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 named my daughter Clancy. My maiden name was Clancy. I think it is a great tribute to my family and heritage. The positive is so many people name kids surname now, that its normal. She goes to school/ activities with a least four other kids with surname as a first name. They are name after grandparents or great grandparents surname and I find myself telling other the story behind there first name as a surname. Which I love. We call my daughter Clancy Rose, CR for short. Just in case Clancy was to masculine. If I picked a traditional name it would have been so over populated she would have been called Clancy anyway. At the end of the day all the Katie and Ashley all go bye their last name when in school. So might as well name your child a surname. If you like it.

  2. Bit late to this forum but as a fellow Clancy (and yes, female!) i have to say I wouldn’t change my name for the world. I too have yet to meet another female called Clancy (or male for that matter) but get many compliments and questions about where my name comes from and how I got to be called it. It depends on what context you’ve heard it before, but clearly there are females who are managing to live their day to day lives with this name. Show it some love!

  3. I have never known another Girl named Clancy, but I get many complements on my name every day. A lot of people don’t realize it’s originally a male name, at least the people who have talked to me. I think Clancy is a good name for a girl or boy.

  4. I actually only heard this as a girl’s name. My grandfather (very Irish) suggested it as a name for my dog as a child. She was the best dog I have ever had – sweet and gentle, but curious and playful too. That’s what I think of when I hear the name

  5. I’m a female Clancy, and I hated it for years. It just sounded goofy.

    BUT I always hated it more when people thought I said my name was Nancy. (such a prissy, nana name)

    Now, at 20 years old, I’ve come to like it. I like boyish names on girls, and it suits me. It’s different, and like that about it.

    There’s nothing worse than names that everyone has.

    So, even if it’s a bit goofy sounding… I’ve grown into it.

    1. I’m glad to hear you’ve grown into your name! That’s the challenge with naming a child – I actively disliked (and changed) my super-common Top Ten name. But then, my mother chose it because she hated her incredibly unusual one-of-one name. Funny how that works … or doesn’t!