I have always been fascinated by language, specifically where it originates and how it adapts, mutates, and relates to other languages. That is why I found the recent series of blogs by Andrew’s Kindred so intriguing. It combined my love of etymology with my love of genealogy. I was so inspired, in fact, that I decided to try my hand at chronicling the origins of our families’ surnames.
This is the twelfth installment of a series of posts documenting the etymology of many of our families’ surnames (recent and distant, direct and indirect.)
Well, since I already covered the L names, let’s now address the letter M:
Macdougall (my mother’s paternal line)
Scottish—This is the Anglicized form of the Old Gaelic surname, MacDubhghaill, from the male given name Dubhghall, composed of the elements dubh, meaning black or dark, and gall, meaning stranger. It was frequently used as a byname for Scandinavians to distinguish the dark-haired Danes from fair-haired Norwegians.
MacMurrough (my mother’s paternal line)
Irish—Mac Murchadha, derived from the early personal name Murchadh, meaning sea-warrior. Mac Murchadha (son of Murchadh) is exclusive to Ulster, where the family were part of the Cenel Eoghain, the tribal grouping claiming descent from Eoghan, a son of the 5th Century founder of the Ui Neill dynasty, Niall of the Nine Hostages, who was reputedly responsible for the kidnapping of St. Patrick to Ireland.
Macrory (my mother’s paternal line)
Scottish—This surname is an abbreviated form of the Old Gaelic MacRuairidh, meaning son of Ruairidh, an ancient male given name written in Gaelic as Ruairidh, Rua(i)dri, Roithridh, and Rotheri, and Rotheri and deriving ultimately from the Celtic words roudo-rix, meaning red king.
Mahurin (my spouse’s mother’s paternal line)
French—This is an altered form of French surname Maturin from the personal name Maturinus, a derivative of the Latin word matures, meaning timely.
Mainwaring (my mother’s paternal line)
English—This surname, having long associations both with Ireland and the English county of Cheshire, is of Norman origin. It is a habitation name from a now lost place of uncertain location, originally called Masnil Warin, meaning the domain of Warin. This was a male given name which has also produced the surname of Waring. It is derived from a pre-7th Century Germanic word warin, meaning guard.
Makepeace (my spouse’s mother’s paternal line)
English—This surname was derived from the Middle English words make(n), meaning to make (from the Old English word magian), and pais, meaning peace. It was originally given as a nickname to a mediator or one recognized for his skill in ending discord.
Malatiah (my brother-in-law’s maternal family)
English—This surname is from the Biblical name Melatiah, meaning deliverance of the Lord.
Malone (my spouse’s stepfather’s family)
English—This is an Anglicized form of the Gaelic surname O’Maoileoin, composed of the Gaelic prefix O, meaning male descendant of, and Maoileoin, a devotee or follower of St. John. For centuries, the Malones were associated with the Abbey of Clonmacnois to which they furnished abbots and bishops.
Manes (my mother’s paternal line)
English—This surname is derived from the ancient Hebrew name Imanuel, meaning God is with us.
Manley (my mother’s maternal line)
English—This surname can be either a locational or a topographical in origin. If locational, the name is derived from either Manley, Devonshire or Manley, Cheshire. The place name comes from the Old English pre-7th Century words (ge)maene, meaning common or shared, and leah, meaning woods or glade in a wood. As a topographical surname, Manley indicated a resident of shared woods. In some cases, this surname might derive from a medieval nickname from the Middle English word mannly, meaning virile or brave.
Marks (my mother’s maternal line)
English—This surname may be a patronymic form of the male given name Mark from the Latin Marcus, believed to derive ultimately from Mars, the Roman god of war. The surname may also be of topographical origin from a residence by a boundary mark or border district, derived from the Old English word mearc, meaning mark or border.
Marriner (my mother’s maternal line)
English—This surname is of medieval French origin, coming from the word mariner. It is thought to be an occupational nickname for a merchant who traveled over the ocean to purchase goods.
Marshal (my mother’s paternal line)
English—Although generally regarded as deriving from the French word mareschal, the ultimate origin of the word lies in the Old High German words marah, meaning horse, and scalc, meaning servant. Marshal was originally an occupational name for one who looked after the horses.
Marshe (my mother’s paternal line, two connections)
English—This is a topographical name for someone who lived near or in a fen or wetland, derived from the Old English pre-7th Century word mersc, meaning marsh.
