This is probably the most famous of Scottish clan surnames. Recorded in the modern spellings of MacDonald and McDonald, the derivation is from the pre 10th century Gaelic name Mac Dhomhnuill. This is a compound which translates literally as "The son of the world ruler". Whilst this may not have been the actual meaning fifteen hundred years ago, it is perhaps not entirely coincidental that one branch of the clan are known as "The Lords of the Isles". This was an assumed title, which much resented by early Scottish kings, King David 11 in the year 1369 going to considerable, if unsuccessful lengths, to try to dispossess them by force. In the Gaelic the name was pronounced Mak Oonil, and attempts at pronunciation have rendered a variety of spellings including; MakChonehill (1479), McConile (1570), Mak Donald (1571) and M'Oneill (1576). Early church registers in the Scottish capital of Edinburgh record the christening of John, the son of Alane McDonald, on July 4th 1672, and the marriage of John McDonald and Grissell McFuffan on July 29th 1687. Among the many famous nameholders are Flora MacDonald (1722 - 1790), the rescuer of Bonnie Prince Charlie in 1745, and Sir John MacDonald, (1815 - 1891), the first premier of the Dominion of Canada. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Therthelnac MakDonenalde. This was dated 1251, when he was a charter witness at Lesmore, during the reign of King Alexander 111 of Scotland, 1249 - 1286. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to "develop" often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.
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