The surname (O) Daly ( and its variants Daily, Daley etc.) is O Dalaigh in Irish, deriving form Dalach meaning ‘one who is present at assemblies’; the root word is Dail, now the official title of the parliament of the Republic of Ireland. A connection is possible between the meaning of the name and the long tradition of scholarship and poetic achievement associated with those who bear it, since the ollamh of Gaelic Ireland had a place of honour at the tribal dail as a man of learning and a poet/ The medieval genealogists located their homeland in the present Co Westmeath, and they spread throughout the county by acting as ollamhs to the most prominent families. From a very early date families of the name were also prominent in Co. Cork, and especially in the area around the peninsulas of Muintervarra, or Sheep’s Head, in west Cork. The likeliest explanation is that the name had a separate origin in the south. Even so, the O’Dalys of Desmond had an equally strong association with poetry and learning: so potent were the poems of Aonghas O Dalaigh of Ballyroon that he was murdered by one of the victims of his satires. The name is now common throughout Ireland, with the greatest concentrations in the south and west, and in Co. Westmeath.

In its form, Delaney is a Norman name, form De l’aunaie, meaning ‘form the alder grove’, and doubtless some of those bearing the name in Ireland are of Norman stock. However, in the vast majority if cases it was adopted as the anglicised form of the original Irish O Dubhshlaine, from dubh, meaning ‘black’, and slan, meaning ‘defiance’. The original territory of the O Dubhshlaine was at the foot of the Slieve Bloom mountains in Co. Laois. From there they spread also in neighbouring Co. Kilkenny, and the surname is still strongly associated with these two counties. The most famous historical bearer of the surname was Patrick Delaney (1685-6-1768), Church of Ireland clergyman, renowned preacher and close friend of Jonathan Swift, of whom he wrote a celebrated ‘Defence’.

In the original Irish Dempsey is O Diomasaigh, from diomasach, meaning ‘proud’. The name was also occasionally anglicised ‘Proudman’. The O Diomsaigh originated in the territory of Clanmalier, on the borders of what are now counties Laois and Offaly, and remained powerful in the area until the seventeenth century. James 1 recognised the strength of the family by granting the title ‘Viscount Clanmalier’ to Terence Dempsey. The loyalty of the family to the crown was short-lived, however, and the Williamite wars later in the century destroyed their power and scattered them. The surname is now found throughout the country. In Ulster, Dempsey is common in Co Antrim, where it may be a version of ‘Dempster’, a Scottish name meaning ‘judge’, or possibly an anglicisation of Mac Diomasaigh, also sometimes rendered as ‘McGimpsey’.

In Ireland Dillon may be of Gaelic or Norman origin, the former from O Duilleain, possibly from dall, meaning ‘blind’, the latter from de Leon, from the place of the same name in Brittany. This, of course, accounts for the lion in the family arms. The Norman family have been prominent in Ireland since the arrival of their ancestor Sir Henry de Leon in 1185. He was granted vast estates in counties Longford and Westmeath, and his descendants retained their power up to modern times, with Co Westmeath becoming known as ‘Dillons Country’. Another branch of the family settled in Co Mayo, where they are still well known today. After the Williamite wars of the seventeenth century, a number of members of the family served in Continental armies. The best known Irish regiment in the French army was ‘Dillons Regiment’, many members of which made their way to America to fight against the British in the War of Independence.

Doherty and its many variants - (O) Dogherty, Docherty, Dougharty etc., comes from the Irish O’ Docharaigh, from dochartach, meaning ‘unlucky’ or ‘hurtful’. The original Dochartach, from whom the clan descend, lived in the tenth century and has traditionally been claimed as twelfth in lineal descent from Conall Gulbain, son of Niall of the Nine Hostages, the fifth-century monarch supposedly responsible for kidnapping St. Patrick to Ireland, and progenitor of the great tribal grouping of the Ui Neill. Conall gave his name to the territory he conquered, Tir Chonaill, the Irish for Donegal, and to the subgroup of the Ui Neill, the Cineal Chonaill, the race of Conall, the collective name for the many families which claim descent from him, such as the Gallaghers and the O’Donnells as well as the Dohertys. The original homeland of the O’ Dohertys was in the barony of Raphoe in Co. Donegal, with the chief seat at Ardmire in the parish of Kilteevoge. They remained powerful chiefs in the area for five hundred years, until the defeat and execution of Sir Cahir O’Doherty at the start of the seventeenth century.

