast majority of Gaelic surnames originate from a patronymic or nickname for the original chief of the clan. However as few records exist from these ancient times, exact explanations for a particular surname are usually left to guesswork. Assuming that this surname is from the Clan MacCarthy, the derivation is from a pre 10th century word "cartach" meaning "loving", which was probably given a baptismal name of endearment to the first chief. If this is the case the first recording is that of Cartach, Lord of Eoghannacht, in County Cork, and who was killed in the year 1045.
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