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Irish Surnames of Viking Origin

The Vikings were in Ireland for relatively short time, but they left a considerable legacy of names behind. Some, such as MacAuliffe (Son of Olaf) and MacManus (Son of Magnus) are quite common, though the latter at least are not all of Viking stock.

Some names from this time are descriptive, so that Doyle is an Anglicisation of Ó Dubhghaill, which means “son of the dark (or evil) foreigner”. That would about sum up how the Vikings in general were widely seen, but the particular foreigner in question may well be DubhGilla (again meaning dark foreigner), a Viking who was King of Idrone, in present day County Carlow, around 851 AD.

Obviously someone took to this evil incomer, because he has tens of thousands of descendants in Ireland today!

The most famous bearer of the Doyle name is probably the 1950′s Irish-American boxer, Jack Doyle, also known as the “Gorgeous Gael”.

Other Norse names found occasionally in Ireland still include Cotter, Dowdall, Dromgoole, Gould, Harold, Howard, Loughlin, Sweetman and Trant.

A Bigger Contribution?

It has been widely assumed that the contribution of Vikings to Irish surnames was relatively small, with just a few surviving names as their entire legacy. However some experts in the area now believe it may have been much greater than that.

The use of hereditary surnames developed quite a bit earlier in Ireland than in other European countries, and they came into widespread use quite abrubtly during a time when the Vikings ruled over much of the country. Was this a coincidence, or are these facts linked in some way? Research in this area is ongoing and much warranted.

 

What Others Say

  1. Frederick Lund Jan 16, 2009 at 11:19 pm

    The Vikings settled in Dublin, Ireland.

    We now have what they call the Norwegian Irish.  There are many Lund throughout the British Isles.

    • Katherine Jan 16, 2009 at 11:45 pm

      I’m kinda one of them myself – my mother’s name was O’Loughlin, which is a name of Viking origin.

      • Leslie Laughlin Jun 26, 2011 at 7:14 pm

        My great grandfather was David OLoughlin and he came to the US from ireland. My uncle sent he DNA test and it shows that we are from Viking Decent.

  2. wade Jan 24, 2009 at 11:06 pm

    l av been led to beleive that my name wade is of viking origin? being mcquaid and wade being referenced to a mythical sea god who guarded the baltic seas ?.my family are from cork . can any one shed any light on this puzzle

  3. Jan Rune Jarl May 8, 2009 at 7:01 pm

    Wade- is from Norse to Walk in Water or to be stranded in water. 
    And one also have to remember that Norman and Anglo Norman Surnames have their origins in Viking Norse language, as Normandy was so named after the Norse Vikings who settled there. 

  4. Michael Rochon Mar 17, 2010 at 1:02 am

    Ello! My mum’s maiden name is Hopper, and through ages of oral tradition, the Hoppers are part viking. I suspect this to be true, however I would like someone to shed some light on this matter.
    Thanks

  5. Proinsias Broderick Barrett Apr 17, 2010 at 12:01 am

    search for Caithreim Ceallachain Caisil (warlike Callanan of Cashel) A 10th centuary Munster King.

    The kingship of the province of Munster whose seat at the ancient Rock of Cashel in Tipperary was usurped by the Lochlannachs and dubhGall’s for over 130 years by the time Ceallachan was secretly inaugurated by the Gaelic tribes of Munster. Ceallachan set about uniting the Munster tribes and making war against the foreigners. He had many great victories. Ceallachans tribe were the race of Eogan (Eoghanacht: Hogan.) First mention of Viking raids on Irish centers of christanity and learning is AD795 at the monastic settlment of ST Colm Cille on the Island of Iona.

    In AD837 fleets began to arrive and the Norse attacks began to change in character. First settlements in Ireland circa: AD841. After many wars and alliances with various Irish tribes Viking designs on the complete control of Ireland were broken forever after their disasterous defeat in 1014 at Clontarf near Dublin by the then High King of Ireland Brian Boruma (Boru) of the DalCais tribe of east Clare. The Vikings would never recover from this defeat but many remained, settled, intermarried with Irish, formed family alliances and traded and developed coastal towns around the Island which their ancestors had founded over a century and a half  previous.  

    The irony of these sagas is that while Saxon England struggled on against the Vikings for another 50 years, Ireland was for a short time united under an Irish King and free of foreign oppression. 

  6. Mary Broccolo Apr 25, 2010 at 10:39 am

    My mother’s family name on her mothers side is Loftus, THis shows up as English – I think she was Irish. Is it common for this name to be derived from Laughlin or  O’Laughlin or such?

    • Katherine May 4, 2010 at 12:05 pm

      I am not aware of Loftus as a derivation of O’Laughlin. My mother’s maiden name was O’Loughlin, so I am kind of aware of derivations, variables and close matches of that name and Loftus isn’t one I’ve come across

    • thomas keane Oct 9, 2012 at 9:36 am

      Wonderful name Loftus. Currently, on the Hook Peninsula, Co Wexford, Loftus Hall is being completely refurbished and it is really an amazing place with a fantastic history – Mary, to have to google it and in time visit it. There is a film made by a local amateur group which is pretty good and should be on youtube I think. If not let me know. They (the new owners of Loftus Hall) hope to have it open to the public in 2013 and it will be amazing.

