A friend emailed me regarding my post about Dingle signage commenting on Eamonn O Cuiv’s surname and how likely it would be for him to change his name to O Caoimh. His email prompted me to search and I found this interesting titbit.
An Leiriu Shimpli simplified the Irish spelling system by eliminating extraneous letters from a word or surname. Thus, O Seaghdha became O Se and O Laoghaire became O Laoire. However, the only ‘simplification’ in all of the thousands of Gaelic surnames to add a foreign letter (in this case ‘v’ was the adulteration of O Caoimh to O Cuiv, a very recent introduction made within the last three generations.
Irish surnames are the oldest permanent surnames in Europe and O Caoimh is one of the most ancient, becoming permanent by the end of the 10th century.
According to this page the “O Caoimh” surname first appeared in the 11th century and has an interesting history.
O’Keeffe, and Keeffe, are the anglicised versions of the Irish O’Caoimh, from caomh, meaning ‘kind’ or ‘gentle’. The original Caomh from whom the family descend lived in the early eleventh century, and was a descendant of Art, King of Munster from 742 to 762.
PS. Thanks Derek!