Clooney Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Clooney Surname Meaning

The origin of the Clooney name in Ireland is uncertain. 

It could be a sept name or it could be a place name. There are Clooney place names in county Clare and in Derry in Ulster.  Alternatively, there was a sept in Wexford where the name was found as Cloney or Clowney. The first chieftain here was thought to have gone by the name of Cluana meaning “quick-witted.” 

The names Clooney and Cloney are found today, as are some other variants.

Clooney Surname Resources on The Internet

Clooney Surname Ancestry

  • from Ireland (Leinster)
  • to America

Ireland.  Records exist of a man named Teag McCluin living at Quin in county Clare in 1542.  The Clooney church and graveyard existed there.  But hardly any Clooneys.

The name did appear in Wexford.  The birth of William Cloney was recorded in Tominerly in 1676. Thomas Cloney, later Clooney, was one of the Wexford leaders of the Irish Rebellion in 1798.  He was captured, threatened with execution and transportation, but was one of the few to survive and lead the rest of his life in Ireland.  He lived in Kilkenny where he died in 1850.  There is a monument to him outside Barntown castle near Wexford.

Later references to Clooneys in Wexford were:

  • Thomas Clooney of Dungulph who was appointed an officer of health in 1832
  • Clooney families of Kilmore and St. Margaret’s who were recorded in Giffith’s Valuation in mid-century
  • and Maurice Clooney who emigrated to Australia in 1879.

Clooneys were also to be found in Kilkenny. Nicholas Clooney was a small farmer who was assaulted on his land in 1852 and harassed through the court system.  He decided to emigrate.   Another Clooney family lived at Mooncoin and they had a son who emigrated to San Francisco at the turn of the century.

America.  Both Clooneys and Cloneys came to America, albeit in small numbers and were to be found in the big cities such as Boston and New York. 

Cloneys initially outnumbered Clooneys.  Thomas Cloney from Wexford came to Boston in the 1830’s.  Will Cloney, born just outside Boston in 1912, was a sports writer who was the race director of the Boston marathon from 1946 to 1982.

However, the most well-known Clooney family in America hailed from Kentucky, the descendants of Irish immigrant Nicholas Clooney in the 1850’s.  His descendants have included:

  • Rosemary Clooney, the 1950’s cabaret singer and actress.
  • and her nephew George Clooney, the film actor and director.

George Clooney’s Ancestry

The actor George Clooney has roots in the small town of Maysville in northern Kentucky.  Just click below if you want to read more about this story:

Clooney Names

  • Thomas Cloney was one of the leaders of the 1798 Irish Rebellion.
  • Rosemary Clooney was a well-known cabaret singer and actress of the 1950’s.
  • George Clooney is an American film actor and director.

Clooney Numbers Today

  • 300 in the UK (most numerous in London)
  • 300 in America (most numerous in Massachusetts)
  • 700 elsewhere (most numerous in Ireland)

Clooney and Like Surnames

These are surnames which have a small number of people bearing that name but are included here – for the curiosity of the name, its history, or because of some famous person who bears that name.



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Written by Colin Shelley

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