Allen surname history

Allen has two quite distinct origins, one Scots-Gaelic, the other French. Ailin, meaning "little rock", is the root of the Scottish name, originally MacAllan. The first recorded arrivals bearing the Scottish name came in the fifteenth century, as hired soldiers ("gallowglasses") imported to Donegal by the O'Donnells, and the migrations of the following two centuries brought many more. In other cases, the surname derives from the old Breton personal name Alan, which in turn came from the Germanic tribal name Alemannus, meaning "all men". The same root provided the modern French name for Germany, Allemagne. Followers of the invading Normans were the first to carry the Breton version of the name to Ireland. Irish families bearing the name may be of either origin, though the fact that two-thirds of the Allens are to be found in Ulster - they are especially numerous in counties Antrim and Armagh - suggests that the majority are of Scottish extraction.

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