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.

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60 Comments

  1. Heken C. Dougherty (Anthony) | April 15, 2017 at 11:57 pm

    I would like to know the origin of the name Dockray, Dockrey, not Dougherty – is it separate, from the latter. My great grandfather came from Ballymote, Ireland sometime in the 1840’s I once read in a book that Dockray is a very ancient name & aprat from
    Dougherty etc. I would love an answer to this. Thank you

  2. Bailey O’Bar | April 12, 2017 at 1:12 am

    I was wondering if anyone knew about the name O’Bar? I am looking for more history behind it! Thank you!

  3. Is Kelly derived from the Vikings. I recently had a DNA result of 48% “Scandinavian”. My grandmother came from Doneraile in County Cork to the US.

  4. I would like to know if o’shanahan is of viking descent. I’ve alway been told I was of Irish & scotish descent but I would like to know if I might have had viking descent as well it would be great if someone could tell me. Thank you.

  5. Hello there, I need some help with my genealogy. I’m curious to know if I have Norse ancestry somewhere along the line. My last name is O’Boy which is an old Irish name. My maternal grandmother’s maiden name is Keane (Irish) and her mother’s maiden is McKim (Scottish). I’m just looking for a little bit of help. It would be much appreciated. Also I know one of the clans that my maternal grandmother’s family belonged to was the Gunn clan. I’ve heard that Gunn originally was a Scandinavian name. Thanks so much for any help.

  6. My last name is Gunnip. Family is from Wexford Ireland and some in Waterford. I was told years ago by a language professor (who enquired about my name to a supposed expert) that it has Scandinavian origins. Also that this was a “best guess” as my name was not known

    I know the Gunn (plus adding a suffix) is used as a Viking first name …..

    Any ideas?

  7. Can anyone tell me about Keane,O’Daly,Dowling,Kennedy? thank you x

  8. My last name is Doyle. I had no idea!!

  9. What of the surname Meharg? It’s my grandmother’s maiden name, and according to 23andme.com I have Vikings genetics in me!

    • Connie, the name Meharg most likely has Viking connections. The history of the name can be traced to the Viking migration across Scotland, then to the north of Ireland and down into what is now Belfast. I’m surprised many of the websites haven’t addressed the obvious clue, just spell the name backwards…

  10. Can anyone tell me if Hagedon is of Viking decent? I’ve tried looking it up but it doesn’t show up on any surname sites.

  11. Hello,

    Have you ever heard of the name Brilly/Brilley?

    I can’t seem to find anything about it!

    Many thanks

  12. Alfred Barrett | August 14, 2016 at 9:33 pm

    Is Barrett a Viking name?

  13. Mary Marsden(nee Upton) | August 1, 2016 at 7:37 am

    My family name is Upton. The family are from Limerick and I think theirs is a Viking name too.

  14. Patrick Mcguigan | July 24, 2016 at 7:39 pm

    Mcguigan from Tyrone and Antrim from mag Uiginn – son of the payment. Norwegian-Irish

  15. Anyone heard of the names Beebe or Lore?

  16. Please review the following surnames of my great grandparents and give me you opinion about their origins. All are from county Louth it Meath.
    Grimes- thought to be Norse?
    Kelledy (O’Callada?) -old Irish?
    McMahon – Irish?
    Rogers (McRory/MacRaudri) – Irish?

  17. My family names are Lynch, Beglin, Chambers and Greenan. Are any of these of Viking heritage? (I was told that de Lynch was French originallly.) Is that so?
    I’m interested in the Irish who were taken to Iceland as slaves by Vikings. As Icelanders don’t use the same system of surnames that are common in Ireland, what happened to the Irish surnames in Iceland?
    Thanks for any assistance.

  18. My family’s last name was O’Halloran. It translates to Ó hAllmhuráin which means male descendant of a Foreigner, Stranger from beyond the sea, and probably stems from the Gaelic word pirate.

    My family ruled the clan Fearghail and apparently were Norse in extraction. They apparently were Vikings who sided with Brian Boru to defeat the Vikings.

    The family crest has a white horse. That is odd to me considering the Irish favored stags and lions. The Norse favored white horses.

    Can anyone confirm if O’Halloran is of Norse extraction?

    • Caiteach O’bradaigh | March 11, 2017 at 2:08 am

      The Irish word for ‘pirate’ is Bradach. Ó hAllmhuráin means from beyond the sea or ‘Islander’. So, perhaps of the Scottish isles. Nothing about stranger or foreigner. Your name pre dates the Norse occupation by thousands of years.

