Siobhan Magnus

'American Idol' Siobhan Magnus and her Irish connections


Siobhan Magnus

American Idol contestant Siobhan Magnus has a last name that means ‘Great’ in Latin. How fitting. Magnus proved just how “great” she was when she performed on “American Idol” Wednesday night, blowing the judges away with her rendition of Aretha Franklin’s “Think.”

The name Magnus was initially a first name among Romans during the middle ages. People began to name their children Magnus as Europe was converted to Latin speaking Catholic Christianity. People wanted their children to be “great”!

When Christianity came to Ireland so did the name Magnus, and over time it became a surname.

Although the Viking settlers are responsible for the introduction of Magnus as a personal name, the surname it gave rise to is entirely Irish.

As time went on, some of the Magnus families began speaking Gaelic, translating their surnames into MacGaghnais and later retranslated back as MacManus, a commonly known surname in Ireland today.

Magnus and MacManus came into being in two distinct areas: in Co Roscommon, where the family claim descent from Maghnais, son of the twelfth-century High King, Turlough O'Connor; and in Co Fermanagh, where the original ancestor was Maghnuis Maguire, son of the chieftain Donn Mor Maguire.

In Fermanagh they were second in power only to the Maguires themselves, and from their base on the island of Ballymaguire (now Belleisle) on Lough Erne controlled the shipping and fishing of the lake.

Siobhan’s ancestors on the Magnus side hail from Co. Galway and her relations, whom the family is in regular contact with (Magnus, O’Riordan and Mullins) are rooting for their cousin back in Ireland.

Siobhan’s great grandparents on her mother, Colleen’s, side, come from Clonmel in Tipperary and Mallow in Cork.  

The name Siobhan is derived from the name Joan, which means “God is gracious.”

What an apt name for such a talented performer!


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