Irish Surname - Boyle or O'Boyle
The name Boyle is a variant of O'Boyle, derived from the Gaelic 'O'Baoighill', meaning the male descendant of the rash one! Because there is some uncertainty about the exact derivation of the name, it is also believed to have connections with the Irish word geall, meaning "pledge".
Irish clan names were traditionally taken from a nickname of the original chieftain of the clan, and were often prefixed by an O', or Mac. In the Middle Ages the O'Boyles were powerful and respected chieftains in County Donegal, who shared control of west Ulster with the O'Donnells and the O'Dohertys. They were also known for their ruddy complexion!
Although generally regarded as an Irish surname of great antiquity, there is a possibility that it could be English of Irish origins or English of French origins. The French origins of the name in England derive from either 'Boileau' meaning "water wood," or 'Boille', a nickname of endearment for a small, rounded person.
Some of the best-known Boyles connected with Ireland were of English origin. The first Earl of Cork, Richard Boyle, came from England to Ireland in 1588 and went on to acquire the extensive property of the executed Sir Walter Raleigh in County Waterford. This formed the nucleus of the vast estates he was to bequeath to his extensive family on his death in 1643. The best known of his sons were Roger Boyle (1621-1679) Earl of Orrery, and Robert Boyle (1627-1691), chemist and experimental physicist. Other Gaelic-Irish Boyles / O'Boyles who distinguished themselves include the well-known wit John Boyle (d. 1832), Abbey Theatre dramatist William Boyle (1853-1922), and the railway engineer Richard Boyle (1822-1908).
The Boyle family coat of arms depicts a gold shield charged with green oak tree eradicated.
The strongest association of the name is still in County Donegal, where (O)Boyle is the third most numerous name in the country. The Boyles can also be found in Kildare and Offaly.
Alternate Surname Spellings
Boyles, O'Boyle, O'Baoighill, O'Baoill
Researching Irish Surnames
We have only scratched the surface with information on Irish surnames. If you have an interest in helping to develop this area of our site contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information and how you could be remunerated.
Ireland Roots Message Board
Leave a message on our Facebook page if you're researching this surname