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16 October 2014
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Charlie Dillon
Many colours appear in Gaelic surnames, and we have in this series come across many references, to donn (brown) fionn (fair) and gorm (blue). Dubh, however appears so frequently in surnames and in such varied forms and structures that it is worthy of particular attention.
Firstly, dubh appears singly with Ó, Ó Duibh, meaning descendant of the dark or black one, anglicised Duff and often translated to Black. As we saw with maol, there are also diminutives of this, such as Ó Dubhagáin, anglicised Dougan, and Ó Dubháin, anglicised as Downe, Downes or Devane, and translated in mistake for the noun duán, as Kidney.
Ó Dubhda, Duddy or O’Dowd means descendant of the blackened one, and is still quite common in the north west, where the name has its origin. Similar to this is Ó Dubhthaigh (Duffy, Ó Dufaigh), a name extremely common all over Ireland.
The biggest group of dubh surnames is where dubh appears as a prefix before another word, describing that word. A very common name following this pattern is Ó Dubhghaill, desc. of the black foreigner (the foreigner in this case appears to be Viking), anglicised Doyle or Doole. Another pattern is dubh followed by a gaelic personal name, such as Flann in Ó Dubhlainn (Doolin), Artach in Ó Dubhartaigh (Dooherty), and Ros in Ó Dúrois (Doris, Doorish). Earlier in the series we discussed Mag Uidir meaning son of Odhar, and Ó Duidhir is descendant of black Odhar. In each case above, the personal name carries the genitive changes after Ó.
Other names containing dubh are Ó Dubhchair, angl. Dooher, meaning descendant of the dark beloved one; the word in that name for beloved, car, giving us today’s cara, meaning friend. Dooley comes from an amalgamation of dubh and laoch, meaning dark warrior, with the genitive again creating the modern sounding Ó Dubhlaoich. Delargey, common in N. Antrim is from Ó Duibhleargaigh, and means desc. of the dark one from the place Leargach. And finally Deegan, which has its origin in Ó Duibhginn, from dubh (black) and ceann (head).

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