Irish Surnames of Viking Origin

The Vikings were in Ireland for 300 years and could not but have had a considerable influence on the Irish way of life. They settled, integrated and intermarried with the Irish and left a legacy of names that are still in use today.

The Norse or Viking warriors who attacked Ireland around 800 may have included two factions that the Irish called Dubhgaill and Finngaill, or dark and fair foreigners, or indeed Norse and Danes. Placenames like Dublin and Finglas may also be derived from these terms.

At the time of Brian Boru as High King it is said that he enforced as law the growing use of surmanes that was particular to the Irish people. Unlike the rest of Europe where names were derived from places, in Ireland it was customary to adopt the use of the leader or originator of the clan, which was a kinship group based on a grandfather, his sons and grandsons. Hence, Ó was used for Ua meaning ‘grandson of’ and Mac for ‘son of’.

It is thought that the surnames Doyle and McDowell are derived from the name Ó Dubh-ghail, meaning therefore ‘son/grandson of the dark or evil one’. However, there was also a Viking King of Idrone in Carlow called Dubhgilla in the 9th century, but this recording by an Irish monk could be an Irish term for this figure. Whichever it is he has thousands of descendants worldwide today!

'Lochlannach' has of course many derivations such as Loughlin, McLoughlin, O’Loughlin.

MacAuliffe is also believed to be derived from ‘Son of Olaf’, and MacManus, ‘Son of Magnus’.

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