Madden is the anglicised version of the Irish O Madaidhin, from a diminutive of madadh, meaning "hound". The individual from whom the Maddens claim descent was Madudan, son of Gadhra Mor, who was killed in 1008. The family were part of the Ui Maine tribal grouping based in east Co. Galway; their territory extended across the river Shannon into what is now Co. Offaly. Madden strongholds are recorded at Meelick, Cloghan, in Co. Offaly, and Derryhivenny, near Portumna. Their hegemony in the area was not seriously challenged until the English incursions of the 16th century; Lord Deputy Sussex captured Meelick Castle in 1557. It was destroyed in 1595, as was Cloghan castle, in a bloody campaign which resulted in the death of many of the O?Maddens. They retained power until the final confiscations of the late seventeenth century - Derryhivenny was built as late as 1643 - but had lost all by the start of the 18th century. Nonetheless the family remained numerous in the area, and even today, the surname is by far most frequent in east Galway.
A branch of the family moved south to the Clare/Limerick region in early times, and anglicised their name as "Madigan", and this separate surname is also still most strongly associated with its original homeland.
Another Madden family, from Oxfordshire in England, settled in Co. Kildare in the sixteenth century, and gave their name to the village of Maddenstown. A debate still continues as to whether this family are in fact descended from Irish emigrants.
The name of the family is inscribed in the placenames of their locality, with Claremadden in Kilquain parish, and Gortymadden in Abbeygormacan, both in Co. Galway, and Carrigmadden in Youghalarra, in nearby north Tipperary.
. The most famous bearer of the name was Richard Robert Madden (1798-1886), doctor, traveler, historian and fervent opponent of the slave trade. He was the author of the monumental and hagiographic 7-volume The United Irishmen: their lives and times (1842-1846).
His son Thomas More Madden (1844 - 1902) was also a well-known writer.