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Pronunciation of McGough
After our 1998 visit to county Monaghan in Ireland, where the majority of natives pronounce McGough as something close to McGue, we returned to Dublin to catch a plane back to the United States. Upon arriving at our motel near the airport the evening before our morning flight, I told the clerk that the McGues had arrived. The response: "Sir, in Ireland we pronounce that name McGoff." "Not so" I responded. A lively debate followed, but I found that some of the relatively few McGoughs in Dublin pronounce the name McGoff. My conclusion was the Dubliners are not necessarily experts on pronunciation of names that originated in county Monaghan or the other traditional counties of Ulster. I later found that many McGoughs in counties Mayo and Galway do pronounce the name McGoff.
Genealogymagazine.com has published a Surname List that gives the pronunciation of many surnames collected by the authors over 37 years. The article is a continuation of Surnames Sound a Challenge for Researchers by Gary R. Toms and James Pylanton on Genealogy.com. With the caution that the pronunciations are localized, and a surname may occur under a more common pronunciation elsewhere, the list says:
McGough= muh gew
This is close to the way our family pronounces the name, and is a rough equivalent of the most common pronunciation in both Ireland and the United States. My first name and last name, Hugh McGough, rhyme. (This was not true of the name of the former president of E. V. Durling’s My-Name-is-a-Poem Club, Hugh Blue. Blue rhymes with magoo, not McGue.) In July, 2003, my wife received a letter addressed to Teel Magyoo. This is a pretty good phonetic equivalent of our pronunciation of McGough.
Here is part of a scholarly list of common surnames in Ulster, Sloinnte Gaelacha in Ultaibh:
Mac Eochadha —McGeough (S Armagh)
Pron. (without preceeding forename) ma-gau'-a (S Armagh, SÓhA)
?? McHugh (S Armagh)
Pron. (without preceeding forename) ma-koh (S Armagh, SÓhA)
McGough is an anglicization of the Irish Mac Eochaidh (or, more properly, the genitive Mac Eochadha), pronounced in Irish mag yeo'hee, yo'he, or ughy (with a long u: yew-e). See Origins of the Surname McGough on this website, under the subheading Yeo'heeMcEohee. John O'Mahony, in an annotation to his translation of The History of Ireland by Geoffrey Keating, says that the ancient Irish name Eocaidh Abra-Ruadh is pronounced "Oghee Avra Rue i.e. Eochaidh of the red brows." (Note 9 to chapter I of book I, page 84.)
The name of Garrett McEohee is listed in An Index to the Rebels of 1641 in the County Monaghan Depositions by Donald M. Schlegel (1995 Clogher Record, page 95). The entry in the depositions (page 179b) is: "Garrett McEohee kept some goods of Elizabeth Williams of Carrickmacross." McEohee is a phonetic spelling of Mac Eochhaidh or Mac Eochadha. The G in McGough comes from the Mac, which is usually pronounced Mag in front of a soft vowel.
The pronunciation of McGough varies from family to family, and sometimes from person to person within a family. This page explores several variations in pronunciation. Many families in the United States have changed the English spelling of McGough to something more pronounceable in English, such as McGue, McGoff, and McGuff. See my page Distribution of McGoughs in the United States.
My page on the Origins of the Surname McGough discusses the history of our family name, and is a helpful supplement to this page. For a variety of pronunciations of the name, go to Edward McGough's excellent Clan McGough website and click on View Guest Book (and wade through the spam).
In Scotland, prounciation of the name is somewhat different. Here is part of an email of February 8, 2009, from Gerard McGeough of Glasgow, Scotland:
"My name is Gerard McGeough ( McGeoch ), and hail from Glasgow Scotland, 3rd generation Irish. May I just clarify some things....
the surname McGeough is pronounced Mick- Gyo
McGeoch is Mick-Gee och
McGough (Anglified) is Mick-Goff.
"There may be some regional difference with the Scots accent. But remember that the American accent is unable to pronunciate standard english words as they should be spoken."
"With regards to the Edward McGeough Clan McGeough website, THERE IS NO CLAN MCGEOUGH!!! It's only a family name, a sept from the Clan McFarlane of the Loch Lomond and the Trossachs. We do NOT have a Coat of Arms, but may use the McFarlane Coat of Arms."
