Etymology & Historical Origin of the Baby Name Conor
The name Connor is an Anglicized form of the ancient Gaelic name Conchobhar which most etymologists conclude to mean “lover of hounds”. In Irish mythology, Conchobhar (Connor) MacNessa was the legendary king of Ulster said to be born at the same time as Jesus Christ. He is remembered most for his ill-fated marriage to Deirdre. One day King Conor attended a celebratory feast in his honor given by Femlin, a lord of Ulster. During the merriment, a messenger arrived with news that Femlin’s wife had just given birth to a baby girl. As the men drank to the baby’s health, a Druid was sent to predict the child’s future. When the Druid foretold that the baby would grow to be the fairest of all women in Ireland but that she would marry a king and bring ruin upon the kingdom of Ulster, King Conor decided to take the baby, hide her safely away and make her his own wife when she reached marriageable age. This way, no foreign king could have her. They named the baby Deirdre which is Celtic for “woman”. As Deidre grew older and the wedding day neared, she was repulsed by the aged king who was to become her husband. She fell in love with the king’s nephew, a handsome warrior named Naoise. At first, Naoise tried to reject the girl’s advances knowing she was promised to the king, but her beauty overpowered him. The two young lovers eloped and escaped to Scotland. Eventually Conor tricked the lovers into returning to Ulster by promising forgiveness but then promptly had Naoise killed for his treason. Deirdre was then forced to marry the king but she steadfast refused to look at him or even smile for a year. When Conor finally asked her what she hated most of all, she answered “Thou thyself. And Éogan son of Duracht” (Éogan being the king’s servant who killed Naoise). Whether as an act of revenge or a reaction to his own wounded pride, Conor cruelly sent Deirdre to be with Éogan for a year. As she’s leaving to go with Éogan, Deirdre jumped out of the chariot hurling her head against a rock and died instantly. According to legend, two yew trees sprung from the separate gravesites of Deirdre and Naoise and grew so tall that their limbs intertwined over either side of a church remaining together for eternity. King Conor’s ruthless treatment of Deirdre and Naoise doesn’t exactly cast him in the most attractive of lights; he was nonetheless a brave and capable king (as a result, the name is often associated with adjectives “strong-willed” and “wise”). It was his desire for Deirdre that proved his ultimate downfall. Conchobhar (Conor) was also the name of several other early Irish kings, and the name has remained in constant use since ancient times (giving birth to the surname O'Connor). The anglicized version of Conor is still extremely popular in Ireland, Northern Ireland and the Isle of Man today.