Cairney Surname

General Origin of the Cairneys

Chris Cairney

Cairney is a Scots word.

That means that anyone who has the name Cairney was linguistically—and probably culturally and politically—under Scottish influence at some key point in his or her family history between 1650 and 1850. The name is much older than that of course, but it found the form Cairney during that roughly 200 year period.

There would have been other forms of the name earlier from other languages. Scots (related to English, but not a dialect of English) is a language spoken in Scotland and the North of Ireland. Other languages existed in Scotland and the North of Ireland as well, including Gaelic, a Celtic language, and English.

The Cairneys have a history going back to early medieval times (or rather histories, for, like the Fergusons—another set of Gaelic families with a Scots name— there are origins in Scotland and origins in the North of Ireland). Always connected with the Medieval Church, the name connects to the Gaelic world but also to the Norman world and to the Holy Roman Empire.

The family was consistently involved in the work of the Church, particularly in the work of the Columban church, the lay and monastic foundations of St. Colm Cille—St. Columba—of Iona, Derry, Dunkeld and several other locations. All the Cairneys are related in this way: they have origins linked to the kindred of St. Columba and are all ecclecsiastical branches of the Northern Uí Néill.


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Dr. Chris Cairney ©2014