This famous Irish surname is recorded in a wide range of spellings including: Mulryan, Mulrine, Mulran, O' Mulroyan, Mulrenan and Mulrean. It is a developed form of the pre 10th century Old Gaelic O'Maoilriain. The prefix 'O' indicates 'male descendant of', whilst the second element is itself a compound of 'maol' meaning 'bald or tonsured ', plus 'rian', an obscure suffix so ancient that its meaning is obsure. However, it is believed to be from 'rian, the Old Irish word for water, so connecting the name with the cult of a water god! Literally the name translates as 'The descendant of a worshipper of (the water god) Rian'. The territory of the Clan O' Maoilrian lay in Owney, and in former days known as Owney O' Mulryan, and now comprising two modern baronies on the borders of counties Limerick and Tipperary. The 1659 census of County Limerick shows that the foreshortened form of the name i.e. Ryan outnumbered the original O' Mulryan by a factor of four to one. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Teag O' Maoilriain, which was recorded in the registers of County Tipperary, during the reign of Art MacMorrough. king of Leinster, 1263 - 1407. Surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation. In England this was sometimes known as the Poll Tax. Throughout the centuries surnames in every country have continued to "develop", often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.
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