In Irish the surname is O Dubhshlain, from dubh, meaning ‘black’ and slan, meaning ‘challange’ or ‘defiance’. Other anglicised versions include ‘Doolan’ and ‘Dowling’. It first arose as part of the Ui Maine tribal grouping in south Roscommon and east Galway, and from there spread to the northeast into counties Leitrim, Cavan and Fermanagh. It remains numerous in all five counties today, and is particularly common in Co. Cavan. In places it is also given as an anglicisation of O Doibhilin, probably derived from dobhail, meaning ‘unlucky’, and more usually rendered into English as ‘Devlin’. Many of the Dolans of Co. Sligo are of this stock.

Donnelly is O Donnaile in Irish, from Donnail, a personal name made up of donn, meaning ‘brown’ and gal, meaning ‘bravery’. The original ancestor was Donnail O Neill, who died in 876, and was himself a descendant of Eoghan, son of Niall of the Nine Hostages, the fifth-century king who supposedly kidnapped St. Patrick to Ireland. Their territory was first in Co. Donegal, but they later moved eastwards into Co. Tyrone, where the centre of their power was at Ballydonnelly. Many of the family were hereditary bards, but their chief historical fame is as soldiers, especially in the wars of the seventeenth century. One modern bearer of the name who combined both traditional roles was Charles Donnelly (1910-37_, poet and republican, who was killed fighting with the International Brigade in the Spanish Civil War.

Doran is in Irish O Deorain, a contracted form of O Deoradhain, from deoradh, meaning ‘exile’ or ‘pilgrim’. The surname has also been anglicised as ‘Dorrian’, principally in the northern counties of Armagh and Down, where a branch was established in early times.The major fame of the family, however, was in Leinster where for centuries they were hereditary judges and lawyers (‘brehons’) to the rulers of the ancient territory of Ui Cinnsealaigh, the MacMurroughs. This territory took in all of the present Co. Wexford as well as adjoining parts of south Wicklow and Carlow, and the Dorans are still most numerous in this area today, with the placename ‘Doransland’ in Wexford providing evidence of their long association with the area. In modern times, Dorans have been famous as Wexford sportsmen, with families from Enniscorthy, Monamolin and Gorey prominent in football, hurling and cycling.

At the end of the nineteenth century, the vast majority of bearers of this surname, by a proportion of four to one, were ‘Dowd’ rather than O’Dowd. Since then, a large-scale resumption of the ‘O’ has reversed the proportions, with the ‘O’Dowd’ now by far the most popular. The original Irish name was O Dubhda, from dubh, meaning ‘black’. In the traditional genealogies, the family is one of the Ui Fiachrach, a large tribal grouping tracing its origin back to Fiachra, brother of Niall of the Nine Hostages, the fifth-century monarch supposedly responsible for kidnapping St. Patrick to Ireland. The O’Dowds were the most powerful in this group, and for centuries their territory included large parts of northwest Mayo and west Sligo; the name is still numerous in the area today. The surname also appears to have arisen separately in two other areas of the country: in Munster, where the anglicisations ‘Doody’ and ‘Duddy’ are quite frequent in the Kerry area, and in Derry, where the anglicisation is almost invariably ‘Duddy’.

Although it may sometimes appear as a variant of ‘Dolan’, in most cases Dowling has a separate origin. In form the name is English, derived form the Old English dol, meaning ‘dull’ or ‘stupid’, but in Ireland it is generally an anglicisation of the Irish O Dunlaing. The original territory of the O Dunlaing was in the west of the present Co. Laois, along the banks of the river Barrow, which was known as Fearrann ua nDunlaing, O’Dowling’s country’. The leading members of the family were transplanted to Tarbert in Co. Kerry in 1609, along with other leaders of the ‘Seven Septs of Laois’, but the surname remained numerous in its original homeland, and spread south and west into Carlow, Kilkenny, Wicklow and Dublin, where it is now very common. As a first name Dunlang was popular in early medieval times in Leinster, where it was also anglicised as ‘Dudley’.

This name, one of the most common in Ireland, derives from the Irish O Dubhghaill, from dubh, ‘dark’, and gall, ‘foreigner’, a descriptive formula first used to describe the invading Vikings, and in particular to distinguish the darker-haired Danes from the fair-haired Norwegians. The common Scottish names ‘Dougall’ and MacDougall’ come from the same source, and reflect the original pronunciation more accurately. In Ulster and Roscommmon, these names now exist as ‘McDowell’ and ‘Dowell’, carried by the descendants of immigrant Scottish gallowglasses, or mercenaries. The strongest association of Doyle, however, is with southeast Leinster, counties Wexford, Wicklow, and Carlow in particular, though the name is now found everywhere in Ireland. 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, ‘I was and I will be’.

