The Doyles of Ireland


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The Dark Foreigners
The surname “Doyle” comes from the Irish “O’Duḃġaill”. The “O” means descendant or family of. The “Duḃ” means “dark”, and “ġaill” means “foreigner”. Thus an O’Doyle is a descendant of a dark foreigner.

“Duḃ” is pronounced “Doo” in most dialects, although it comes out more like “Dow” in some. “Ǵaill” is pronounced a bit like “yall”. Adding the two syllables and pronouncing it in English, it comes out like the English Doyle. But if you use a hard “G” sound, it comes out more like “DOO-gal”. And if you pronounce the first syllable “DOW”, it comes out “DOW-yall”.

Thus the names O’Doyle, MacDougall, and MacDowell are derived from the same Celtic name – dark foreigner (with “Mac” meaning “son of”).

Who are these dark foreigners? They were the Vikings, who first came to Ireland in the 800s. The Vikings were initially raiders but over time they settled in Ireland. Many of Ireland’s coastal cities –Dublin, Wexford, Waterford – were first settled by the Vikings.

These Vikings ultimately adopted many Celtic practices and became as Celtic as the Irish. They took pride in being called “dark foreigners” and some took the surname as descendants of the dark foreigners.

Why “dark”, since Vikings typically had blonde hair and blue eyes? The Celtic Irish may have considered all Vikings as “dark” since they were quite strange. It may be, though, that they “dark foreigners” were the Danish Vikings, since they were a tad darker in hair color and complexion than the Norwegian Vikings.

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