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Irish Surname - Doyle

The name Doyle in Ireland is thought to be of Norse origin and comes from the Irish Ó'Dubhghaill or dubh ghall, the "dark stranger or foreigner". This was a descriptive formula first used to describe the invading Vikings, and in particular to distinguish the darker-haired Danes from the fair-haired Norwegians.

This famous surname is one of the most ancient names of Ireland, having been brought to the East of the country during the 9th to 11th centuries. The Doyle surname is also one of the most popular, being 12th in the table of numerical strength of Irish surnames. The greatest concentration of Doyles is in Leinster, Roscommon, Wexford and Wicklow.

Tradition suggests that the ancestor who gave his name to the family was a descendant of one of the Norsemen who settled in Ireland in pre-Norman times, and this is probably somewhat true. However, if the original nameholders were dark, this suggests that a more likely explanation is that they were either 'Celts' or possibly Danes, who were much darker than the Norsemen, and who had established themselves in Ulster, the West of Scotland, and the Isle of Man.

The Scottish form of Doyle is 'Dougall' and 'MacDougall' and this name was also used in the same way to distinguish darker-haired Danes from fair-haired Norwegians. In Ulster and Roscommmon, these names now exist as 'McDowell' and 'Dowell', carried by the descendants of immigrant Scottish gallowglasses, or mercenaries.

The best-known bearer of the name was probably Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, (1859 - 1930), creator of Sherlock Holmes, whilst an outstanding churchman was JKL Doyle, Bishop of Kildare and Leighlin, 1819-1834.

In the 1850s Griffiths Valuation, 4634 Doyle households were recorded across Ireland. More than half of those (1169) were in Wexford, Wicklow had 556, Carlow (393) and Dublin (330).

Coat of Arms

The stag portrayed in the coat of arms is regarded as a symbol of permanence and endurance, a theme reflected also in one of the family mottoes 'Bhi me, beich me', meaning 'I was and I will be'.

Researching Irish Surnames

We have researched many sources for the origins of Irish surnames and extracted a fair representation of the origins of each. As there are many variations we have compiled a representative, but by no means exhaustive, selection.

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