  19. Is O’Halloran likely to be a Norse name?

  20. My family name is McGinity, I have seen a number of similar names to this. Does anyone know where it comes from?

    • McGinty has the same origin as McEntee and is a name of Gaelic origin. It translates to Mac an tSaoi, which means ‘Son of the Scholar’.

      It wasn’t ever a particularly common surname, the McEntee version would be a lot more numerous, and was and is mostly found in the more northern part of Ireland specially in Co Donegal.

      Paddy McGinty, a fictional character and the owner of a particularly obstinate goat who met an explosive end, is probably the best known bearer of the name!

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-KqnPvFiu3M

  21. An ancestral name is McLoughlin which in some sources is listed as a grandson or great grandson of Ul Neil the high king of Ireland or one of them
    I’ve seen a family tree on line
    The story goes Loughlin went across to settle in Argylshire Scotland and aquured the Mac as he was ruler of the area
    They came backwards and forwards across from Scotland to Ireland and was constantly tried to be killed off by the O’Neil clans, but I’m sure they were not an innocent party lots of cruel stuff went on in the dark ages.
    But other sources has the name linked with vikings so I just wondered what the connection was?
    Regards

    • Caiteach O’bradaigh | March 11, 2017 at 2:13 am

      Lochlann was the old Irish name for Scandinavia. McLoughlin has nothing to do with the O’Neill clan.

  22. My surname is Arrey. Very, very rare. It hasnt changed since Cronk ny Arrey Llha. Whats is my name? Is it Manx and just Manx or does it have Viking origins, noting my suffix end with -ey?

    • ScythianScandian | October 22, 2015 at 8:23 am

      Arrey is old Gaelic for very Old Norwegian (old norse) Årøy. Its etymology had travelled from Norway, along waterways usually rivers (a directional, controlled waterways, or a Fjord) to Isle of Man the Guardian Hills, or “Cronk yn Arrey Lhaa” (control point, water-mill (sluice) oversights, guardian, a watch, sentry, caretaker, ect.)

      In France after the Norman invasions of 911AD, the word Aret (detain, to judge) Arret to Arrêter(to stop, to control, arrest, barrier or barricade agsinst, to keep from, ect)was introduced and those individuals/families who shared duties as such were known as an Arrey.

      B. “Look, that array of troops are ALL Arreys.

      Årøy to Ar(r)et to Arrey, its still pronounced not any different and its etymology not only kept its original definition bit also expanded each shore the name reached.

      You have one of very few and rare oldest names of Viking history.

    • Thank you so much for that great reply, it’s absolutely fascinating. I really hope the person you replied to gets back to see it.

  23. My mam’s surname; ‘Friel’, always interested me. Comes from the Donegal region I believe. It’s meaning ‘fair stanger’, always seemed suspiciously Viking sounding to me. I wonder if that’s the case.

  24. kevin harrington | December 20, 2013 at 9:26 pm

    Not to forget Higgins the Viking, Mc Guiness sonof Guntar, McSorely son of Soren and all of the Norman names as Normandy was a duchy of Denmark and the Normans were Catholic Vikings on horseback

  25. 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! 

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

  27. 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?

  28. 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?

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

  30. 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. 

  31. Margaret M Bannon | July 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.
       

        

    • Conor Sheehan | November 3, 2016 at 8:51 am

      The people of Iceland have been DNA tested and almost all the female DNA is irish and the men are Viking .! There were Viking settlers recorded in Limerick , Ireland in the 9th century . There was inter-marriage from both sides . So , your DNA tests are not wrong . Your ancestry is from both sides .

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

    • MICHAEL DYER / MOTHER- SCAMAN | January 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 

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

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

  35. 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. 

  36. 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

  37. Mary Broccolo | April 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?

    • 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

    • 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.

    • Conor Sheehan | November 3, 2016 at 8:44 am

      Mary , the name Loftus is well known around the county of Limerick , Ireland . There is a small village called Mungret on the edge of Limerick city . There was a large monastic settlement in Mungret in the 5th and 6th century, and at one time there were 150 men in Mungret named Loftus . I suspect that Loftus derived from a person bearing a high status monastic latin title .
      That’s all I know about Loftus . You can find the name Loftus in the Munster telephone directory .
      Conor Sheehan

  38. Proinsias Broderick Barrett | April 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. 

  39. Michael Rochon | March 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

  40. 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. 

  41. 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

    • Pamela Wade Foster Macklin | December 22, 2016 at 2:26 am

      My maiden name is Wade and I’ve just been told we are of Norwegian descent. I’d appreciate any info.

  42. Frederick Lund | January 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.

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