Malone is the anglicised form of the Irish Ó Maoil Eoin, meaning "descendant of a devotee of (St.) John", maol being the Irish for "bald" and referring to the distinctive tonsure sported by Irish monks, and "Eoin" the Irish version of the Latin Ioannes. The family was an offshoot of the O'Connors of Connacht, and lived up to the ecclesiastical origin of their surname in their extended connection with the famous Abbey of Clonmacnoise, with a long line of Malone bishops and abbots. The family were also known as soldiers, with distinguished members fighting in the army of James ll. After his defeat, they had to seek refuge on the continent, particularly in France and Spain.
One branch of the family, the Malones of Westmeath, retained large estates and became members of the Anglo-Irish gentry. Richard Malone (1738-1816) of this family became the first and only Lord Sunderlin.
Today The Malones are largely dispersed from their original homeland, and the highest concentrations are to be found in counties Clare and Wexford. There is some suspicion that the Clare Malones, concentrated in the east of the county, are in fact Ó Maoldúin, more often anglicised as Muldoon, since the Ó Maoldúin were well known in the area, but Muldoon is now extremely rare there.
The most famous bearer of the name was Edmund Malone (1741-1812), of the Westmeath family, a friend of Samuel Johnson, James Boswell, and Edmund Burke amongst others, whose complete edition of the works of Shakespeare remained standard for almost a century. His portrait was painted by Joshua Reynolds.
Sylvester Malone (1822-1906) was a Catholic priest, best remembered now for his Church History of Ireland, which became a standard work of reference.
Walter Malone (1866-1915) is remembered as the author of a celebrated verse saga of the history of the Mississippi.
Paul Muldoon (1951 - ) is the leading Irish poet of his generation. For many years a producer with the BBC in Belfast, he now teaches at Princeton University.