Vikings in Dublin, or Dyflin as they called it

Die Welt der Wikinger, Teil 3.2

..aus dem englischen.....Übersetzung ist in Arbeit


A Viking Network Info-sheet:

Vikings in Dublin,

or Dyflin as they called it

by Robert O'Connor


When the Vikings came to Dublin they introduced some words to the Irish language. These are some of the words still in use today:

brea = fine, good

ancaire = anchor

bad = boat

margad = market

pingin = penny

scilling = shilling


When the Vikings were in the Dublin area they left names that they had given to places, these placenames survive today. Howth from 'hovda' (head); Leixlip from salmon leap; Wicklow from words meaning Viking meadow; Lambay and Dalkey the "ei" sounds in these words means island; Skerries comes from "skjaere" which means rocky islets or reefs; College Green in the city centre used to be called Hoggen Green, this came from the word "haugr" meaning mound.

Places with Viking connections around Dublin

bullet Fingal in the north of the city comes from the Irish word fionn gall meaning fair haired foreigners. 

bullet Baldoyle also to the north of the city comes from the Irish Baile Dubh Gall meaning the town of the dark haired foreigners (Danes?)

bullet Oxmanstown on the northern banks of the Liffey, came from the word Ostmen

bullet The cemetry in the area of the Royal Hospital Kilmainham is the largest Viking cemetry outside of Scandinavia.

bullet The Vikings had a town where Wood Quay is now and any Viking artifacts have beend found there.

Personal Names

Sitric Silkenbeard was King of Dublin in 999 A.D  Olaf Cuaran was king in 945-980 A.D. The last Viking King of Dublin was Askulv Mac Torcaill

Viking Homes in Dublin

It seems form what was found on Wood Quay that the Vikings in Dublin used a special group of builders to build their houses. The first thing that they would need to do before they built a new house was to demolish the old one. There wasn't much building space inside the town walls so space was important. A house usually lasted for fifteen years, after that the roof began to sag and leak, and the area around the house would begin to fill with rubbish.

The walls of the house were just over a metre high, but they did not support the weight of the roof as they were made of wattle and daub. The roof was supported by four thick posts inside the house. There were two doors, one at each end of the house. A typical house would have measured 6m by 5m. The roof was made of a lattice of wattles, on this lattice sods of earth were spread, and over this a layer of straw. Though the word window comes from a word meaning "wind eye", Viking homes in Dublin had no windows. A smoke hole in the roof let out the smoke. The fire was built in a rectangular area in the middle of the house, the ground around the fire was covered in a layer of gravel. Other areas of the house along the walls were covered in mats. The beds, which could be used as benches during the daytime, were made of several layers brush, sods, hay/straw, and finally fleece.

Dublin as a Centre of Viking Trade

Dublin was a very important Viking trading town around 1000 A.D. Many ships would have been coming and going or tied up by the town walls.

There were ocean-going traders, coastal traders, and of course the famous longships or warboats. On these boats and on the quayside nearby would be barrels containing any different goods. Goods were also transported in sacks. These boats also carried animals and sometimes slaves. Slaves from Dublin often ended up in the Baltic or in North Africa. Trae consisted of woollens, hides, fleeces, furs, and personal items.

Ships left Dublin bould for the Isle of Man, Chester, Bristol, Scotland, the Hebrides, and the Mediterranean Sea. Ships coming to Dublin carried wine, ceramics from England, soapstone from Shetland, silks from Bagdad, broken galss from Germany to make bracelet stones, tin from Cornwall, silver form the Middle East, and ivory in the form of walrus tusks was imported form the Arctic (sometimes with the skull attached to show that they were genuine!) The crew would eat cured meat during the voyage, and a store of drinking water was kept on board.

Viking Fashion

We now know that the Vikings in Dublin did not parade around town with horned helets on their heads. The Vikings introduced the wearing of trousers to Ireland. When we look at the pictures of Roman soldiers carved on Irish stone crosses, they are shown wearing knee-length trousers. This would have shown the natives that they were foreigners. The Vikings in Dublin wore shirts, a belt with a scabbard and a knife, and leather shoes. en wore their hair loose and beards were common.

Women wore a long tunic, covered by a long apron which sometimes hung from shoulder straps. A rich lady wore a silk band in her hair and often tied their hair up in buns. Whereas the Irish wore sandal- type shoes, the Vikings wore a shoe with a sole and an uper part ade of leather.

Gaelic Place-Names: Gall

The Gaelic place-name gall means 'stranger, foreigner', and occurs in Scottish place-names including Achingall 'field of the strangers' (East Lothian), Rubha nan Gall 'point of the strangers' (Mull), Cnoc nan Gall 'hill of the strangers' (Colonsay), Allt nan Gall 'stream of the strangers' (Sutherland), Inchgall 'isle of the strangers' (Fife), Barr nan Gall 'summit of the strangers' (Argyllshire) and Camusnagaul 'bay of the strangers' (Wester Ross).

In many cases, the strangers or foreigners in question were the Vikings who settled the northern and western seaboard of Scotland from the late eighth century. For example, the old Gaelic name for the Hebrides was Innse Gall 'islands of the foreigners', and the Gaelic name for Caithness was Gallaibh 'among the foreigners'. This contrasts with the Gaelic name for (eastern) Sutherland Cataibh 'among the Cats', revealing that whatever the Gaels relationship with the Pictish 'cat' tribe who inhabited the area, they did not consider them to be gall. The Vikings themselves referred to the Picts in northern Scotland by the same term, as the name Caithness is from Old Norse katanes 'headland of the Cat people'.

The handful of gall names in Fife are also likely to refer to Viking settlers. However, in the case of Cairngall in Aberdeenshire and Balnagall in Easter Ross, it seems likely that gall had a more general meaning of 'non-Gael', and may have referred Lowland Scots speakers rather than Vikings. Gall also has a secondary meaning of 'rock, stone', particularly in reference to a distinctive standing-stone. In some cases, it can be difficult to establish whether names in gall refer to strangers or to a specific stone, although in examples such as Leac nan Gall in Argyll (containing leac 'slab, flat stone') and Craigengall in West Lothian (containing creag 'rock'), the interpretation of 'stranger' or 'non-Gael' is to be preferred, as they would otherwise be 'stone-of-the-stone' tautological formations.

The Viking gall are well-documented in historical sources including the Annals of Ulster and the Annals of the Four Masters, where they are often subdivided into two groups, with the Norwegians designated as the fionn gall 'fair strangers' and the Danes as the dubh gall 'dark strangers'. Fionn gall is the original of the Gaelic personal name Fingal, and similarly dubh gall has evolved into the modern personal name and surname Dougal. Another surname derived from gall is Galbraith, which is Gaelic gall Breathnach 'foreign Briton'.

In addition to the dubh gall and the fionn gall, Gaelic-speakers recognised a distinct ethnic group they referred to as the Gall-Gaidheal or 'foreigner Gaels'. There has been much debate about the precise ethnicity of the Gall-Gaidheal, with various theories including that they were Gaelic-speakers from Ireland, English overlords in a Gaelic-speaking region of Scotland, Norman immigrants, Irish Protestants or Strathclyde Britons. However, the predominant view is that the name referred to a group of a mixed Gaelic-Viking group, who originated either in Ireland or the Western Seaboard of Scotland, and who eventually settled in the Galloway area. Indeed the modern Gaelic name for Galloway is Gall-Ghaidhealaibh 'among the foreign Gaels'.

Alison Grant


Scottish Language Dictionaries