Duffy derives from the old Gaelic name Mac Dhubhshith, although it also has a separate line of origin in Scotland.
There are several modern variations of the name Mac Dhubhshith, some of them seemingly totally unrelated. These include: Duffy, Duff, Duffie, D’Duffie, McFee, McPhee, MacDuff, MacDuffie, Dowie and O’Duhig.
There are many Duffys in Co Roscommon where there is a town called Lissyduffy. It is also very common all over Ireland, although in Munster the variant Duhig is far more popular.
Duffy is also one of the oldest names in Scotland.
Craftsmen for the King
Dhubhshith was a personal ‘descriptive’ name that was made up of two elements. Dubh was an old Gaelic word meaning ‘black’ and ‘sith’ meant ‘peace’. The prefix ‘Mac’ meant that the person with the surname was the ‘Son of’
Therefore, the original name ‘Mac Dhubhshith meant ‘son of the black one of peace’. The adjective black would have referred to the person’ hair colour rather the colour of their skin.
The name may have originated with a man called Dubhtach, who was the Archbishop of Armagh in the 6th century. It is likely that the name would have been taken by his followers rather than his descendants.
Different versions of the name emerged as people were obliged to identify themselves for administrative purposes such as tax collection. There were often wide variations in spelling, which created what appeared to be unrelated names such as Duffy and McPhee.
In the 12th century, the Duffys worked as craftsmen for the High King, Turlough O Conor, and were responsible for some of the most magnificent churches and monasteries of the day.
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