English clerks faced with the problem of converting the Irish name pronounced something like mag yeo-hee had several options available in English to express the yeo-hee sound. Commonly chosen were ough, eough, or eogh. (McGough, McGeough, or McGeogh, all originally interchangeable English versions of the same name.) Others were oughy, eoghe, oagh, augh, eagh, ogh, hugh, eoacha, eochy, eoch, eoy, and oey. See the various historical spellings of the townland of Bally Mageogh in county Down that are set out in my page Where the Mountains of Mourne Sweep Down to the SeaBallymageogh and Slievemageogh in County Down. The pronunciation of the name and its various spellings are intertwined. See also Spelling of McGough.
Keep in mind that, just because the surnames of two families are both derived from Eochaidh, it does not follow that there is any blood relationship between the two families. Irish surnames were derived from the first names of a father or grandfather. Eochaidh was a popular first name in Ireland when permanent surnames first came into use. See Origins of the Surname McGough.
The use of ough in the spelling of the surname is not much help to a reader trying to pronounce it. To quote Fowler:
"9. OUGH This combination of letters has deservedly become the classic example of the notorious inconsequence of English spelling. There are nine different ways of saying it ..."and a tenth if you include hiccough. H. W. Fowler, A Dictionary of Modern English Usage, under "pronunciation."
Rick Sutcliffe, on his web page Opundo, under "English pronouncements," comes up with twenty ways to pronounce ough, augh, or eugh:
"The combination 'ough' can be pronounced in fourteen different ways.
1. awe: thought, bought, fought, brought, ought, sought, nought, wrought
2. uff: enough, rough, tough, slough, Clough, chough
3. ooh: through, slough
4. oh: though, although, dough, doughnut, brougham, Ough, furlough, Greenough, thorough
5. off: cough, trough
6. ow: bough, plough, sough
7. ou: drought, doughty, Stoughton
8. uh: Scarborough, borough, thorough (alt), thoroughbred, Macdonough, Poughkeepsie
9. up: hiccoughed
10. oth: trough (alt)
11. ock: lough, hough
12. oc[h] (aspirated): lough
13. ahf: Gough
14. og: Coughlin (also #5)
"The following sentence contains them all:
Rough-coated, dough-faced, thoughtful ploughman John Gough strode through the streets of Scarborough; after falling into a slough on Coughlin road near the lough (dry due to drought), he coughed and hiccoughed, then checked his horse's houghs and washed up in a trough.
Note: Loughborough is #2, followed by #8
"By contrast, I can only find seven ways to pronounce the combination "augh" though confusion is restored because four of these duplicate ones of the above.
1. awe: aught, caught, daughter, distraught, faugh, fraught, haughty, naught, onslaught, usquebaugh
5. off: Laughlin
11. ock: haugh, saugh
13. ahf: draught, laugh
15. ack: kiaugh, saugh (alt)
16: ugh: Taughanok [i.e Taughannock pronounced ahg*]
17: ah: usquebaugh (alt)
The following sentence contains them all:
Saugh-faced, haughty John Laughlin, from a haugh by Taughanock Falls*, had a merry laugh when he'd been into the usquebaugh.
["saugh" = sallow; "haugh" = a corner of land; "usquebaugh" = whiskey.]
"There are only two words in Merriam-Webster with the combination "eugh" and they generate three pronunciations:
18. oog: Breughel
19. oig: Breughel (alt)
20. uk: sleugh"
*Taughannock Falls is located in Ulysses, New York, between the village of Trumansburg and the city of Ithaca, near where the Taughannock River flows into the western edge of Cayuga Lake. The falls' cataract has a drop of 215 feet—one of the longest drops east of the Rocky Mountains. John R. Levine uses the name Taughannock Networks for one of his businesses. He is the author of several books about the Internet, including the best-selling Internet for Dummies and the new Fighting Spam for Dummies. He is the mayor of Trumansburg and, more importantly, a friend of my daughter, Nancy McGough. John R. Levine comments on the pronunciation of Taughannock: "It's pronounced like it's spelled, Tah-GANN-ock."
For an amusing poem, see English pronunciation—The Chaos, and word search for ough. On this page is this sentence:
"12 Ways to pronounce -ough. (From an English newspaper in the 1940s—adapted):
"A rough-coated, dough-faced ploughman, called Ayscough (pronounced Askew), slapped his horse on the hough (hock) as he rode through the streets of Willsborough, coughing and hiccoughing thoughtfully, while the wind was soughing (Oxford Dictionary 'sooching') through the lough."