Martin (my mother’s paternal line)
English—This surname might come from Mars, the Roman god of fertility and war, or it might come from the Old French word martin, the name of a bird similar to the swallow.
Martz/Mertz (my spouse’s stepmother’s family)
German—This might be a nickname for someone who was born or baptized in the month of March from the Middle High German word merz. It might also be a variation of Martin or Mark. It could also be from a Germanic personal name Marizo (which became Mar(t)zo), a pet form of compound names formed with mari, meaning famous.
Mauduit (my mother’s paternal line)
English—This surname came over with the Norman conquerors. It might derive from the French word mal duis, meaning bad or naughty.
Massey (my mother’s paternal line, two connections)
English—This surname is of pre-8th Century Old French origins. Introduced into England after the Norman Conquest, this is either a locational surname from one of these villages in Normandy: Macey in La Manche, Massy in Seine-Inferieure, or Mace-sur-Orne, or is a shortened form of the Roman personal name Massius.
Martin (my mother’s paternal line)
English—Derived from Mars, the god of fertility and war, this name has been used throughout Europe since the Crusades of the 12th century. However, the main impetus which gave the name such popularity was as a result of the good works of the 14th Century Saint Martin of Tours, France. He was one of the few saints whose name Protestants accepted after the reformation.
Mayhew/Mayhue (my mother’s paternal line and my spouse’s maternal line)
English—Originally of either French or Biblical origins, this surname is the shortened form of the medieval personal name Matthew, from the pre-9th Century name, Mahieu.
Mays (my spouse’s maternal line)
English—This surname derives the word mai, a term of endearment or greeting given to a young person or somebody of close friend or kinship.
McClelland (my spouse’s mother’s paternal line)
Scottish—This surname derives from the pre-9th Century name Mac gille Kaolin, the son of the follower of Faolan—mac means son of, gille means follower or servant, and the personal name Faolan means wolf.
McCoy (my mother’s paternal line)
Scottish—This surname is derived from the Old Gaelic Mac Aodha, meaning the son of Fire, the name of a Celtic pagan god.
McHenry (my spouse’s mother’s paternal line)
Scottish—This surname derives from either Mac Eanraig or Mac Einri, which comes from the pre-6th Century Germanic personal name Heim-ric, meaning home power.
Mehurin (my spouse’s mother’s paternal line)
Irish—A variation of the Maturin surname, a Huguenot name found in County Limerick in the 18th century. Maturin was first found in the Rhine Valley, where the family has been a prominent family for centuries, and held a family seat with domains, estates, and manors.
Meili (my father’s paternal line)
Swiss—Meili means lovely or beautiful. In Norse mythology Meili, from the Old Norse word that meaning lovely one, is the son of Odin and brother of Thor.
Melchior (my brother-in-law’s maternal family)
English—There are at least three possible origins of this surname. The first origin is the Biblical name Melchior, one of the Magi, although the original popularity in Europe would seem to owe more to a 6th Century German king, known as the King of Light, because of his even-handedness. The second origin is occupational from milc, a nickname for a dairy farmer. The third is a locational name derived from the French word maleterre, meaning poor or swampy ground.
Menéndez (my mother’s paternal line)
Spanish—This surname is derived from the medieval personal name Mendendo, a corrupted form of Hermenegild, composed of the elements ermen/irmen, meaning whole and entire + gild, meaning tribute.
Menteith (my mother’s paternal line)
Scottish—This is a habitational name from a place in Perthshire, Scotland, derived from the Gaelic words monadh, meaning hill or pasture, and Teith, which was a river name of obscure origin.
Mering (my mother’s paternal line)
English—This surname was introduced to England with the Norman Conquest. The Mering surname first appeared in Nottinghamshire where they held a family seat as Lords of the Estate. Although it is unknown the exact etymology of this surname, it may be from the Old English word mere, meaning ocean or sea, which itself comes from the French word mer or mere, also meaning ocean or sea.
Metcalfe (my mother’s paternal line)
English—This surname is either topographical or occupational, derived from the Old English pre-7th century word mete, meaning food or meat, and cealf, meaning calf, together meaning a calf to be fattened for eating.
