Mystery Monday: Galgethel

Every Monday we will post an entry that hasn’t yet been published with a view towards harnessing the collective onomastic power of the internet. If you have any thoughts about the name’s origin, other variants it might be related to, other examples of its use, etc., please share them in the comments! If you wish to browse other Mystery Monday names, there is an index.

How about something different this week? We’ve got an Irish name!


Many of the records that we have from medieval Ireland were not written by native Gaelic speakers, but rather by Anglo-Norman scribes trained in Latin, which means that sometimes their manglings of Irish names are…interesting. Interesting enough that ferreting out what the possible native name behind the Latinised form can be quite challenging! There’s also nothing quite like googling for an unusual name form and finding only half a dozen hits — three instances of the source that we got the name from, one of our own blog posts where we mentioned the name in passing, and two “historycarnival” pages citing that same blog post.

Do we have any Irish experts amongst our readers? Do you recognize this name, or at least have a guess what it might represent? Please share in the comments!


Filed under crowd-sourcing, dictionary entries, mystery monday

3 responses to “Mystery Monday: Galgethel

  1. Brian M. Scott

    One possibility is the substantive Gall-Ghaedheal ‘an Anglo-Irishman, a descendant of the Normans, a Gallowegian, a Hebridean, a Norse-Irishman who renounced his baptism’ (Dinneen) used as an idionym. The online dictionary of Early Irish normalizes the Early Irish form as gall-góidel and has annals citations for about this time showing it used as a place-name for Galloway, e.g., Toirberd mac Gall Ghoeidhil in the Annals of Loch Cé (an. 1210) = mac righ gallgaoidhel ‘son of the king of Galloway’ in the Annals of the Four Masters.

    • Brian M. Scott

      And in the Report of the Deputy Keeper of the Public Records in Ireland, Volume 19, p. 103, we find a Galgedeall McGillabrida, apparently no later than 6 March, 3 John (1202). Alexander Bugge, writing in 1904, interprets the name as I suggested above and notes that a Michael Gallgeyl is mentioned in a Waterford document of 1310×1314 (though that seems more likely to derive from a byname).

  2. I’m with Brian.
    It started as Gall-Gaidhel = “foreign-Gael”, often referring to the people living in P.D. Galloway.

    First there’s the rí Gall Gaidhel, namely Suibne mac Cináeda, and later Roland fitz Uhtred, aka Lochlann mac Uchtraigh:

    T1034.3 Suibne mac Cinaetha, rí Gall-Gáedel
    LC1034.8 Suibhne mac Cinoetha, rí Gall Goeidil
    U1034.10 Suibne m. Cinaedha, ri Gall-Gaidhel

    LC1199.11 Rolant mac Uchtraich, rí Gall Ghoeidel
    U1200.6 Rollant, mac Uchtraigh, rí Gall Gaidhel

    but almost immediately the son of the king is also just mac Gall Gaidhel (which is breaking my brain, because the recorded successor to Roland/Lochlann was his son Alan… Could this be another case of one name for the Normans and another completely different one for the Gaels?)

    FM1209.4 Toirbheand mac righ Gall-Gaoidhel
    LC1210.11 Toirberd mac Gall Ghoeidhil, reachtaire do reachtairibh h-I Conchobhair
    U1211.3 Toibeard, mac Gall Gaoidhil
    LC1211.5 Toirberd mac Gall Ghaoideil

    But by the mid-14C there are completely unambiguous uses of this name in a non-regal context — although I don’t know we can tell from this alone whether it’s a patronym (son of a man named GallGaidhel), a surname, or a given name in its own right (Son of Galloway). Certainly the CELT transcriptions imply that someone thought it was one of the last two, and the context in FM looks like it was a surname.

    FM1355.1 Mac Gallghaoidhil prioir na Trinoide
    U1352.6 (1355) Prioir na Trinoide, Mac Gall Gaidhil
    LC1355.20 Mac Gall-Gaidhil, abb na Trinnoitti
    Co1355.21 Mac Gallgaidil abb na Trinoite

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.