Recorded in many spelling forms including O'Neary, Neary, Nairy, Narrie, Naree, Nary, Narry, Nerrie, Norry, and Norrie, this is an Irish surname. It is only rarely, if ever, found with the Gaelic O' prefix which it seems to have lost in the 17th century. Like most Irish surnames it originates from a description of the first chief of the clan, one whose name was "Naraigh" meaning modest. That in itself is unusual for an Irish surname. The majority relate either to the a follower of a particular early saint, or to a nickname, or to a description of the chief's prowess as a warrior. In the Ireland of the 20th century the surname is rarely numerous except in the province of Connacht, and particulary the counties of Mayo and Roscommon. Early examples of the surname recording include Donal "Boy" O'Nare, a famous character of the 16th century from County Kildare. He seems to have committed a number of gruesome offences including murder, although this was possibly in a duel, but he obviously knew the right people because in each case he received pardon. He was known as an "idleman", a word which described, and apparently without sarcasm, a gentleman! Rather less contentious was Father Cornelius Nary, 1658 -1738, and also from Kildare. He held a number of high posts within the Catholic Church in Germany, and for some years was head of the Irish College in Paris. He later returned to Ireland as the parish priest of St Michan's, in Dublin. The first known recording of the surname may be that of Father Nicholas O'Naraighe, at the Irish College, St. Etienne, France, in the years 1503 - 1508.
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