Carolyn McGough Rowe, author of A Glimpse of the Past: Descendants of Robert McGough b. 1725 Northern Ireland, in an email of January 20, 2000, told me:
"Our line pronounces the name 'McGue'. Everyone from Walker Co, AL pronounces it the same. From the descendants of Robert McGough, you get everything from 'McGoo, McGeer, McGow, McGue & McGoff'. William Carson McGough who settled McGough Springs in Eastland TX pronounced it 'McGue' also. His cattle brand was 'GUE'. The Montgomery, AL line uses 'McGoo'. The Union CO, Ark bunch uses 'McGeer'."
Edward McGough of Texarkana, Texas, also a descendant of Robert McGough of county Down, on his website, McGough, says:
"We pronounce our name as to rhyme with you."
Here are excerpts from an email message from Bob Parrott (with links added), set out more fully under The Will of Robert McGough (1827) under Odds and Ends:
"Subject: McGough to rhyme with 'dew'
"I am a g-g-grandson of Mary McGough Armstrong (1793-1885), a daughter of Robert McGough (17631827)Robert was a brother of John McGough featured in the McGough page created by Carole Scott, and mentioned in your section on a Scots-Irish John McGough. Robert and John (and their siblings, William, Mary, Isabella and Sarah) were the children of Robert McGough Sr (ca 17251778). I have extensive records on the descendants of Robert McGough and William McGough. Records on the descendants of John McGough are already well known on the Internet. My point: my g-g-grandmother Mary McGough Armstrong, described in the family as a 'rich old Irish woman,' lived her last years in the home of my grandparents, John and Alda Parrott, in LouisianaAlda was old Mary's favorite granddaughter, among a company of 60 grandchildren. Old Mary died at age 91 in the Parrott home. My father (born in 1874) remembered the winters of 188384 and 188485 when he and his brothers/sisters listed to old Mary around the winter firelight as she told them stories about her early life, and also stories she remembered from her father (Robert McGough) as he told his grandparents' stories of Ireland, including an account of the sea voyage from Newry/Portadown to S Carolina. He remembered that she described the 'green, green Mountains of Mourne.' And she instructed her g-grandchildren carefully that the name McGough 'rhymes with dew.'"
On a visit to the west of Ireland in 1988, we found a McGeough living in Ballina, county Mayo, who pronounced the name McGue.
Here is an example of the confusion that arises from the non-intuitive pronunciation of the name: the printed volume of Kentucky Marriage Records, Christian County, 1797-1825, page 128, reports the marriage of John McGue and Polly Brooks on June 22, 1810, in Christian County, Kentucky. John McGough and Robert Means are listed as witnesses to the marriage. The spelling of the groom's name should have been McGough. Carolyn McGough Rowe, in her prodigious work, A Glimpse of the Past: Descendants of Robert McGough. reports at page 78, that John McGough, son of Robert McGough and Agnes "Nancy" McWhorter, married Elizabeth "Polly" Brooks in Christian County, Kentucky, on 26 Jun 1810. For more detail, see Spelling of McGough under "Spellings other than McGough and McGeough."
Anglicized versions of Mac Eochaidh other than McGough may also be pronounced McGue. For example, the web page of Mag Eachaidh: The McGahey Clan says:
"Since Eochaidh and Eochy in Gaelic were pronounced yeo'hee, yo'he, or ughy (with a long u), then McGahey should be pronounced McGyeo'hee, McGyo'he, or McGughy."
The Scots name McGeoch, also derived from Mac Eochaidh, is often pronounced McGue but, perhaps more commonly, McGee-ock. On April 10, 2000, Lyle McGeoch posted this notice on the McGeoch WWW Board (<http://tartan.mcgeoch.com/mcgeoch/>, a dead website that is available on WaybackMachine):
"How exactly is the name McGeoch pronounced around the world? In my branch of the family the pronunciation changed (a long time ago, I suppose) to 'McGue,' with the last part rhyming with 'you.'"
John Noyes posted this message on the same bulletin board on June 6, 2001:
"In Washington County, New York, USA, McGeoch is pronounced - McGue - McGeochs came to America in early 1800s and the name has been pronounced this way ever since. Are you related to these 3 McGeoch brothers, William, John and Alexander, that came separately about 1800 * or - ?"
This pronunciation of McGeoch has, at least once, led to a permanent change of the spelling of the surname to McGue. The web page of the Illinois St. Andrew Society tells this story in its list of Famous, Infamous and Not-So-Famous Scottish-Americans:
"McGue - A corruption of McGeoch. A McGeoch family came to America and settled near Schenectady. One of the older sons enlisted in the state militia. In registering his name, the registrar had difficulty in spelling and articulating it. Finally he said, 'Oh, yes, McGue,' and registered it that way. In that family, the name McGue has been retained, though they are of the same blood as the McGeoch's of Washington Co., NY."
