Dunne – dark brown hair

History of the Irish name Dunne. Image copyright Ireland Calling
History of the Irish name Dunne. Image copyright Ireland Calling

The surname Dunne has origins in Ireland, England and Scotland. However, it is extremely popular in Ireland and is in the list of the top 30 most common Irish surnames.

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In Ireland the name derives from the ancient surname ‘O’Duinn’ or ‘Doinn’. The surname meant that the person was a male descendent of ‘Duinn’ or ‘Oinn’. These personal names came from the word ‘Donn’ which meant ‘dark’ as in black or brown. They were names that would have been given to someone with dark hair.

Hostile to the English

Dunne copyright Ireland CallingThe Dunnes were one of the principal families of Leinster. They formed in Co Leix, which would later become part of Co Laois along with Counties Slewmarge and Irry during Queen Mary’s reign in the 16th century.

The chief of the Dunne family was also the Lord of Iregan. The Dunnes were renowned for being hostile to the English who saw them as one of the more dangerous clans in Ireland.

Another sept, or branch, of the Dunne clan developed in Ulster in the north of the country. It is likely that many of the Ulster Dunnes were of Scottish origin.

Most people in Ulster with the surname spell it Dunn rather than Dunne.

English and Scottish Dunnes

In England the name dates back to before the 7th century. It comes from an old English word ‘dunn’ which meant ‘dull’ or ‘dark coloured’. It was originally a nickname for people with dark brown hair. This may have developed into the surname ‘Dunna’ which means ‘dark’.

In Scotland the name is likely to have geographical origins rather than coming from a nickname based on the person’s appearance. The name is thought to have originated from the lands of Dun which was in Tayside, near to the modern Dundee. The word ‘Dun’ is an old Celtic word that meant ‘fort’.

In Ireland the ‘O’ prefix was dropped during the middle ages in an attempt to Anglicise the name. This is because it was almost impossible for people with Irish sounding names to find work under British rule.

Sporting Dunnes

Richard Dunne. Photo copyright Michael Kranewitter CC3

Richard Dunne

Richard Dunne is a former Republic of Ireland international soccer player. He represented his country 80 times and was part of the Irish squad for two major international tournaments. He was also named Manchester City Player of the Year four years in a row.

Other Dunnes who have played professional soccer include former Arsenal forward Jimmy Dunne and former Manchester United goalkeeper, Pat Dunne.

Karen Dunne was an American professional cyclist. She won a gold medal in the women’s road race at the 1999 Pan American Games.

Bernard Dunne is a Dublin born boxer and former WBA Super Bantamweight champion. Paddy Dunne was a Gaelic footballer and is regarded as one of the best players of the 1950s.

Creative Dunnes

Philip Dunne was a screenwriter and Hollywood film director. He was at his peak during the 1940s and 50s. His best known films include How Green Was My Valley, and David and Bathsheba. He was nominated for an Oscar for both films. The Daniel Day Lewis movie, Last of the Mohicans, was based on Philip Dunne’s screenplay of the Fennimore Cooper novel.

John Gregory Dunne was an American novelist and screen writer. He wrote a number of novels including True Confessions and Red White and Blue.

He worked on screenplays of The Panic in Needle Park which was Al Pacino’s breakthrough movie as well as the adaption of his book, True Confessions, which starred Robert De Niro and Robert Duvall.
Colin Dunne is a traditional Irish dancer who is famous for his performances and choreography in shows such as Riverdance.

Dunne’s is also the name of one of the biggest supermarket chains in Ireland.


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