Doyle, one of the most common surnames in Ireland, derives from the Irish Ó 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 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 Roscommon, these names now exist as "McDowell" and "Dowell", carried by the descendants of immigrant Scottish gallowglasses or mercenaries.
Further evidence for the non-Gaelic origin lies in the absence of the family from any of the Gaelic genealogies. It is not until the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries that the name begins to appear frequently in the Annals.
The strongest association of Doyle, however, is with south-east Leinster, counties Wexford, Wicklow and Carlow in particular, though the name is now found everywhere in Ireland. The stag portrayed in the 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".
The surname is extremely numerous, ranked 9th in Ireland in 1890, with 514 births. Its association with southern Ireland is marked by the fact that, while it remains ninth most common in the Republic of Ireland in 1996, in Northern Ireland it is only 106th.
.Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1859-1930), author of the Sherlock Holmes novels was the grandson of Dubliner John Doyle (1797-1868) was a portrait painter who eventually found success as the political cartoonist "HB" in Punch magazine.
Jack Doyle (1913-78), originally from Cork, was a famous heavyweight boxer, singer, actor and socialite.
The Doyles of Bramblestown in Kilkenny produced a remarkable series of distinguished soldiers between 1750 and 1850, including no fewer than six major-generals.