MacPhail/McPhail Name

The use of Mc versus Mac has been much debated and unfortunately our ancestors are not around to ask why the change occurred.

Various spellings have been used by our ancestors including MacPhail, Macphail and McPhail.

The name should be pronounced with emphasis on the second syllable.

Historically, Mac was a surname prefix for Irish or Scottish sons. In our case MacPhail was son of Phail (Phail is Gaelic, therefore it meant son of Paul).

Some believed that Mc was Irish and Mac was Scottish, or designated Catholic versus Protestant, but it appears that Mc is merely an abbreviation of Mac, and in some branches of the family they were interchangeable. Some claim that the c was written with a dot underneath (or a squiggle) as an abbreviation of Mac, however this seems unlikely as it would take as long to make the dot/squiggle as it would to write the letter a.

Another theory was that MacPhail became McPhail when families immigrated to other countries.

In our family McPhail was used both in Mull and in New Zealand and some of his descendants reverted back to MacPhail. There is evidence of Hugh McPhail signing as MacPhail late in his life.

There are many variations in the name and these probably came about by the inability of the person to spell their name or it was recorded that way by others.

Here are a few of the variations: MacPhall, Macphale, MacFall, MackFall, McFail, MacFaul, McPhaul, McFaul, McFall, Macpaul, MacVale, MacFail,

Polson is the Anglicised version of the name.