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What is Black Irish?

Diane Goettel
Updated May 23, 2024
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The term "Black Irish" is used almost exclusively outside of Ireland in reference to certain groups of people, although there is little agreement over the people to whom it applies and why. In many cases, it refers to people of Irish ancestry who have features that are darker than stereotypical Irish features — blue or green eyes, reddish hair and pale skin. Irish people who have dark hair, brown eyes and dark complexions are often referred to as Black Irish. In some places, at times, immigrants from Ireland have been called this term, often in a derogatory manner. There are even believed to be some people who are not of Irish descent who have used this term to refer to themselves in order to conceal their true ancestry.

Murky Meaning and Origin

The true origin of this term might never be known. Its uses and meanings vary so widely that it might have been created in different places and at different times for different reasons. Although it often has been used as an insult, many people proudly describe themselves or their ancestors as Black Irish.

Dark Features

Throughout its history, the island of Ireland has been the destination for many waves of immigrants or invaders, including the Celts, the Vikings, the English and the Scottish. As these groups were assimilated into Irish society and mixed with the previous inhabitants of the island, different physical characteristics became more common among the Irish. Many people believe that the term "Black Irish" was created to refer to those whose features were darker than those of typical Irish people, possibly because of ancestors who emigrated from Spain or Portugal.

Descendants of Spaniards

One theory about the origin of this term focuses on an event that took place in 1588, when more than 20 ships carrying members of the Spanish Armada wrecked on the coast of Ireland. Many of the men were killed in the wrecks, and many of the survivors were put to death by Irish soldiers. A handful of the survivors fled to Scotland, but it is believed to be unlikely that any of them ever made it past the beaches of Ireland and unlikely that any of them could have made a significant genetic contribution to the people of Ireland. It is considered to be more likely that a group of Spanish soldiers who served under Irish chiefs around the same time stayed in the country long enough to father children.

African Heritage

In the 1800s, many people believed that Irish people who had dark complexions were somehow related to Africans. Africans and people who had dark features were often held in distaste and considered to be inferior. In 1862, John Beddoe, an esteemed ethnologist, published Races of Britain, in which he described people of Celtic descent as having features similar to those of African descent. The term "Black Irish" might have been derived from this viewpoint.

Sociopolitical Origins

This term also might have social or political origins rather than being based on genetic history or appearance. Some people believe that the word "black," in this case, refers to the "dark" intentions of groups of people who invaded Ireland, so their descendants might be referred to as Black Irish. Another possibility is that poor immigrants from Ireland during the Great Famine of the late 1840s were called this term in their new country. In Ireland, 1847 was called Black '47 because thousands of people died from famine and disease, and people who emigrated from Ireland to escape these conditions might have been referred to as Black Irish. The term also might have originated in the West Indies, where some Catholics are believed to have used it to describe Protestant immigrants from Ireland.

Used by American Indians

Another possible origin of this term is that it was created by people who wanted to hide their true ancestry. For example, it is believed that some American Indians — including Cherokees — described themselves as Black Irish during the early 1800s to avoid being driven off their land. The term "Black Dutch" also is believed to have been used by American Indians for this purpose.

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Diane Goettel
By Diane Goettel
"Diane Goettel has a BA from Sarah Lawrence College and an MA in English from Brooklyn College. Diane lives in Mount Vernon, New York with her husband, Noah. They are the proud parents of a Doberman Pinscher named Spoon. Specialties: book editing, book marketing, book publishing, freelance writing, magazine publishing, magazine writing, copywriting,"
Discussion Comments
By anon1005510 — On Sep 13, 2021

I am Irish and growing up was told we were Black Irish meaning Roman Catholic. The Protestants were the Wasps ( White Anglo Saxon Protestants)

By anon1004487 — On Feb 23, 2021

There is a book called, "Whence the Black Irish of Jamaica." History has been changed or someone is lying.

