Irish derivation: Mac Suibhne
Name meaning: "Son of the pleasant one"
Counties associated with the name: Donegal
Coat of arms motto: "Strike for Victory."
Interesting Facts: 1. The man who dropped the A bomb on Nagasaki was a Sweeney
Famous Sweeneys: Alison Sweeney, (born 1976), American, television actress; Anne Sweeney, (born 1957), Co-Chair of Disney Media Networks and President of Disney-ABC Television Group; Bob KO Sweeney, (1894-1961), American, boxer; Brian Sweeney, (born 1974), professional baseball player; Charles Sweeney, (1919–2004), American, USAAF pilot who dropped the atomic bomb "Fat Man" on Nagasaki. See more below!
The Sweeney (or Sweeny, McSweeny, MacSwiney) comes from the Irish Mac Suibhne, from suibhne, which means pleasant or well-disposed.
The clan actually originates from Scotland, where a Scottish man named Suibhne was a chief based in Argyle around 1200. The Sweeneys of this time were part-Viking, part-Irish, and were famed fighters. Because of their well-known fighting skills, the Sweeney clan was in high demand in Ireland as mercenaries (hired fighters), or gallowglasses.
The Sweeney clan eventually settled into Co. Donegal in Ireland in the 14th century, and fought as mercenaries in Ulster on behalf of the O'Donnells. In the 15th century, many clan members migrated down to Cork, and today, the surname is most popular in Co. Cork and Kerry.
Perhaps the most recognizable "Sweeney" reference is "Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street," a famous musical-turned-Tim Burton film. But there are many notable people with the surname Sweeney. One of them is Anne Sweeney, president of the Disney-ABC Television Group, and a mainstay of Irish America's business listings.
Several Bill Sweeneys were famous in the sports world. These Bill Sweeneys include three Major League Baseball players and a Canadian professional hockey player. Brian and Charlie Sweeney are two more professional baseball players, while Bob KO Sweeney was a famous American boxer in the early 20th century.
Sweeneys have made a name for themselves on television as well. Julia Sweeney was a comedian on "Saturday Night Live" in the 90s, famous for her "It's Pat" skit, while Alison Sweeney is an American soap opera star and now a host for the hit reality series "The Biggest Loser."
Fionnuala Sweeney is an Irish anchorwoman and a reporter for CNN International.
Numerous American politicians have held the Sweeney name as well, including Francis E. Sweeney, who served on the Ohio Supreme Court, and John E. Sweeney, a former member of the House of Representatives from New York who was defeated for reelection in 2006 by New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand.
Below, watch this clip about Charles Sweeney: