Kavanagh History

Over the years many people have asked about where the name Kavanagh comes from, then there is always the concern of its spelling. I have provided here a  Frequently Asked Questions list (FAQ’s) of what I have found over the years. Keep in mind that I am no genealogy expert. For more information on the history of the clan, please visit their website: kavanaghfamily.com


Brief Kavanagh History

Kavanagh is a VERY Irish name. Kavanagh’s originated from the County Carlow. 

The Kavanagh’s originate from the MacMurrough Family. The Kavanagh clan started in the 12th Century by Donal Caomhanach (later Kavanagh), the illegitimate son of Dermot MacMurrough, King of Leinster. The Gaelic name Caomhanach (or modern Kavanagh) means follower of St. Caomhan. Caomh translates into gentle or tender.

Today, Kavanagh’s can be found throughout the world. In Ireland, they are predominately in Dublin, County Wexford & Wicklow. With the famines of the 1800’s many Kavanagh’s immigrated to the United States.

Kavanagh Spelling

This is a heated debate, particularly in the US. Kavanagh can be spelled in the following ways: Kavanagh, Cavanaugh, Cavanagh, Kavanaugh, Cavenaugh, among many other variations. According to 1890 birth records in Ireland the predominate spelling in Ireland out of 274 Kavanagh births, 230 were spelled: K A V A N A G H. The common misconception is that Kavanagh must start with a C and come from the County Cavan. The Kavanagh’s do not originate from there. Since Kavanagh is a relatively “new” name, the lack of a Gaelic “K” is not applicable. 

Regardless, no matter the name is spelled, we can all trace our lineage to Donal.

Famous Kavanagh’s

There are a lot of famous Kavanagh’s, here are a few:

  • Arthur MacMurrough Kavanagh: King of Leinster, 15th Century
  • Charles Kavanagh: Governor of Habsburg Prague, mid 18th Century
  • Brian Kavanagh: Last duly inaugurated Chief of the name
  • Arthur MacMurrough Kavanagh: 1831-1899 Born without limbs he was a father of 7, a member of Parliament, and Artist, poet, & sailor. He was dubbed MacMurrough Kavanagh. The Borris House is the Family residence.
  • Patrick Kavanagh (1904-1967) Modern Irish Poet
  • Morgan Peter Kavanagh (1800-1874) author
  • Julia Kavanagh (1824-1877) daughter of Morgan, also an author.

Coat of Arms

The Coat of Arms displayed on this page is the CoA of the Kavanagh Clan. Heraldically it is: Silver, a red lion passant, and in base two red crescents

The crest is: Out of Silver crescent a gold wheatsheaf

Family Motto: Siothchain Agus Farisinge: Translated it means Peace And Plenty