By anon1003429 — On Jun 23, 2020

Just to re: 24687's Schizophrenia comment, it is actually true. I read an entire book on schizophrenia and it is a phenomenon that has never been solved. It is not "black Irish" but Irish in general. There are a million theories, from inbreeding (not particular to Ireland) to a high potato diet (lol), something in the soil, to a stoicism of the mind.

The anomaly that makes it particularly different is that it appears in later life, whereas the normal onset of schizophrenia, if anyone is at all familiar will know, is usually between 18-21 years old. It is a complete mystery and it is not racist. It is, in fact, a big point of study in UCD. Again, none of you knew this; you just threw your ideas and offended views in here.

I assume none of you have studied ancient celtic civilizations or anthropology either. This is just a bunch of opinions going back and forth. Just to put my two cents in on black Irish, there are too many theories. Though I believe the majority view/use it as a term for Irish people with dark hair and dark eyes, certainly, it was used offensively in the past, e.g. They are not "not real Irish." Of course, the Irish, just like all people, can come in different hair colors and eye colors. No people look completely the same.

This obsession with Irish "purity" just doesn't exist anywhere else. Ireland has had many visitors, so get off your eugenic high horse. Some Irish have dark hair. It's a natural expression of the human genetic gene pool, even in Ireland, and it's racist to say otherwise.

By anon993125 — On Oct 24, 2015

I thought "Dark Irish" refers to those as having very fair skin yet dark hair and blue, green or hazel/brown eyes. The skin color is not the "dark" part, but the hair. Fair skin and dark hair with Irish features.

By anon989626 — On Mar 15, 2015

I recently got my dna analyzed through Ancestry. I'm half British, a quarter Irish and a predominant 10 percent Iberian as opposed to Italian or Greek. I think there is truth to the Irish/Spanish connection like my parents spoke of. Whether the Armada story played into it or just northern immigration from Spain to western Ireland, the Black Irish are indeed connected to Spanish ancestry!

By anon985416 — On Jan 15, 2015

Not sure where the term comes from, but I know during Irish slavery when the Irish were shipped as white cargo to the Americas and the West Indies as slaves, they were bred with African slaves to so called "create" a better and cheaper slave (than an African slave). Some of these offspring were sold in private auctions as sex slaves for the elite.

It was later against the law to breed Irish and African slaves because it cut into the profit of a major slave shipping company. Sorry I forgot the name. Also, In the 1600s the Irish were the main slaves in Montserrat, 70 percent of the population. The Irish population fell considerably in the 17th century because of the slave trade. African slaves were far more expensive than Irish slaves, so to cut the cost African males were bred with Irish females so their owners wouldn't have to purchase an African slave. This went on for decades creating many Irish African slaves. Like I said I don't know if the term "black Irish" came from this. It's just another theory.

By anon974626 — On Oct 19, 2014

Good news, people. They found out that black Irish is fake.

Europe was occupied by two species of human. They were the Neanderthals, who had arrived from Africa tens of thousands of years earlier, and the more recent modern humans, also known as Cro-Magnons.

Although the skull is similar to a modern human head, it has a larger cranium, is more robust and has larger molars. Although it is impossible to work out the skin color of the prehistoric hunter, it is likely to have been darker than modern white Europeans.

By anon966963 — On Aug 23, 2014

My Maternal mDNA family line is almost pure Irish/Scot. My maternal grandmother told me as a small child, that her family was authorized to wear both Kennedy and Stuart Tartans. Her mother was a Kennedy, from Philadelphia. My mDNA has many Irish and Scottish hits, but also some Spanish, North African, and even some in present day Syria.

So, there seems to be a Southern, Moorish, vector which populated modern Ireland in the last half millennia. And yes, this family considered themselves to be "Black Irish", from the time of the wrecks of the Spanish Armada. My dad was almost pure German, so I'm not losing any sleep over a few ancient branches of my mother's family tree, in Ireland, and Scotland. His YDNA results go all the way East, into Russia. One of his ancestors was named Keehr and was a professor of languages in Heidelberg, Germany.

By anon951261 — On May 14, 2014

Irish people come from near Armenia. It's the same DNA that Armenians have today. They left Asia Minor and went all across North Africa.

