Gillespie is both a masculine given name, and a surname in the English language. The given name is an Anglicised form of the Gaelic Gille Easbaig (also rendered Gilleasbaig), meaning "bishop's servant". The surname Gillespie is an Anglicised form of the Scottish Gaelic Mac Gille Easbuig, and the Irish Mac Giolla Easpaig, both of which mean "servant of the bishop". The given name itself is derived from a word of Latin origin. Specifically, the Old Irish epscop being derived from the Latin episcopus. An early example of the name in Scotland occurs in a charter dated 1175–1199, recording a certain "Ewano filio Gillaspeck". In Ireland, a family bearing the surname occupied the office of toísech of Clann Aílebra in the late twelfth century. In 1172, for example, the toísech was slain by Donn Slébe Ua hEochada, King of Ulster. This slain Mac Gilla Espuic may be identical to a certain Gilla Óengusa mac Gilla Espuic, rechtaire of the Monaig of Ulster, who is earlier recorded in the king's service. Whatever the case, a later family bearing the surname appears on record as erenaghs of Kilraine in County Donegal. During the sixteenth- and seventeenth-centuries in Ireland, the surname is most common in Ulster. During the nineteenth century in Ireland, the surname was most numerous in the counties of Antrim, Donegal, Armagh, and Tyrone.
By Dean Hanley
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