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Four Fab Surnames

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Lennon, McCartney, Harrison, and Starr – four surnames which, when grouped, we instantly recognize as The Beatles (clap, scream, faint), but what do they mean? Do the meanings of their names uphold the image of the Fab Four?



Lennon is a reduced and Anglicized form of the Irish Gaelic surname Ó Leannán (or Ó Leannáin) “descendent of Leannán,” Leannán possibly meaning “lover.” [1] However, it may also be a nickname which means “little cloak.” [1]


McCartney is an Anglicized form of the Scottish Gaelic name Mac Artain “son of Artan,” and is a derivative of the name McCartan. [1] McCartan is an Anglicized form of the Gaelic name Mac Artáin “son of Artán,” which is derived from the personal name Art meaning “bear” or “hero.” [1]


As one might expect, Harrison is derived from the name, Harry, [1] which, in turn, is derived from the name Henry. Henry, in the English and French form, is from a Germanic personal name meaning “home ruler.” However, in George Harrison’s case, it’s almost surely the Anglicized form of the Gaelic Ó hInnéirghe “descendent of Innéirghé.” Innéirghé is a nickname which means “arising.” [1]


Sorry to disappoint, but it’s not Ringo Starr; it’s Richard Starkey.

Starkey is an English and Scottish name from the Middle English stark, [1] which means “firm,” or “unyielding.” It was a nickname for someone who was determined, stern, or physically strong. [1]


  • Lennon can mean “lover” or “little cloak;” in John’s case, it’s obviously “lover.” He and Paul wrote 15 of the 16 Beatles songs with the word “love” in the title, and they wrote almost all the other songs that are about love. [1]
  • McCartney means “bear” or “hero.” Paul was knighted on March 11, 1997 [1], so he must be heroic because that’s what knights are.
  • Harrison, from the Irish form of Henry, means “arising.” The Beatles began life as four poor lads from Liverpool. George arose from the wrong side of the tracks to international stardom.
  • Starkey means determined, stern, or physically strong; in Richard’s case “determined” is definitely the one that applies. When he was six years old, his appendix ruptured, leading to peritonitis, surgery, and a ten-week coma. He wasn’t expected to live, but he began to heal, and six months later, just as it looked like he might recover, he fell out of bed, which resulted in a concussion and another six months in the hospital. When he was 13, he caught a cold which turned into chronic pleurisy, and complications led to another two years in the hospital. While there, Richard missed so much school, he thought he could never make it up, so he dropped out at age 15. Eight years later, he came to America as Beatles drummer Ringo Starr and went on to become the most famous drummer of all time. That’s determination. [1] [1]

In the end, The Beatles are four determined heroic lovers of music who arose from poverty and deprivation to become superstars.

Author: Madeleine Wieder


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