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Walsh


WalshWalsh is among the five most numerous surnames in Ireland, found throughout the country. There are concentrations of Walshes in Leinster in counties Kilkenny and Wexford, in Connacht in counties Mayo and Galway, and in Munster in counties Cork and Waterford. Walsh is a semi-translation of the Irish surname Breathnach, meaning ‘Welsh’ or ‘Breton’, also sometimes anglicised as ‘Brannagh’. This alludes to the Cambro-Gaelic origin of the Walsh families. The name came into use to describe the Welsh people who came to Ireland during the Cambro-Norman invasions. Very early their surname in Gaelic was Breathnach, the Irish word for Briton or Welsh, which was later to become anglicized as Brannagh and Walsh(e).

The Walsh surname has the same historical origin as Wallace, but arrived at its present form by a more circuitous route. Wallace comes from the Anglo-Norman-French le waleis, meaning simply ‘the foreigner’ or ‘the stranger’, which was used in different parts of Britain to denote the Scots, Welsh or Bretons, strangeness obviously being in the eye of the beholder. In medieval Ireland the name Walsh was generally used to mean ‘the Welshmen’, who arrived in the wake of the Cambro-Norman invasion beginning in 1169 A.D., the first of the adventurers coming from Wales.

Unlike most of the Anglo-Norman and Cambro-Norman families such as the Burkes, the Fitzgeralds etc, who can trace their ancestry to a small number of known individuals, the Walshes have many different origins, since the name arose independently in many different places in Ireland.

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