This surname which is most common in County Limerick and County Cork, derives from that of the Munster sept which was called O'Luingeachan or O'Leannachain. Most of the families however, that reside in Connacht, probably descend from the sept named O'Leannachain, which was located in County Roscommon. Many variants of the name are recorded which include Lenaghan, Lenaghen, Lennehan, and Linehan. The associated coat of arms is recorded in Sir Bernard Burkes General Armory. Ulster King of Arms in 1884. They were registered in Limerick, and granted to Maurice Lenihan Esq. JP. of that city, son of James Lenihan, Esq, of County Waterford and their descendants. Ireland was one of the earliest countries to evolve a system of hereditary surnames. They came into being fairly generally in the 11th century, and indeed a few were formed before the year 1000. The Irish prefixes of Mac (son of) and O (grandson or descendant of) gave rise at an early date, to a set of fixed hereditary names in which the literal patronymic meaning was lost or obscured. These surnames originally signified membership of a clan, but with the passage of time, the clan system became less distinct, and surnames came to identify membership of what is called a 'sept' of people all living in the same locality, all bearing the same surname, but not necessarily descended from a common ancestor. Adoption of the name by people who did not otherwise have a surname and by their dependents was not uncommon. Later, nicknames were in some cases to supersede the original clan names. The rise of surnames, according to the accepted theory, was due to the Norman Conquest of 1066 when Old English personal-names were rapidly superseded by the new christian names introduced by the Normans. Of these, only a few were really popular and in the 12th century this scarcity of christian names led to the increasing use of surnames to distinguish the numerous individuals of the same name. Some Normans had hereditary surnames before they came to England, but there is evidence that surnames would have developed in England even had there been no Norman Conquest. The development of the feudal system made it essential that the king should know exactly what service each person owed. Payments to and by the exchequer required that debtors and creditors should be particularized, and it became official that each individual acquired exact identification.
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