Mackean Mackeen Mckean Mckeen
|Variations on the MacIain name|
The name MacIain has undergone, over the centuries, many spellings and
pronunciations. Iain, sometimes spelled Ian (which is not so correct)
is the Gaelic for John. As in either case the Gaelic Genitive requires the
insertion of an i, Iain is the correct way to spell 'of John'.
Therefore the form Iain is much more correct, and Mackain is more so
than Mackean which is a phonetic spelling of MacIan.
Regarding the Mac, this is sometimes strengthened by the Lowland and Sassenach
writers, when writing these names, by the addition of a K. Thus we get
MacKain, and, in early documents, the spelling Makkane is found.
This addition is found in many other highland names such as Mackay
(Son of Aoidh or Hugh), and Mackintosh (Son of the Chief). This k is only found
when the following letter is a vowel. It is wrong to spell the name with
a capital K in these cases as the patronomic does not begin with a k.
In MacKenzie it would be correct, as this means MacCoinneach (or Son of
In passing it is noteworthy that the next letter after the Mac should properly
be a capital when the second part of the word is a proper name, but a small letter
when the word is a common noun, such as the name of a trade or a profession, as is
often the case. Thus we have MacLaren (Son of St.Lawrence), MacFarlane
(Son of Bartholomew); but Macnab (Son of the Abbot), Macpherson (Son of the
Parson), Macinroy (Son of the Red One, or Red John), and so on.
Thus we have noted how the spelling McKain, MacKain, (or more correctly,
MacKain), and MacKean arises. It should here be stated
that that Mc is the Lowland or Sassenach way of writing a Highland Mac.
Mc is the phonetic spelling of the Gaelic Mhic which is the genitive case
of Mac. So Iain MacAllister McIain (XI Chief of Ardnamurchan) means
'John Son of Alexander (who was) Son of John'. In other words the
Mac-mhic is the equivalent to grandson.
The pronunciation of the name MacIain, be it spelled Mackain, McKain, McKean
etc. , was, if of the Clan Iain of Ardnamurchan, always, as now, Mackain.
Any McKeans or Mackeans who do not pronounce it so, or as Mackeen
are in all probability not of this Clan, but of Lowland or Irish origin, or descended
from some other Mac.
The following are various spellings of the MacIain name:
McKane Acta Dom. Concil. Vol XXVI
Makkane Charter of James IV to John Brayach VI.
Macceain Tomb of John Brayach VI at Iona.
McKaine, McKain, McKean, MacKean Elgin Registers 1667-1679, 1707-1791
McKeun Elgin Town Council Minutes 1671
McKean Elgin Burgess Roll
McKain Will of James McKain, Merchant,1738
MacKain Wadset of 1794 in favour of Barbara and Elspeth MacKain
McKean Edinburgh Registers.