Meyer/Myers (my father’s maternal line, my father’s paternal line, and my spouse’s maternal line, and my spouse’s stepmother’s family)
English/German—Originally from the Latin word maior, meaning greater or superior, this surname was taken from the Middle High German word meier, a status name for a steward, bailiff, or overseer, and was later used to denote a tenant farmer.
Miller/Moller/Müeller (my mother’s paternal line, my father’s paternal line, my father’s maternal line, my spouse’s stepmother’s family, and my brother-in-law’s maternal family)
English/German—This is an occupational surname for a corn miller or someone in charge of a mill. It originated from the pre-7th Century Old English words mylene and milne, but ultimately from the Latin word molere, meaning to grind. The American surname has absorbed the German surname Müeller.
Mills (my brother-in-law’s maternal family)
English—This name is a medieval English or Scottish topographical surname, given originally to someone who lived near a mill, and is derived from the Middle English words mille and milne, meaning mill, a development of the word mylen(e), itself from the Latin molina, a derivative of molere, meaning to grind. The final “s” means son of. The surname gradually came to be used as an occupational name for a worker at a mill.
Mitton (my mother’s paternal line)
English—This locational surname originates from any one of the various villages called Mitton/Mytton. Derived from the pre-7th Century Old English word mydd-tun, meaning a place in the middle, these villages, located between two larger villages or towns, were where travelers stopped to rest.
Momford (my spouse’s mother’s paternal line)
English—Of Norman origin, this is a locational surname for the town of Montford-sur-Risle, Normandy, derived from the French word mont, meaning mountain, and fort, meaning strong.
Montagu (my mother’s paternal line)
English—Of Norman origin, this is a locational surname for a place in La Manche called Montaigu, so named from the French word mont, meaning mountain, and agu, meaning pointed.
Montgomerie (my mother’s paternal line)
English—Of Norman origin, this is a locational surname for Sainte-Foy-de-Montgommery in Lisieux, Normandy, or from Saint-Germain-de-Montgommery in Calvados, Normandy.
Moore/Mure (my mother’s maternal line and my mother’s paternal line)
English/Scottish—This is either a topographical surname for someone who lived on a moor, derived from the Old English pre-7th Century word mor, or from one of the villages named Moore/More in the counties of Cheshire or Shropshire. Or, it might have been a nickname for someone of dark or swarthy complexion, derived from the Old French word more.
Moorman (my mother’s paternal line)
English—This surname is from the same roots as the surname Moore (discussed above).
Morris (my spouse’s father’s maternal line)
English—Of Norman origin, this surname is derived from the Latin word maurus, meaning Moorish (dark or swarthy).
Mortimer (my mother’s paternal line)
English—Of Norman origin, this is a locational surname for Mortemer, Normandy.
Moser (my father’s paternal line)
German—This is either a topographic name for someone who lived near a peat bog from the Middle High German word mos, meaning moss, or it is an occupational surname for a vegetable grower or seller, from an agent noun based on Middle Low German mos.
Moss (my brother-in-law’s family)
English—This surname is primarily topographical in origin from a residence near a swamp or peat bog, deriving from the Old English pre-7th century word mos, meaning moss, but it may occasionally derive from Moss(e), the medieval form of the Hebrew given name Moses.
Mowat (my mother’s paternal line)
English—Of Norman origin, this is a locational surname for one of the French towns called Mont Haut.
Muhlhause (my spouse’s stepmother’s family)
German—This is an occupational or a locational surname derived from the German words mühl, meaning mill, and haus, meaning house.
Mullins (my spouse’s mother’s paternal line)
English—Of Norman origin, this surname is either occupational or locational in nature, derived from the French word moulin, meaning mill.
Muñoz (my mother’s paternal line)
Spanish—This is a patronymic surname meaning son of Muño, derived from the word for hill. It could also be patronymic for the son of Nuño, meaning ninth—a name that was sometimes given to the ninth child. (As a side note: Today, muño is a food made of either wheat flour or toasted corn and seasoned with salt and chili, usually fed as breakfast to workers.
Murdoc (my mother’s maternal line)
English—Gaelic in origin, this surname is the Anglicized form of two Gaelic personal names combined: Muiredach, a derivative of the word muir, meaning sea, and Murchadh, meaning sea warrior.
Musselman (my father’s paternal line)
Swiss—This is an occupational surname for a woodman, derived from Middle High German words müsel, meaning log, and mann, meaning man.
Well, that’s it for the M surnames… Next up are the N surnames.