See Distribution of McGoughs in the United States under McGues.
Not all McGeochs pronounce the name McGue. Here is a posting on November 6, 2001, by Gerard McGeoch on The McGeoch WWW Board:
"As you all probably know. The McGeoch's originated in Co. Monaghan in Ireland. Although I was born in Scotland, I still have relatives there. They pronounce it Majoch—Ma-Joch (as in loch)."
Here is an email from Ann McGeough Harney:
"This is the closest to what I believe is correct (as pronounced by Theo McMahonand my Uncle, who was MOST correct in everything). ... Original name is given phonetically, McG Eau, as in the French for water."
Here is part of an email of June 11, 2004, from Sarah McGough:
"What a fun site I stumbled upon when searching for a fellow McGough. I particularly enjoyed the pronunciation page, since I married into the name and still haven't figured out how it should be said. My husband's family from central Ohio pronounces it MiGo with a short i sound like "limb" and long o, like 'Go to bed'. We live in central Illinois now and have yet to stumble across any McGoughs or anything similar."
Here is an email of May 28, 2005, from Jackie McGeough King:
"I was a McGeough for 31 years and as a consequence was known by many names. I pronounced it Mi-Go but I always felt that people would pronounce as they pleased. Much to my frustration!"
Here is part of an email of December 30, 2004, from Kate Burke:
"My grandmother was Kathleen McGough from Heronstown Co. Meath which was very good luck for me! When I started to look through all the information offered on your website I noticed only one McGough in Heronstown in 1854 which I presume from the date to have been her grandfather (James McGough).
"We have always pronounced the name Magyo (emphasis on the yo) but do not know a lot otherwise. She had a brother called James McGough who married a lady called Aggie McGlue."
Thomas McGeough, originally from Belfast and now living in Birmingham, England, says in an email of December 29, 1999:
"[I] have heard my name pronounced everything from Mcgoff to to Mcgee-oke. Our Family pronounces our name, McGeeyoo, and says it fast."
In a follow up of June 10, 2003, he says:
My name is Tomás McGeough and I sent you an e-mail 29 December 1999 about how my family pronounce our name, which you kindly posted.
I stated we say Mc Gee-Yoo and say it fast. Well since reading your pages and understanding the pronunciation of MagEochaidh (mac yo hee) I understand what we are really saying is 'mac yo'. We say it fast so it sounds like 'mcgeeyo' I suppose when our name was Anglicised they just dropped the 'hee'.
I hope my comment is of value and worthy of an update on your site.
Tomás MagEochaidh / Tommy McGeough
Mike McGoey of New Orleans makes this comment on the pronunciation of their family name:
"The McGoey family in New Orleans from 'Uptown' and 'Mid-City' pronounce the name Ma Go ee, with a long 'O'. The branch from the Ninth Ward pronounce the name Ma Gu ee, with a long 'U'. Pronunciations are consistent with pronunciations described on the magoo.com site for McGoey/McGeoy/McGough. The site describes the Ma Go ee version as mag yeohee and the Ma Gu ee version as mag ughy. Interestingly enough, part of the uptown branch were descended from Charles J. McGoey and his second wife, Marie Shields. The Ninth Ward branch are descended from Charles J. McGoey and his first wife, Jane Graham."
See my page McGeoy/McGoey/McGouey under "New Orleans McGoeys."
One authority tells us:
"The name, McGough, can't be pronounced - in the past it was often pronounced McGoo to rhyme with through. A thousand years ago some people knew how to pronounce GH. It is no longer part of English pronunciation." First 500 Most Used Words in Children's Literature.
Marianne McGough of western Kentucky, says:
"I don't know that I've ever met another with my same last name outside of my family, so I also didn't realize there were so many pronunciations of the name. We pronounce it MaGoo, and I'm constantly bombarded with people asking if my father is 'Mr. Magoo.' I just tell them 'of course' and there's no more discussion." (email of July 27, 2000).
"So far as I know, we have always used 'magoo.' There is only the one branch from my grandfather left ... so there are no regional variations or anything like that. My grandfather still lives in Montgomery, Alabama. His first wife died in 1998. My father and his children are all scattered throughout western Kentucky. My uncle and his children are all in and around Birmingham. I think we're all that's left of this particular branch of McGoughs, and we all pronounce it the same way. I've tried to change it a little to put more emphasis on the "mc" because so many people have trouble understanding what it is when said quickly, but I was hounded mercilessly by other family members." (email of July 29, 2000).
