There are two questions on EL&U (1,2) concerning names with “Mc” in them (such as McGregor), revealing that Mc comes from Mac, which is commonly translated from Gaelic as “son of”.

I have now come across the last name ApSimon. A quick Google search reveals that there are quite a few people named like that, some spelling their last name ApSimon and some Apsimon. I am wondering why there is double capitalization in some cases – is this in any way related to the “Mc” names? Is it another prefix with a similar or different meaning? In any case, the “Ap” prefix seems to be a lot less common than “Mc”.

  • This is all so very interesting and I am amazed at how what seem "common" names in themselves are derivatives of other names that make a great deal of sense. And how different prefixes can end up resulting in multiple resulting names! I love words and how we have used them, changed them, and sadly, lost so very much in the way of understanding what they say, what they tell us. Thank you all for your information. I have learned much, and will look at names more closely to see if I can sort out what may have been their "beginnings".
    – user35706
    Jan 14, 2013 at 20:54
  • Other patronymic forms that you may have come across in other languages are "-sen" in Scandinavian languages, "-vich" in Russian and other Slavic languages, and "-shvili" in Georgian.
    – Colin Fine
    Jan 15, 2013 at 0:28
  • 1
    "Mac" DOES NOT MEAN "son of". It means "son". Period, end of story. (Sorry for shouting, but I tried editing the question, and the reviewer put the "of" right back in.) You get the "of" by changing the father's name to the possessive form (genitive).
    – JPmiaou
    Dec 28, 2017 at 20:36

2 Answers 2


"Ap" means "son". The Welsh used to use a patronymic system, but surnames eventually fixed after Welsh union with England. Iceland continues to use a patronymic system.

From http://www.bbc.co.uk/wales/northwest/sites/familyhistory/pages/surnames.shtml

The Welsh patronymic system describes family trees in terms of the male line only and records the family association in the 'ap' or 'ab' prefix (ap is a contraction of the Welsh word mab, which means son). So, Rhys ap Dafydd means, in English, Rhys son of David.

Modern Welsh surnames such as Powell, Price and Prichard are the result of this contraction and a progressive tendency to Anglicise Welsh names: under the patronymic system they would have been ap Hywel; ap Rhys and ap Richard. The names Bowen and Bevan were derived in the same way.

  • 2
    That's interesting, I knew what 'ap' meant but not that so many Welsh surnames were derived that way.
    – z7sg Ѫ
    Jun 12, 2011 at 17:10
  • 9
    It remains only to add that "map" (from which both "ap" and "mab" come) is indeed the cognate in Welsh for Gaelic "macc". (P-Celtic vs. Q-Celtic).
    – Colin Fine
    Jun 12, 2011 at 20:57
  • 2
    Welsh is p-celtic, it pronounces 'c' as 'p' so Mac is Map, Scots/Irish gealic is k-celtic, so Mac is Mak. Hence Mackay and Parry is the same name = son of Harry
    – mgb
    Jun 12, 2011 at 20:58

Apsimon/ApSimon/ap Simon are possible variants; my paternal Great grandfather was Simon Jones of Bala (d.1873); his son Thomas Jones, b. 1843, my paternal grandfather, made an entry in the family bible in 1855, signing as Thomas Apsimon; this form is used in obituary notices for his father. This is the earliest occurrence as a formal surname that I have come across, though use as a descriptive term 'X, son of Simon' occurs earlier in documents. The use of the capital S is an attempt to make the name readable to English speakers.

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