Glücksklee by Miala via Flickr

Could this Irish surname be the next Bailey?

Thanks to April for suggesting one she’s considering for a daughter. Clancy is our Baby Name of the Day.

Clancy comes from an Irish surname, one that traveled a twisted path from his original form to his current state.

Flann Sinna became High King of Ireland in the late 800s, and he reigned for well over three decades. Flann meant red. A handful of names were inspired by Flann:

  • Flynn, via the surname Ó Floinn;
  • Flannery, from flann plus a word meaning valor;
  • Flannchadh, which led to the surname Mac Fhlannchaidh, which was Anglicized as Clancy.

Most will recognize Clancy as Irish instantly thanks to the musical Clancy BrothersPaddy, Tom, Bobby, and Liam. The quartet teamed up with fellow Irishman Tommy Makem, and recorded traditional Irish folk songs. After a 1961 performance on the Ed Sullivan Show, they scored a record deal, a Grammy nomination, and international superstardom. The group had their ups and downs, break-ups and reunions. All four of the brothers have passed away, but some of their children have musical careers of their own.

There are others who have worn Clancy in the first spot and as a surname, including:

  • Fictional police chief Clancy Wiggum on The Simpsons;
  • Best-selling author of spy thrillers, Tom Clancy;
  • Actors Clancy Cooper and Clancy Brown. You might recognize Brown from his turn in The Shawshank Redemption – but your kids know him as the voice of Mr. Krabs on SpongeBob SquarePants;
  • Early Jamaican reggae artist Clancy Eccles, best known as a member of The Dynamites. His son, Clancy Jr., is also a singer;
  • The character Clancy in The Man from Snowy River – adapted for film and television – originated with an 1889 poem by Banjo Paterson in Australia’s The Bulletin, originally titled “Clancy of the Overflow” and apparently based on a real person with the surname Clancy;
  • American football coaches Clancy Barone, currently with the Denver Broncos, and college coach Clancy Pendergast. Kendrick Clancy currently plays for the New Orleans Saints.

It’s tough to get a read on Clancy – he stretches from from the hyper-masculine worlds of the gridiron and espionage to the creative realms of music and theater.

Mostly, Clancy stands out as a kelly green Irish heritage pick. He still feels a tiny bit clunky, closer to Clarence than Connor. Still, Nancy tells us that 12 boys were given the name in 2009.

There’s another possibility. Clancy splits the difference between the retro Nancy and the more current Callie. Clancy could be a successor to Bailey and Riley – but for girls. Nancy tells us that 9 girls received the name in 2009.

Either way, there’s something upbeat and unexpected about Clancy. He would be refreshing in the middle spot, and undeniably Irish as a given name.

About Abby Sandel

Whether you're naming a baby, or just all about names, you've come to the right place! Appellation Mountain is a haven for lovers of obscure gems and enduring classics alike.

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What do you think?


  1. I peeked here this morning. I am not surprised at the reaction, but I still love the name for a girl. I am pleased no one said that it sounds like a cat name =). I have heard that one before. My husband vetoed this name a little while ago. I think we are going to use Eleanor instead. I am sad that I have to bypass this, but there is always a chance of another baby (or a new cat).

  2. I agree with Joy in that Clancy doesn’t seem masculine enough for a boy but I wouldn’t automatically assume it was a girl’s name, either.

    I don’t hate it but there’s something about the sound or look that seems incomplete. I certainly prefer it to Nancy (and Riley and Flannery for that matter).

  3. I just don’t like the sound of the name. Clancy. It sounds whiny and pompous to me… all wet or something. If I try to say it out loud, the name escapes in a whining accent every time. I can’t help it!

    And for some reason it evokes images of a horse. Are there any references to a horse named Clancy in film or literature?

  4. Thumbs down from me too, always associated this name with Clarence.

    It does seem similar to Nancy, but I dont think of that name immediately. But then what makes Kelly sound female and Nelly male? Perhaps the rapper. What makes Bonnie sound female and Ronnie male? Jerry vs Kerry? Miley vs Wiley? Jimmy vs Kimmy? Honor vs Connor? Haley vs Daley? Macy vs Casey? Jen vs Ken? Molly vs Olly? Florence vs Clarence? Lauren vs Warren? Lynn vs Wynn? Beth vs Seth? Faye vs Taye? Joy vs Roy? Tammy vs Sammy? Jillian vs William? Lilian vs Adrian? Carrie vs Larry? Madison vs Anderson? Jane vs Wayne? Jade vs Kade? so many others

    I realise several examples of girls names above are actually male in origin, but most people perceive them as female these days.

    1. One of my favorite questions, Skye! I don’t have an answer – at least not a well-thought out one – but I think our perception of a name’s gender has little to do with its origins and everything to do with our understanding of its recent use.

    2. I wish Bonnie/y, Ivy, Ruby and some of the virtue names such as Joy and Connie(Constance) were still “socially acceptable for boys. I could enjoy these names on both sexes.

      1. A friend of ours has a nephew who is the fourth in his family with his given name. They call him IV – Ivy. Always loved that story.

      2. well Joy was recently used on a celeb’s kid – the baby is a boy 🙂 I think it’s perfectly fine.

      3. I’ve known a number of male Joy’s, but they were all Indian (in India, the name is usually masculine). Actually, one of my teachers growing up was “Mr. Joy” — Joy was his given name, not his surname.

  5. I LOVE the name Clancy. I think this would have been a front-runner for us if our surname didn’t end in “ley.” I just think her name would have been a bit too sing-song. I know one little girl with this name and she is a gem. All thumbs up from me!

  6. The Kurgan in The Highlander/Voice of Mr Krabs. Great association in actor, Clancy Brown, but a comical choice as a name for either sex.

    And *razz* to the unattractive argument. Gross.

  7. I have an Uncle who married into a Clancy family, so my first though is his nephews’ surname, then Mr. Brown (as the Kurgan in Highlander) and finally Tom Clancy. To my ear it’s completly male.

    I’m not a huge fan of place names as given names, but maybe Delancey instead? At least it “feels” feminine…

  8. Clancy from The Man From Snowy River! I’m so glad you mentioned that, it’s one of our favorite family classics. Every time I hear Clancy, this is the image in my head-a rough, rugged cowboy with a handlebar mustache. For this reason, Clancy (with a definite Aussie accent) would be the perfect dog or horse name. On a kid? Not sold.