An aunt of Edward McGough, Betty McGough Brady, is quoted in Edward McGough's website as follows:
"We pronounce our name 'McGoo', there is a family who live in Birmingham now and could have come from Selma who pronounce theirs as in 'cough'. They have a large bakery in Birmingham. My brother knows him and he feels we must be related even though the name is pronounced differently."
Mick McGeough, a referee in the National Hockey League, has earned the nickname "Mr. Magoo." The LCS Guide to Hockey says that "referee Mick McGeough [is] nicknamed Mr. Magoo due to his uncanny ability to lose sight of the puck." Rob "Magoo" McGough is a 1992 graduate of the University of Virginia. Rebecca S. (MaGoo) McGough is a 1993 graduate of Cedar Crest College of Allentown, PA. The nickname of James Robert McGough, a 1999 graduate with high honors of Prescott High School, Nevada County, Arkansas is James "Goo" McGough.
"Magoo.com" may not have been the best choice for the domain name of this website because "magoo" is a mispronunciation of our family name that we call McGue. For more on the "magoo" nickname, go to my web page: What is a Magoo?
In an email of July 19, 2005, from John McGough (William John McGough, Jr.) of Charlotte, North Carolina, says:
"It seems the name Magoo is either a typical pronunciation or typical nickname. I have been called Magoo (nickname) since I was a child. My Grandfather McGough was called Magoo and Mac and my father was called Magoo throughout his lifetime. Our family has its roots in Western Pennsylvania (specifically Sharon, PA). The family pronounces the last name Mc Gow (though the spelling). I was in Dublin four years ago after the death of my father and while I was there I had a number of locals correct me in the pronunciation of the name and their version was Mc Guff. I use it occasionally."
Here is part of an email of July 5, 2005, from James McGough of Lake Charles, Louisiana:
"We pronounce it Mac GUU but of course the southern dialect, and the cartoon, has transformed it into Magoo."
See my page: What's a Magoo? A Magoozle? A McGoozle?
Tom Schoeck of Slingerlands, New York, tells me that his paternal great-grandmother was a McGeough who gave birth to his grandfather, John Edward Schoeck, in the Baltimore area about 1890–1900. "She and her kinfolk pronounced it m'GOO-ey, according to my Dad."
If I heard correctly in a telephone call in 1998 from Edward McGough of Edinburgh, Scotland, he pronounces his name "McGe u k" with a combination of a long "e" and long "o", a "u" that is almost long, and a soft "ach" at the end. He says he also uses McGoff. In a subsequent fax of August 17, 1998, he explains the pronunciation more poetically:
"My family accept ‘McGoff’ although it is music to the ears when our original name is given phonetically, McG Eau, as in the French for water, and "ch" softly as in Scottish ‘loch’."
Here is an email message from a fellow Seattleite, Marsha McGough:
"I saw your web site and I had to write. I am a McGough descended from the Robert and Mary Carson McGough described in your section, 'A Scots-Irish John McGough.' So if you and I are related, it must have been in Ireland, I take it. But I've enjoyed your web site. Since my childhood nickname was 'Marshmallow MaGoo,' I laughed at your 'Magoo' references. My grandparents pronounced it McGue, but my father changed it to McGow."
Daniel McGeough of Seattle and his family pronounce the name McGow. Here is an email of March 27, 2002, from Jamie Burke Clark, a cousin of Dan's:
"Another thing re: McGeough pronunciation. Just as Ann Harney wrote, our McGeough's pronounce their name as rhyming with McGeau (I'eau Fr. Water). When I first spoke to Ann many years ago, I asked her how she pronounced it and it was exactly how we did. My grandmother Mary Catharine McGeough Mayer lived with our family and she was a stickler for the correct pronunciation. She was graduated from Hunter Normal College in 1907 where she said she had a professor by the same name who insisted on calling her McGough! She added that it was no surprise to her that he was a Protestant and probably really Scottish! She claimed that her McGeough's were always well read and they certainly knew how to pronounce their own names! To further emphasize the point she would say: 'I'm a McGeough - don't you know!'
"Just as an aside, Danny [Daniel McGeough of Seattle] pronounces his name MA Gow as in cow. My grandmother always bristled at that pronunciation and blames it on Danny's grandmother who was widowed early in her marriage to my grandmother's brother Arthur. ...