Then they went to Iberia. Along the way they mixed with black blood. This is way the English call them black. But they look like a great people to me. Most people in Europe even Germans have 2 percent DNA that is black. Some Germans have hair like blacks.

People of Iberia way back had blue eyes and black skin. They turned light later. They went to Ireland. Many have black hair.

By anon930734 — On Feb 05, 2014

My family is from East Clare-and we've always believed the term "Black Irish" was 100 percent based upon the descendants of the defeated Spanish Armada of 1588 which unloaded hundreds of sailors along the west coast near Galway.

The Spanish came to Ireland because of their shared Catholicism and also brought their dark hair and eyes. The Viking Irish have the same history: an infusion of tall red and blonds along the east coast, Wexford, Waterford, and Dublin. The native Irish were somewhere in between -- curly dark hair, blue or brown eyes and relatively short.

By anon348929 — On Sep 21, 2013

From what I know from my grandfather, the Dark Irish are the original Irish the Picts, dark haired, eyed and small, who came from the Mediterranean after the Ice Age, and through successive invasions of other peoples, they were superseded by other peoples and the name became derogatory, to mean inferior.

They are the Druids, and later the gypsies of Ireland, who lost their land, but retained a lot of Folk Lore.

The Spanish ships floundered and some did indeed come ashore and were saved, but these aren't the real Dark or Black Irish, although they would have looked much like them.

By anon344613 — On Aug 10, 2013

Well I'm Irish, and my family has been called black Irish. We are all blonde haired and brown, a few reds, with all types of eye color. We are called black Irish because typically we have been poor and have to work.

My grandparents tell me in old times there was a class system, and that's when the term started. The black Irish were the workers, since most Irish are white, so they needed a way to separate the nobles from the poor.

The term "black Irish" is just another term for poor, hardworking people. Most of the men in my family worked in mines or pits, while the women were maids or some type of healer. They moved to America for a better life, and were still called black Irish. My great grand mother was Dutch, her family was called black Dutch, because they worked for a living. Now the terms are redneck, hillbilly, yank, you get the idea. New culture, new names.

By anon344608 — On Aug 10, 2013

I am American, with maternal and paternal Irish ancestors. Both my mother’s family and my father’s family came to the U.S. after "the troubles.” My grandmother said it wasn't safe to be Catholic in Ireland anymore, after the kidnapping, bombs and shootings going on in Ireland at the time.

I have heard the term "black Irish" my entire life. My grandparents and my parents said it was a common slur to identify the lower class from the upper class. I don't have any papers to prove what the black Irish are. All I have is family oral history and a very old family Bible. My grandmother said she was proud of her family and prouder to be called black Irish.

We are of a very old family, as everyone knows Ireland did have several tribes of people living on Ireland. It is an island and has been invaded several times throughout its history, and all speak of the land being occupied. Who knows and who cares? Ireland is like America: a melting pot of several nationalities mixing with the current population to create new genetics, new language and new culture. If you’re born in any country, you refer to yourself as being from that country. You don't say we'll I have white skin so I must be European, or I have tan skin and black hair so I must be from Mexico or Spain.

If your family history says your ancestors were from Ireland, well then, you have Irish ancestry. If they are from Scotland, I guess you’re Scottish and the same thing for the English, Welsh, etc. Nationality is geographical not racial. Irish people are of all colors.

Ireland is an island that has been invaded throughout history, and there are thousands of people from several countries who moved there, and for whatever reason marry and have children.

My cousin, who is currently an Irish citizen, married a girl from Brazil and their children are citizens of Ireland. They are a mix of parents from two different countries. Does this make them any less Irish? He has brown hair and green eyes. She has black hair and brown hair. All this talk of black Irish having something to do the hair and eye color is nonsense. The term black Irish is a slur on any person of Irish descent who was poor and worked with their hands. Typically, they were farmers, miners, fishermen -- you get the drift. They worked hard and were typically dirty and smelly from their jobs.

