| Kav-na or Ka-va-na|
| Peace and Plenty|
| A variation of the Irish Gaelic surname Caomhánach.|
Cavanagh or Cavanaugh is a surname of Irish origin, a variation of the Irish Gaelic family surname Caomhánach.
Cavanagh and Cavanaugh are anglicised variations of the Irish Gaelic surname Caomhánach (Caoṁánaċ in traditional Gaelic type). The surname was first assumed by Domhnall, eldest son of the 12th century King of Leinster, Diarmait Mac Murchada in Ireland.
A considerable number of anglicised variations of Caomhánach exist, with some of the most common being: "Kavanagh", "Cavanagh", "Kavanaugh" and "Cavanaugh".
It is referred to in a translation of the historical Annals of the Four Masters by John O'Donovan, noting that Domhnall Caomhánach was fostered for his training and education at the monastery of St. Caomhan at Kilcavan in the Barony of Gorey, County Wexford. He was a son of Diarmuid Mac Murchadha, King of Leinster. According to Irish custom, because of this monastery education, Domhnall assumed the name Caomhánach as a descriptive byname, meaning 'a student or follower of St. Caomhan'. Contrary to usual Irish practice, the name was adopted by his descendants as an inherited surname. In 19th-century Gaelic dictionaries, Caomhánach is also defined as "a friend, companion" and "merciful".
Numerous spelling variations have been seen as the name was anglicised: Kavanagh, Cavanagh, Cavanaugh, etc. Although Donal (Domnhall) was the first bearer of the name, the majority of the septs that proliferated from the fifteenth century on descend from Art Mór Mac Murchadha Caomhánach, King of Leinster (1375–1416), who died in 1416. The territory of the Cavanaghs at this period was huge, comprising nearly all of the modern County Carlow, and most of north and north-west County Wexford. This was known as "the Cavanagh's country" and with good reason: Art held complete control over it, reigning for forty-two years. He received dues from the English crown, the "black rent" as it was known. The chiefs of the family continued to take the ruling title Mac Murchadha, but by the mid-sixteenth century their power was on the wane, and was decisively broken by the start of the seventeenth century.
Cavanaghs were prominent among the great wave of native Irish aristocrats emigrating to Europe in the wake of the final defeat of Gaelic Ireland at the end of the seventeenth century, becoming officers in the armies of Catholic France, Spain and Austria; one, Charles Cavanagh was the governor of Habsburg Prague in the mid eighteenth century. Despite their loss of power and property, the line of descent from the last duly inaugurated Chief of the Name, Brian Cavanagh, The Mac Murchadha, remained unbroken down to recent times.
The lion passant on the Kavanagh arms is a classic heraldic device associated with feudal power but is unusual for a family of Gaelic extraction. Perhaps it is intended to signify the centuries-long connection of the family with the kingship of Leinster.
List of people with the surname Cavanagh:Daniel Cavanagh (born 1972), Jamie Cavanagh, and Vincent Cavanagh (born 1973), brothers in the band Anathema
Dean Cavanagh, journalist, author and screenwriter
Frank Cavanagh, former bass player for Filter
Hollie Cavanagh (born 1993), British singer
James Cavanagh, various people
Jerome Cavanagh (1928–1979), former mayor of Detroit, Michigan (1962–1970)
John Cavanagh, various people
Katy Cavanagh (born 1973), English actress
Kit Cavanagh (died 1739), male impersonator who fought as a soldier in the 1690s
Megan Cavanagh (born 1960), American actress
Michael Cavanagh (judge) a justice on the Michigan Supreme Court
Michael Cavanagh, architect who designed the Old Perth Fire Station, St Mary's Cathedral, Perth, and other Western Australian buildings
Patrick Cavanagh (died 1581), Irish Catholic martyr
Paul Cavanagh (1888–1964), English film actor
Peter Cavanagh (born 1981), English footballer
Richard Paul Cavanagh (1933–1998), FBI Supervisory Special Agent in Chicago, IL, USA assigned to South Side Mob Boss Sam Giancana
Roberto Cavanagh (born 1914), Argentine 1936 Polo Olympic gold medalist
Sean Cavanagh (born 1983), Irish Gaelic footballer
Steven Cavanagh, Australian writer
Terry Cavanagh, Canadian politician
Sean M. Cavanagh, Uniontown PA Fayette County Commissioner 1996-2004
Terry Cavanagh, Irish video game designer
Tim Cavanagh, comedy songwriter
Tom Cavanagh (born 1963), Canadian actor
Timothy Patrick Cavanaugh (born 1964), American actor/film producer
List of people with the surname Cavanaugh:Carey Cavanaugh, former United States ambassador
Christine Cavanaugh (1963–2014), American voice actor
Colleen Cavanaugh, PhD, is a microbiologist and Edward C. Jeffrey Professor of Biology at Harvard University.
Dan Cavanaugh, a retired American professional ice hockey player.
Dave Cavanaugh (1919–1981), American composer and musician
Dennis M. Cavanaugh, a United States District Judge in the District Court of New Jersey.
Frank Cavanaugh (American football)
Hobart Cavanaugh (1886–1950), an American character actor in films and on stage.
James M. Cavanaugh (1823–1879), representative for Minnesota and delegate from the Territory of Montana
Jay Cavanaugh (1949–2005), marijuana activist
John Cavanaugh (baseball) (1900–1961), MLB player
John Cavanaugh (sculptor) (1921–1985)
John C. Cavanaugh, former president of the University of West Florida and current chancellor of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education.
John J. Cavanaugh, Roman Catholic priest and former president of the University of Notre Dame
John Joseph Cavanaugh III, politician from Nebraska
John R. Cavanaugh (1929–2007), American priest and scholar, retired faculty member of St. John Fisher College
Linda Cavanaugh, an award-winning newscaster for NBC affiliate KFOR-TV (channel 4), in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
Matt Cavanaugh, former American football quarterback in the NFL who played from 1979 to 1991
Michael Cavanaugh, an actor, musician and singer.
Michael Cavanaugh, American TV and film actor, notable for 24
Page Cavanaugh (1922–2008), an American jazz and pop pianist, vocalist, and arranger.
Patrick Cavanaugh, an American television actor.
Thomas Cavanaugh, American Medal of Honor recipient
Tim Cavanaugh, American journalist and blogger, web editor of the Los Angeles Times opinion page
Clann Chaomhánach/Cavanagh covers the following known variations of the family name: Kavanagh, Kavanaugh, Kavanah, Kavenah, Kabana, Kavaner, Kavenaugh, Kavanacht, Kaveny, Cavanaugh, Cavanah, Cavenah, Cavana, Cavana, Cavner, Cavenaugh, Cavender, Cavenogh, Cavnar, Cavignac, Cavanaogh, Cavanogh, Cabanah, Chaomhana, Cowand and many others...Jordan Cavanaugh, character from Crossing Jordan, an American television drama.
Toby Cavanaugh, character from Pretty Little Liars, an American television drama.
Alicia Florrick (née Cavanaugh), character from The Good Wife, an American television drama.
Miles Cavanaugh, character from The Edge of Night, an American television soap opera.
Sally Ann Cavanaugh, character from Fletch, an American comedy film.
Johnny Cavanagh, character in the story The Shepherd, by Frederick Forsyth.
The title characters from The Cavanaughs, an American television sitcom.