"So as you can see the pronunciation debate could be a book unto itself!"
Jamie's grandmother was Mary Catharine McGeough who was born in New York on June 12, 1885. Mary Catherine's parents were John Joseph McGeough and Bridget E. Moan who were married on February 2, 1875, in Saint Mary's Church at Urbleshanny, Scotstown, Tydavnet parish, county Monaghan, and came to the United States in 1881 or 1882. John Joseph's father was Arthur McGeough who, in 1860, is shown by Griffith's Valuation as possessing property in the townland of Mullaghselsana, parish of Errigal Trough, county Monaghan. (Line 383 on my web page: McGoughs, McGeoughs, and McGeoghs in Ireland in the 182030s and 185060s: By County, Parish, and Townland.) Daniel McGeough (McGow) of Seattle is the grandson of Arthur McGeough and Josephine Looney. Arthur McGeough was the brother of Mary Catherine McGeough. Both were children of John Joseph McGeough and Bridget E. Moan. For more on this family, see Hugh McGeough [1940?] in Hugh McGoughs in History.
Here is an email of April 24, 2005, from Rod McGough of Mesa, Arizona:
"I'm ashamed to say it, but when we moved to Arizona, we changed the pronunciation to rhyme with cow as so many McGough's out here had that pronunciation as well. I had enough trouble as a child with my stuttering and saying our last name, and as you well know, it's often associated with 'Mr. Magoo'. But somehow knowing that I'm partly of Irish descent makes me want to say it the right way."
Here is part of a message posted on the Clan McGough website on Jauary 8, 2008:
"I am John Bradshaw, grandson of Marion McGough of Morton, Ms., descendent of Robert and Matilda McGough. We pronounce the name McGear."
Surnames of Upper Creggan (South Armagh) is a web page that includes tables showing the phonetic versions of Gaelic names in south Armagh. The data is taken from Éamonn Ó Tuathail, "The surnames of the parish of Upper Creggan (South Armagh)", Béaloideas 3 (1932) 401–8. Here is the entry for McGeough:
McGeough = ma-gau'-a.
au is pronounced as in naught or taught; a is pronounced as in bat or that. Key to O'Growney Phonetics.
Sloinnte Gaelacha in Ultaibh, on the same website (Acmhainní Gaedhilge—Goireasan Gàidhlig—Gaelic resources by Ciarán Ó Duibhín), expands the possibilities of pronunciation to McHugh and ma-koh:
Mac Eochadha = McGeough (S Armagh); Pron. (without preceeding forename) ma-gau'-a (S Armagh, SÓhA); ?? McHugh (S Armagh); Pron. (without preceeding forename) ma-koh (S Armagh, SÓhA)
Sherry McGough of Texas, in an email of February 19, 2002, says:
" My dad, Joseph Reece McGough was in the army for 22 years. Everyone called him Sgt 'McGow', but my dad has always said 'McGaw'. Growing up, I never knew what to say when people asked me how I say my last name!"
The surname McGough is an anglicized form of the Gaelic mag Eochadha or mag Eochy. See Origins of the Surname McGough and Spelling of McGough. The Gaelic pronunciation was close to mag yeo'hee or mag ughy (yew-ee). One source says that the English phonetic equivalent of the old Irish "Eochaid" is Eohee. This would make the pronunciation of Mac Eochaid Mag Eoheeclose to the pronunciation our family has always given the nameMcGue. Indeed, in county Monaghan, most of the old time residents told me that they would pronounce the name mag-you but they they would put an e in it. Indeed, in modern times, apparently as a result of a re-Gaelicization effort, many Irish McGoughs have put an e in the spelling of the name. See Spelling of McGough. When the name was anglicized, many English trained clerks made the name look like the English-Welsh name Gough, which is pronounced Goff, and the pronunciation of McGough has often followed the spellingMcGoff. McGoff or McGuff are common ways of pronouncing the name in the United States. In counties Monaghan and Louth, and the counties of Ulster, we usually hear McGueor something close to mag yeo'hee. In southern Ireland, where the name is not common, it is more often pronounced McGoff. In counties Mayo and Galway, where the name is more frequently found, the usual pronunciation seems to be McGoff.