  7. Toni Sep 13, 2010 at 10:11 am

    My mother’s family came from Ireland and was called Rainey. This is said to be derived from a Norse name. Can anyone tell me more? Thanks

  8. Adrian Oct 10, 2010 at 10:04 pm

    My grandfathers last name was Haines. His parents came from Ireland. I’m just trying to find out more about their origin and history. I don’t know if Haines is a descendent of the vikings? It doesn’t sound like it to me but with a last name of Lovenduski I never would’ve guessed that I’m related to Lt. Gen. James A. Longstreet either. So I was just wundering too if I have some viking heritage down the Haines side of my family? If you can help I’d be gratefull. 

  9. Patti Nov 17, 2010 at 4:36 pm

    I am proud to say my maiden name was O Dubgaill/Doyle.
    My Mothers maiden name was Cinnsealach/ Kinsella.
    What a lineage !!

  10. A Doyle here Jan 30, 2011 at 11:23 am

    My GGG Granda was from Carlow.  This is a great bit of info.  Does the Author have any more on Viking Doyles? 

  11. SCAMAN Feb 10, 2011 at 10:56 pm

    Hello, Can anyone shed any light on the name Scaman ? supposed to be of viking origin, thanks 

    • MICHAEL DYER / MOTHER- SCAMAN Jan 7, 2013 at 11:58 pm

      Hello, I have just come across this site and yes you are correct Scaman is a viking name and i have details of the norse version on another pc, I will dig it out asap and contact you again, Rgds , Mick Dyer 

  12. Margaret M Bannon Jul 25, 2012 at 2:35 pm

    Can anyone help me figure out my ancestry?  I recently had a DNA test done and the resurlts are confusing to me.  I was confident that some of my results would be Irish.  The results are Scandinavian.  My maternal grandmother was 100% Irish and 50% on my paternal side.  The Irish surnames in my genealogy were Murohy, Morrissey, O’Connell and Denehy on my mothers side and Cruise and Moore on my fathers side. 

    My question is how is this possible?  I had the test done  two times from two different samples and still the results are the same.  Are any of the names above from Viking origins?  The DNA lab is telling me my Irish liniage is decendent from Vikings.

    Thanking anyone in adbance for any help that can be provided.
       

        

  13. John Tynan Dec 5, 2012 at 5:09 pm

    TYNAN    

      When you look in the net you can see various origins for the name :
    Tynan comes from an Anglicized version of the Gaelic name “OTeimhneain,” which is derived from the word “teimhean,” meaning “dark.”
    Tynan (from Irish: Tuíneán, meaning “watercourse”
    TYNAN originates from Counties Leix and Kilkenny and well recorded there in the original census of Ireland in 1659, the surname is anglicized form of the ancient Gaelic O’Teimhneain. The precise meaning of the surname is unclear, but it probably has some religious connotation, and appears to describe the son of the descendant of a follower of a holy man.”
    In other words nobody really knows.
     
    I have my own theory that the origin is not Gaelic at all, but Norse and is related to the stem  tyne/ting/thing which was an assembly place where the Vikings would come together to hold a parliament meeting every so often. Eg Tynwald, (Old Norse:  tyn-völlr – thing assemblt, völlr = field) the Parliament of the Ile of Man established in 979;  the Althingi (= old t(h)ing) which is the Icelandic parliament established in 930, or;  the Logting (log = law)  : the Faroes’ parliament established in the 9th century.  These are three of the oldest parliaments in the world.   Moreover the Upper House of the Norwegian parliament is called the Lagting.
    In early medieval times in Britain, settlements were set up in administrative units called “hundreds”.  This was an area sufficient to sustain 100 homesteads. These were further broken down into ‘tens’ or ‘tithings’ ie with ten families.  
    I believe that ‘tithings’ can be compared with ‘townships’ and so the words ‘tyne/thing’, ‘town’ and ‘ten’ may well all be related.
    The connection with Tynanfor me is through the Chambers Dictionary definition where you have the verb “tine” meaning to enclose (as you would do with an assembly place or town) and more specifically the Old English verb “tynan” = to surround  cf town.

    Vikings were known town builders. They built towns on the banks of rivers. That would tie in with the second net definition above. 

  14. Kayon Mar 6, 2013 at 7:16 pm

    in the last name THOMS Viking or Irish? if at all connected with either?

  15. Sean Mar 24, 2013 at 10:18 pm

    I have been told that my name is from viking origin but i am unsure… last name is McGinnity and have been told it translates to “son of the fair snow” does anyone know where it came from?

  16. Tim Foley May 13, 2013 at 9:14 pm

    I’ve been trying to find a concrete link to the origin of the name Foley (original Irish = Ua Foghladha; “plunderer”).  Appears originally in Waterford at least as early as 11th century.  Possible viking origins???  Anyone recommend any good sources?

  17. Joe Broderick Oct 20, 2013 at 10:11 am

    Broderick is supposedly a Norse name but I need to get a DNA test to see.

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  19. Riley Nov 12, 2013 at 3:49 pm

    My relatives with the surname Boyle have connections to places in Scotland and Ireland which have both been involved in Viking raids over time – does anybody know if the surname Boyle has any Viking connections (because I can’t seem to find any) or if this is just an odd coincidence? Thanks! 

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