The Surnames Kilpatrick & Kirkpatrick
Hereditary surnames came into being somewhat earlier in Ireland than in most European countries.  About 950 AD the leaders of the great clans in Ireland adopted the practice of calling themselves the O'Neills and the O'Donnells.  This use of surnames was soon rendered universal by a law that Brian Boru passed in 965 AD.  It stated that every family should take a surname from some distinguished ancestor and so from that day began the era of the Mac's and the O's.  Mac means "son of" and 0 means grandson of".

 After a time, people began adopting surnames from other sources.  A few of the more common sources were: 

1)  a person's religious faith 
2)  his occupation (Carpenter, Cook, Miller, Taylor) 
3)  his personal characteristics (Small, Long, Fox, Little) 
4)  after his father's name (Williamson, Jackson, Johnson) 
5)  taken from the name of a geographical location or the place where
      the person lived (Brook, Overhill)

 People with the name Kilpatrick could have come by their name through two of the above sources.  The name could-stem from: 

1) a man's religious faith
2) it could have been taken from the place of his abode. 

These are explained as follows:

 I. Religious Faith

Kil- could have evolved from Gil- or Gilla-, the Gaelic word for servant.  Through this line, people now named Kilpatrick descended from Gilpatricks or MacGillapatricks.  The change from MaeGillapatrick to Kilpatrick took centuries.

The original MacGillapatricks were named due to the strength of their belief in the faith of St. Patrick.  They were followers; or devotees, or in the humble Christian sense, servants of the apostle of Ireland, St. Patrick.  Hence, Kilpatrick translates as "followers of St. Patrick".

 II. Geographical Source

The Kilpatrick name could be derived from the Gaelic word Cil or Kil meaning a hermits cell or church dedicated to St. Patrick.  Since early Christian times there must have been hundreds of Churches in Ireland and Scotland called St. Patrick.  There are now at least 22 townlands and four parishes in Ireland named Kilpatrick.  There are also localities in Scotland called Kilpatrick.

 People who lived at a place called Kilpatrick may have been known as, say, William of Kilpatrick or Humphrey of Kilpatrick* later the name simply became William Kilpatrick or Humphrey Kilpatrick.  In this way someone could come by the surname Kilpatrick but not actually be a descendent of the MacGillapatrick clan.

The first of this type name to be found is Stevene de Kilpatric del counte de Dumfries (Stephen of Kilpatrick of the County of Dumfries) who rendered homage to the English crown in 1296 and had his lands restored.  Nigel Kilpatrick was a Scots prisoner of war confined in Kenilworth Castle in 1302.  Thomas de Kylpatrick was rector of the Church of Suthek in 1468.

 Incidentally, Kirk is the old Middle English word for church so Kilpatrick and Kirkpatrick can mean the same thing. and have often been used interchangeably.

Although Kilpatrick may be either of Irish or Scottish derivation, Kirkpatrick is entirely of Scottish origin.  As the word Kirk is often used to mean the Presbyterian Faith stemming from the Scottish Reformation, the name Kirkpatrick sounds more definitely Protestant.

Similarly because Kil- is derived from Gaelic, the ancient language of Ireland, the name Kilpatrick has at times been mistakenly thought of as more definitely Catholic.  However most (but not all) Kilpatricks in 
Ireland are Protestants.

So in summary, there are two possible sources of the surname Kilpatrick:

1)   It evolved from the surname MacGillapatrick meaning son of the 
       servant of St. Patrick.

 2)   It evolved due to a person's place of abode being near a church 
       dedicated to St. Patrick and called Kilpatrick.


*Humphrey of Kilpatrick was a real person living between the estuary of the River Clyde and Loch Lomond in what is now Dunbartonshire in Scotland.  He was granted land in an area known as Colquhoun by Malcolm Earl of Lennox in the reign of Alexander II.  He then became known as Humphrey Kilpatrick of Colquhoun.  His descendants later adopted the surname of Colquhoun, thus the Colquhouns descended from Kilpatricks and anyone of Scotch-Irish descent with the surname Kilpatrick may wear the Colquhoun clan tartan.  Their badge is a Stags Head with the motto Si Je Puis (If I Can).
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