Clann an Mhaoil ("Kindred of the Tonsured One")
and Bell is the English equivalent of Mhaoil - the genitive form of Maol ("bald" in modern Gaelic, but originally "shaven-headed" and thus "tonsured") - which forms the stem of the two Gaelic forms of the surname MacMillan:
Mac-Mhaol-ain and Mac-Ghille-Mhaoil.
This is because the Gaelic "mh" - the aspirated form of the letter "m" - is pronounced like the English "v"; as is the aspirated form of the letter "b".
MiIl / Mell / Maol to Mhaoil =Vaoil = Bhaoil to Baol / Bell / Bile
|Although to the English speaker this may seem unbelievable - and to the modern Gaelic purist unacceptable - anyone who has had to interpret the records of Gaelic names made by medieval English or Scots-speaking clerks will not be surprised at this apparently peculiar process. See the Spellings of M'millan page for 190+ other forms of the clan surname that have resulted from such regional and chronological variations in pronounciation and pre-modern laxness in spelling. In the case of Bell standing for MacMillan, we are fortunate enough to have a sixteenth century pedigree; seventeenth century royal records; eighteenth century parish registers; and a nineteenth century monument, that together constitute proof positive of this particular nominal transmogrification.|
|Information on this page excerpted from http://www.clanmacmillan.org/Bells.htm|