McGoff or McGuff are common pronunciations of the name in the United States. I believe that this pronunciation arises from the fact that the name looks as if it is a form of the English-Welsh Gough, an unrelated family whose surname is pronounced Goff. The origin of McGough, however, as we have seen above, is not the Welsh Gough, but is the Gaelic Mag Eochadha or Mag Eochy. Since Eochaidh and Eochy in Gaelic were pronounced yeo'hee, yo'he, or ughy (with a long u), then McGough should be pronounced McGyeo'hee, McGyo'he, or McGughy. Pronunciations of McGough that I have heard include include all possible combinations of McGue, McGuff, McGoff, McGoke, McGow and McGyow. As to McGeough, Anne McGeough Harney says: "In Monaghan one pronounced the name like McGyo; 20 miles north, a friend said, ‘yes, McGyok’." I heard only McGue in Belfast, where the name is not common. (The family physician of a manager of the residential hotel in which we stayed was "Doctor McGough," pronounced McGue.)
Here is an email message from Mike McGough of Haggerstown, Maryland:
"My dad's brother, Thomas Joseph McGough was a Catholic priest for more than 60 years in the Diocese of Harrisburg, PAdied a year ago (around 9197) at age 96. Back in the 1970's dad and Msgr. Tom visited the family homestead in Carrickmacrosswest of Dundalkverifying various family details. As with your branch, the name was McGeough (pronounced McGue) in Ireland. However, for the past hundred years, it's been McGoff here in the U.S."
Carole E. Scott gives an account of the Robert McGough family who emigrated to North Carolina from Newry, county Down, in 1773, on The McGough Family Page. She says in the first paragraph of her web page:
"The McGough family was a Scotch-Irish family from County Down, Northern Ireland. (Scotch-Irish is an American term. In the United Kingdom, Scotch is whiskey. People are Scots.) There their name was probably pronounced so that it rhymed with 'cough'. It was originally spelled 'McGeough' and means son of Geough."
This is the same family in which Mary McGough Armstrong, great-great grandmother of Bob Parrott "instructed her g-grandchildren carefully that the name McGough 'rhymes with dew.'" (See McGue, above.) The majority of the descendants of Robert McGue pronounce the name as something closer to McGue than McGoff.
Here is part of an email of April 29, 2005, from Patrick McGough, a great-grandson of William and Emma McGough, who are listed in the 1900 census of Cooper township, Webster county, Iowa (See my page: McGoughs in Iowa in the 1900 Census of the United States and the 1915 State Census of Iowa.):
"We pronounce our name like cough. Down here in Georgia where I'm currently located the McGough's tend to pronounce their name like you (McGue). Growing up in Catholic schools with Irish nuns they told me McGough as we pronounce it in Iowa (McGoff) is the correct current Irish pronunciation."
A rhyming dictionary lists these words as rhyming with "stuff":
"1 Syllable: bruff, cluff, cuffe, hough, pluff, schuff, shuff, stough
"2 Syllables: acuff, leboeuf, lebouef, macduff, mcduff, mcgeough, mcgough"
See the preceding section on McGoff.
The Scots surname McGeoch is sometimes written as McGeogh. The traditional pronunciation of McGeoch in Galloway, Scotland, is M'G-yoch. See the email of January 27, 2004 of Bill Copland, on Sct-Wigtownshire-L Archives on RootsWeb.com, where he comments: "Sadly, an increasing number of the younger generation in Galloway use the pronunciatin M'Gee-uch." Peter McGeoch, a famous speculator in wheat and lard in Milwaukee and Chicago, was sometimes mistakenly referred to as Peter McGeogh. See my page: McGoughs and McGues in the 1880 Census of the United States under Wauwatosa; Oak Harbor, Milwaukee county, Wisconsin.
Here is a poem from the Barraclough home page:
The Barraclough Foofarough
We Barracloughs are tough
We Barracloughs are thorough.
Weve shaken every bough,
Weve beaten every borough.
Directories we plough
Are each a very trough
Of Goughs and Houghs
Of Cloughs and Bloughs.
We come down with the cough?
What though we squander dough
And time? It is enough
To know there is no ough
That rhymes with Barraclough.
Here is a "Squeaky-Clean Entry" of October, 1996, in The Toast Point Limerick Contest!:
"There once was a man called McGough
Who, out walking, tripped over a bough.
He said that, although
His leg hurt enough,
He didn't mind limping home to Middlesbrough.
