Donelly Surname Origin
Gaelic and Celtic.
A great man, a proud chieftain, from Domhnull. These names appear to have their root in the Gaelic noun Dion, a defense, shelter, protection. The verb Dion signifies to defend, to protect. Dun has nearly the same meaning, a heap, a hill, or mount, a fortified house or hill, a castle. Surnames compounded of Dion, Don, or Dun, were figuratively used to denote persons of courage, and who were not easily subdued.
Source: An Etymological Dictionary of Family and Christian Names With an Essay on their Derivation and Import; Arthur, William, M.A.; New York, NY: Sheldon, Blake, Bleeker & CO., 1857.
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