Cinneide, O'Kennedy or Kennedy derives from the Gaelic term cinnegh meaning`ugly heads' or `helmuts.' The historical reference of the term likely developed in battle and we can perhaps assume the defenders of the Kennedy clan were well-suited with armored head gear. I would like to take this ancient meaning down the evolutionary path and offer a modern interpretation as "tough-headed," "strong-minded" or flat-out "stubborn." I would ask those that married into the line to offer support for this interpretation but I would not want to put them in the position of having to argue their point with said stubborn Kennedy spouse. For the cause of marital bliss we will set the idea aside. Another modern interpretation of the name Kennedy as "peacemaker" has been offered to me recently and I promise to have a page on Mary Kennedy soon. There is always the possibilty that the use of simple fierce looks to stop rivals in their tracks led to the expression of `ugly heads'. The only other plausible explanation for the term takes the concept of Clan rivalry to modern standards of name calling with opposing foes `just jealous' of our genuine good looks. This theory I find needs no further study and will leave it to the eye of the beholder.
BRIAN (926-1014), King of Ireland; Known as Brian mac Kennedy (or Cennedigh); son of Cenneide; with his brother Mathgamhain,chief of the Dal Cais; defeated Danes at Sulcoit, Tipperary, c, 968; chief of Dal Cais, 976; defeated and slew Maelmuadh, king of Cashel, 978, and succeeded him; defeated Gillapatric, king of Ossory, and was acknowledged king of Leinster, 984; allied with Maelsechlainn mac Domhuaill, chief kind of Ireland and defeated Danes at Glenmama, Wicklow, 1000; defeated Maelseehiainn and became chief king of Ireland, 1001; received submission of Connaughtmen; made charter acknowledging ecclesiastical supremacy of Armagh, 1004; made circuit of Ireland, receiving hostages of all territories through which he passed, joined Maelsechlainn and beseiged Danes near Dublin, without success, 1013; defeated Danes at Cluantarbh;after battle was murdered by a Dane in his tent, 1014. [vi, 306] From Dictionary of National Biography Volume 1, p. 143
The eponymous ancestor of the O'Kennedys was Kennedy, nephew of Brian Boru, or Cinneide in Irish, the resultant surname being 0 Cinneide. They are thus a Dalcassian sept, and at first their territory was around Glenomra near Killaloe, and their occupation is perpetuated by the name of the civil parish comprising that area, viz. Killokennedy, but pressure from the powerful O'Briens and MacNamaras caused them to cross the Shannon and settle in Upper and Lower Ormond. There they soon increased in power and importance, and from the eleventh to the sixteenth century they were lords of Ormond. The sept divided into three branches, the chiefs of which were distinguished by the epithets Don (brown), Fionn (fair) and Rua (red). The Four Masters record the martial exploits of many of these chiefs. According to Keating, St. Ruadhan of Lorrha was the special protector of the O'Kennedys of Ormond. A branch of the sept emigrated to Antrim about the year 1600, and the name is found in that county now, though, no doubt, some of the Ulster Kennedys are of Scottish origin, for Kennedy is also a Scots name. Kennedy, indeed, is one of the most common names in Ireland, being widely distributed over all the provinces, with a preponderance in Co. Tipperary : it is placed sixteenth in the statistical list of Irish surnames with an estimated present day population of some eighteen thousand persons.
Unlike most Irish surnames Kennedy has few synonyms in English : one, however, still found in Co. Leitrim is interesting, viz. Minnagh, i.e. Muimhneach-or the Munster man (cf. Donlevy-Ultagh). Kennedy became Quenedy in Spanish, for, like all the great Irish families, many of the sept found their way to the continent. Matthew Kennedy (1652-I735), who went to France after the capitulation of Limerick in 1691, was a notable literary figure in Paris; he was remarkable for his life-long enthusiasm for the Irish language. At home the O'Kennedys, though remaining Catholic, were not entirely submerged as a result of the successive conquests and confiscations of the seventeenth century. An Order of the Lord Lieutenant, dated 3oth March, I705, granting permission to a few selected papists to carry arms, included eight gentlemen of Co. Tipperary, and among them is John Kennedy of Polnorman. In more modern times the name has been less prominent than might be expected having regard to its numerical strength. It furnished sensational news in I779 through the famous abduction case of the two Miss Kennedys of Co. Waterford. In the same century Rev. John Kennedy, a Presbyterian minister, made a useful contribution to social history by keeping an interesting diary (I724-I730) describing his many duties in Ulster. Another author was Patrick Kennedy (1801-1873); also in the field of literature, Patrick John Kenedy (1843-I806), was a well-known Irish-American Catholic publisher. In our own day a brilliant lawyer, Hugh Kennedy (I879-I936), was first Chief justice of the Irish Free state. From 'Irish Families, their names, Arms and origins' by Edward MacLysaght.