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  1. #1
    Over the top's Avatar
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    capital letters in the middle of surnames

    Hello
    Why are there capital letters in the middle of some surnames such as mcCain.
    Thanks

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    kr1s is offline Newbie
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    Re: capital letters in the middle of surnames

    Quote Originally Posted by Over the top View Post
    Hello
    Why are there capital letters in the middle of some surnames such as mcCain.
    Thanks

    Hi!
    I'm not an Anglophone, but I think I can answer anyway.
    Our surnames are our 'family names' and they mean we belong to a certain family.
    Mac or Mc mean 'son of', in this case is 'son of Cain', and in the past it was used only for the boys. As a matter of fact, there was a 'female' surname as well, 'Née', which meant 'daughter of' - e.g. NéeCain, daughter of Cain -, but nowadays it is not used anymore.

    This happens with several languages, not only with English - e.g. German, Dutch, Italian and so on.

    I hope this can help and, if I'm wrong, someone could correct me.
    Bye!

  3. #3
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    Re: capital letters in the middle of surnames

    Quote Originally Posted by Over the top View Post
    Hello
    Why are there capital letters in the middle of some surnames such as mcCain.
    Thanks
    There should be a capital "M" as well. It's McCain.

    I believe that "Mac" (and its abbreviation Mc) denotes "son of". So the surname McCain would "son of Cain", and consequently the capital letter of the father's name was retained.

    The same goes in surnames such as "O'Callaghan" where "O' " means "of".

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    Re: capital letters in the middle of surnames

    Speaking as "McWilliams" myself, the above posters are indeed mostly correct.

    Mac and Ó (in later years, O') are Gaelic in origin - both were used in Ireland, but Mac largely died out there leaving Mac/Mc surnames generally Scottish nowadays, and O' surnames generally Irish. The Mac/Mc names are more commonly Highland surnames but not always so.

    Mac/Mc = son of

    Ó, however, is not an abbreviation of "of" as is commonly assumed, but means "grandson of". Mac surnames are generally of a later date than Ó.


    The precise descriptive term for these types of surnames is "patronymic".

    The feminine equivalent of Mac is not "Née" which comes from the French, but "Nic" however it is very uncommon.

    "Née" is the feminine version of the past participle of the french verb naître, which means "to be born" and used in modern English after the surname of a married woman to introduce her maiden name (the name with which she was "born") - e.g. "Mrs Margaret Thomas, née Johnson".

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