For more fun, go to The OUGH
Song (to be sung to the tune of Comin' Round the
Here is a final test: How do you pronounce Lough Oughter in county Cavan? Oughter, incidentally, means "upper," and has no connection with McGough. Another test: How would you pronounce Cloughoughter outside the town of Cavan? This was the site of the premature death by a "mysterious illness" of Eoghan Rua O'Neill on November 6, 1649, shortly after Oliver Cromwell captured Drogheda. See Livingstone, The Monaghan Story, page 118. This is the site of Clough Oughter Castle, where the remains of Owen Roe O'Neill, Ireland's noblest soldier, are interred.
"In church-yard clay lies Erin's generous Chief,
The Gael's bright flower, this hour of bitter grief,
The trusty hand who ne'er forsook the right,
Leaves Eire's land in danger, dark as night."
Cumha Eoghan Ruaidh Uí NéillLament For Owen Roe O'Neill. The successor to Owen Roe O'Neill as a leader of the Ulster Irish in their fight against Cromwell's forces was Bishop Heber MacMahon, who was captured near Omagh, two days after the English army, under Sir Charles Coote, narrowly defeated the remnants of Owen Roe O'Neill's army at Scariffhollis, county Donegal, on June 21, 1650. Mac Mahon was executed by Coote at Enniskillen shortly after his capture. His head was stuck on a spike at Enniskillen Castle and his trunk buried on Devenish Island. Several historians have described the McGoughs as a sept of the MacMahons. (I disagree. See my page A McGoughMcMahon Connection?)
Openchancanough, (O-pech"un-kä'nO), was the warrior-Indian chief of the Pamunkey Tribe, later chief of The Powhatan Confederacy, AKA Don Luis de Valasco. Younger brother and successor to Chief Powhatan (Wahunsonacock). "Openchancanough" meant "he whose soul is white" in the Algonkian tongue."
Edward McGough of Texarkana, Texas, has developed the excellent Clan McGough website. The site concentrates on descendants of Robert and (Sarah) Matilda Carson McGough who emigrated from county Down, Ireland, through Charleston, South Carolina, to Mecklenburg county, North Carolina, in 1773. See my page: McGoughs in Pre-Revolutionary America: Robert and Sarah Matilda Carson McGough. On the first page of his site, he says: "My name is Edward McGough, we pronounce our name to rhyme with you. There are many ways of pronouncing the name McGough but my family has pronounced it this way at least four generations." Edward maintains a Guest List in which many McGoughs have commented on the pronunciation of the name. Here are excerpts:
"Last semester I took a business course at my university with a Dr. Bill McGough (pronounced Mc-Gow). I had never met anyone with the same spelling." Joe McGough - Santa Cruz, California, whose father was born in Pennsylvania
"We pronounce ours as in 'cough' but other people seem to have great trouble with how to say it!" John Hamilton McGough - Derbyshire, England.
"We pronounce the name by, 'Mc-goo'" A McGough from Dallas, Texas.
"I fully understand the difficulty with our surname, as I pronounce it Mc..Gow, yet everyone else in Western PA prefers Mc..Guff or Mc..Go. As we have 16 pronunciations, yours is probably closest to the Gaelic." Richard McGough III - University of Pittsburgh.
"im from scotland. i pronounce it 'mcgoff' and there are some people say it mcguff. ... my dad sed when he was at school you had to be a good fighter to make them say ure name properly, lol." Graeme mcgough.
"My mother is Genola Jean McGough (pronounced like you) Green." Jamie.
"I am Daniel A. McGough (Pronounced McGoff) I am stationed in Iraq." From North Dakota.
"my name is chris mcgough and my family pronounces gough like 'bow'. nobody gets it right."
"im a McGough (pronounced Mcgoff) from England."
"I descend through Sarah Frances McGough Ogden, daughter of Applis S. Foster and David McGough (son of John McGough and Elizabeth). David McGough was my ggggrandfather. Just to be different from everybody else, I guess, my mother (raised in east Texas) said that her family pronounced McGough to rhyme with McGo where the O has the long O sound." Dolores Blomstrom
"I'm also a descendant of Robert McGough and Sarah Matilda Carson McGough. ... I pronounce it more (McGoff) sorry to my cousins that pronounce is otherwise. Either way, my line is: McGough: Robert Sr. and Sarah Matilda Carson; Robert Jr and Agnes 'Nancy' McWhorter; John and Elizabeth 'Polly' Brooks; William B. and Wealthy Ann Nix; Andrew Jackson and Mary Ann Keeton; George William Washington and Martha Evelyn "Mattie" Davis; Nora Bertha McGough and Thomas Wilson; Williams Thomas Sankey 'Buck' Williams"
Updated September 17, 2010
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