In 1890, over 90 per cent of those bearing the name recorded themselves as ‘Driscoll’; today, in a remarkable reversal of the nineteenth-century trend, virtually all are called ‘O’Driscoll’. The surname comes from the Irish O hEidirsceoil, from eidirsceol, meaning ‘go-between’ or ‘bearer of news’. The original Eidirsceol from whom the family descend was born in the early tenth century, and since then they have been strongly associated with west Cork, in particular the area around Baltimore and Skibbereen, where they remained powerful up top the seventeenth century. They were part of the Corca Laoighde tribal grouping, descended from the Erainn or, Celts who were settled in Ireland before the arrival of the Gaels, and retained a distinct identity despite the dominance of the victorious newcomers. Their arms reflect the family’s traditional prowess as seafarers, developed during their long lordship of the seacoast around Baltimore.

In Irish the surname is O Dubhthaigh, from dubhthach, meaning ‘the dark one’. Several different families of the name arose separately in different places, the most important being in Donegal, Roscommon and Monaghan. In Donegal the family were centred on the parish of Templecrone, where they remained powerful churchmen for almost eight hundred years. The Roscommon family, too, had a long association with the church, producing a succession of distinguished abbots and bishops. The area around Lissonuffy in the northeast of the county, which is named after them, was the centre of their influence. From this source the name is now common in north Connacht. The Monaghan O’Duffys were rulers of the area around Clontibret. They also contributed a great deal to the church, with a huge number of parish clergy of the name. They flourished through the centuries, and Duffy is now the single most common name in Co Monaghan.

The Irish O Dubhagain is anglicised principally as ‘Duggan’, but may also be found as ‘Dugan’ or ‘Doogan’, the latter representing a more accurate rendition of the Irish pronunciation. The principal family of the name had their territory near the modern town of Fermoy in north Cork, and were part of the Fir Maighe tribal grouping which gave its name to the town. Alon with the other Fir Maighe families, they lost their power when the Normans conquered the territory in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. The family name is found in the parish and townland of Caherduggan in that area. Another sept of the same name is famous in the Ui Maine area of east Galway/south Roscommon principally because it produced John O’Dugan (died 1372), chief poet of the O’Kellys, and co-author of the Topographical Poems, a long, detailed description of Ireland in the twelfth century.

Although ‘Dunn’ is also an English surname, from the Old English dunn, ‘dark-coloured’, the vast majority of those bearing the name in Ireland descned from the O Doinn, from donn, used to describe someone who was swarthy or brown-haired. The O Doinn first came to prominence as lords of the area around Tinnehinch in the north of the modern Co Laois, and were known as Lords of Iregan up to the seventeenth century. At that time the surname was generally anglicised as ‘ O Doyne’. Today the name is still extremely common in that part of Ireland, though it is now also widespread elsewhere. Perhaps because of the stronger English influence, in Ulster the name is generally spelt ‘Dunn’, while it is almost invariably ‘Dunne’ in other parts.

In Irish the surname is O Duibhir or O Dubhuidhir, made up of dubh, meaning ‘dark’ and odhar, meaning ‘tawny’ or ‘sallow’. The resumption of the ‘O’ prefix has now made ‘O Dwyer’ much the most common version. Their original homeland was in the mountains of west Tipperary, where they held power and resisted the encroachment of the English down to modern times. The surname is still extremely common in this area, but Dwyers and O Dwyers have now also spread into the neighbouring counties of Limerick, Cork and Kilkenny. The most famous bearer of the name in modern times was Michael Dwyer, who took part in the 1798 Rising against the English, and continued his resistance up to 1803. He was transported to New South Wales in Australia, and became High Constable of Sydney, where he died in 1826.


Egan in Irish is Mac Aodhagain, from a diminutive of the prsonal name Aodh, meaning ‘fire’, which was anglicised ‘Hugh’ for some strange reson. As well as Egan, Aodh is also the root of many other common Irish surnames, including O’Higgins, O’Hea, Hayes, McHugh, McCoy etc. The MacAodhagain originated in the Ui Maine territory of south Roscommon/east Galway, where they were hereditary lawyers and judges to the ruling families. Over the centuries, however, they became dispersed southwards, settling mainly in north Munster and east Leinster. As well as Connacht, their original homeland, they are now most numerous in Leinster, though the surname is now also relatively widespread throughout Ireland. In both Connacht and Leinster the surname has also sometimes been anglicised as ‘Keegan’.