Interpretations of the surname
Lucey is the modern form of the old Gaelic surname Ó Luasaigh. This name can also derive from the Norman surname De Lucy which was prominent in Ireland during the fourteenth century. The De Lucys were a leading Norman family who settled in Ireland in the wake of the Anglo-Norman invasion of 1170. One Anthony de Lucy was Chief Justiciar of the country in 1332. The first recorded instance of the name occurs in 1305; the Gormanston Register lists a family of this name as living in Carlingford in that year.
In medieval Ireland a sept named Ó Luasaigh were powerful landowners and Gaelic chiefs. By the mid-sixteenth century this name was usually anglicised to O'Lwosie - this subsequently became Lucey. The Kinsale Presentments of 1712 lists the names O'Lwosie, Luasy and Lousy. These were all forms of the name Lucey which were found in the southern county of Cork. This document listed these families as the 'Popish inhabitants' against whom execution was obtained. South-west Munster is almost exclusively the present location for this name; 41 of the 42 birth registrations for Lucey in the 1890 return were in Munster, 33 of these in county Cork. Similarly, in 1865, 39 of 43 registrations for the name were in county Cork. In 1901 there were 42 families of Lucey or Lucy in county Kerry. (Source: The Historical Research Center™)Another interpretation
Seán Lucy MA - Professor of Modern English and Head of the Department of English - University College - Cork in 1975 states - "My own branch of the family originates in Ballingeary and probably came there from Ballyvourney. My father, Lt-Col. J.F. Lucy, OBE of the Royal Ulster Rifles, who ended his life as a town councillor of Cork City, was very interested in the possible origins of the family."
He claimed that the Luceys were a cadet branch of the Norman family, which came over to England with William the Conqueror. These de Lucys settled in Warwickshire where the most notorious was the Sir Thomas Lucy who had Shakespeare whipped, and also somewhere else in the south, I think in Sussex or Surrey. According to my father's legend a young man of one of these families had tried to settle somewhere in Clare or Limerick and had been driven out by the de Burgos. He had come south and taken service with the McCarthys.
Now this story, though romantic, is probably quite untrue. For one thing it was very unusual for Normans to take service under Gaelic kings or princes, and for another the prefix 'O' which is found in all early records of the family, except where it is called 'Mac', is most unusual among Norman families who usually, in Gaelic, take the 'De' as in de Burgo or de Paor or other familiar names. The probability then is that the Luceys were a branch or sept of the McCarthy clan, and that they were called Lucey by Normans and English to whom their name sounded like Lucy.
The earliest records of the name which we have found are in the time of Queen Elizabeth and relate to legal action taken against members of the family for their part in McCarthy wars and rebellions. Here the form of the name is found earliest MacLuasaigh and a little later as Ó Luasaigh. I also have heard this name explained as deriving from the Irish for speedy or fast, or as deriving from the word cluas - an ear, so that makes the Luceys not only fast movers but spies - listeners for the McCarthys. I think that these are unlikely derivations. It seems to me quite possible that my father's story of the Luceys coming from somewhere north of Cork to take military service with the McCarthys is an accurate family tradition. If this is so they almost certainly came from the north of Ireland or from the Isles of Scotland as the McSweeneys came. This would make them Scottish or north of Ireland Gaelic and indeed I may also say that there is something a little foreign or exotic in a Cork sense about the Luceys as a whole. Let me suppose that they did come down as Gallowglasses with the McSweeneys at that time to take service with the McCarthys. Then we are left with the interesting task of trying to trace the name north. At this stage it seems to me quite possible that the name is cognate or related to the name McCluskey which is found in Limerick, Galway, Donegal and Scotland, and which is quite probably a Gallowglass name.
What is certain is that the name goes back in west Cork at least as far as the sixteenth century and has always been connected with McCarthy lands and McCarthy fortunes. The usual Cork spelling is of course LUCEY. If the name is Norman this is wrong. If it is Gaelic one takes ones choice of two Anglicisations - neither or either is right. Most of my cousins use the 'E'. (Source: Letter of 14 November 1975)
Yet Another View
This interesting name, with variant spellings Lucey and Luce, has three distinct possible origins. Firstly, it may be of French locational origin from any of the places in Normandy, for example, Luce (Orne), so called from the Latin personal name Lucius, a derivative of "lux", light, plus the locational suffix "acum", a settlement. The surname from this source was first recorded in the mid 12th Century, (see below). Other early recordings include Gilbert de Lucie, John de Luce and Richard de Lucy, the 1273, Hundred Rolls of Lincolnshire, Norfolk and Essex respectively. The second possibility is that the name derives directly from the medieval female given name Lucie, related to the Latin Lucius (above). One, William Lucy noted in the 1297 "Ministers' Accounts of the Earldom of Cornwall" was the first recorded namebearer from this source. Finally, Luc(e)y is an Anglicized form of the Old Gaelic O Luasaigh, originally Mac Cluasaigh, "son of the Listener" from "cluas", ear. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Richard de Luci, which was dated 1135, in the "Register of Bury St. Edmunds", Suffolk, during the reign of King Henry 1, known as "The Lion of Justice", 1100 - 1135. Surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation. In England this was known as Poll Tax. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to "develop" often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling. (Source: http://www.surnamedb.com/Surname/lucey)
Variations of Spelling
Lewcy, Lewesy, Lewsey, Lewsie, Losey, Loucey, Loucy, Louesy, Lousy, Lowcey, Luacey, O'Luasaigh, Lucey, Lucy, Luocey, Luocy, Luosey, Luosy.
(Source: Lucey households in Griffith's Valuation (1847-1864).
Yet another source cites the following variants: