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,
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).
to surnames index
to Beginners Blas