My grandfather was a miner in Ireland, moved to Montana to work the mines, and my grandmother moved from Ireland to New York to work in the hospital. Both were referred to as black Irish because of the fact they worked. Both are red headed and fair skinned. My family is as Irish as can be. Throughout history, my family has been referred as black Irish, not for any other thing than being a member of the working class, not of noble birth.

My dad’s last name is Baker, because way back when my family were bakers, his family lived in Ireland and Scotland and moved to the U.S. It's not a typical Irish last name. My My dad’s family bible goes back 400 years, with most of the writing in old Gaelic, and old French and English.

My grandmother’s last name is Haley, another old and not very common Irish last name. My family has people of all hair and eye colors. Her family bible goes back to medieval times. Her family were healers, and there are several family notes that write about a woman's death as drowning, burning, suspected for being a witch.

My point is the term black Irish is old; it's another way for separating a type of people. I come from a hardworking Irish family, throughout history poor, and working for a living. You don't hear of wealthy people moving to a new country for a better life and say I’m black Irish.

For all of you who posted your family was referred to as being black Irish, look what they did for a living. It just may open your eyes. I'm not saying it’s not a racial thing, but my family is white and from Ireland, and yet both sides of my family moved to get away from the problems going on at the time in Ireland.

My grandfather still to this day, will proudly say he's Irish, wink and say black Irish. We know how to work. Nothing was given to us. We took it. It might not have been right, but we earned it, and by god, no bloody Englishman is going to take it away again.

To me, an American growing up with Irish parents, my take on it, is be proud if your parents or grandparents say they are black Irish. It's a working class slur, just like redneck, redskin, and all the rest.

By anon340877 — On Jul 06, 2013

I wonder what this makes me? I'm a descendent of the Fitzgeralds who were Normans that were given lands in Ireland by the Brits. And since the Normans were Vikings I must be an Irish Viking! I have dark brown hair, hazel eyes, pale skin and freckles.

By anon340847 — On Jul 06, 2013

Black Irish has nothing to do with Africa or an African connection. The Celtics had black hair and therefore are the true Irish. How stupid are some people? Anyone of mixed race calling themselves "Black Irish" is ill-informed.

By anon339735 — On Jun 26, 2013

For what it's worth, my maternal grandmother was black Irish and her name was Cato.

By anon338760 — On Jun 17, 2013

My grandfather was "black Irish" and from my knowledge it's because the Spaniards invaded the country and raped the women, and that's why there are dark colored, brown eyed Irish men and women.

By anon338150 — On Jun 11, 2013

I'm glad a guy in a similar topic showed me this post. This is absolutely hilarious to me. Blacks ruled Scotland for many years. The Moors were there. Even Caesar spoke about him when he came to Europe in the last millennium to teach the caved wellers how to read, and write.

There were Black Kings of Ireland. The pictures online are misleading. The sculpture of King Dubh or King Kenneth Dubh was created during his time. You are citing sources from much later.

By anon334294 — On May 11, 2013

My dad was Irish and he always referred to black Irish in a derogatory way. He said they were intruders to Ireland and were no Irish at all.

By anon330015 — On Apr 13, 2013

DNA doesn't lie! According to the Trinity College study of DNA, the Irish may have been acculturated by Celts (a people of ancient France-Belgium, Wallonia; Scotland; and Wales). Genetically and ethnically however, the Irish are of the Basque region and Northern Africa before that. Scots, even those of Ulster, are largely Scandinavian and Celtic.

By anon324293 — On Mar 09, 2013

Can I just refer some of you to the great work by Stephen Oppenheimer to put the Irish genetic ancestry debate here to bed. The people of Ireland, SW England and parts of Wales have a very strong similarity with Iberia from 7,000 to 15,000 years ago. It has not changed. Celtic just means non-Greek. Irish are not descended from 'Celts' of Italy as many Irish people like to say.

By anon283658 — On Aug 06, 2012

I'm sure this term means different things to people, but in America, the Black Irish are simply the 15 percent with black hair, blue or green eyes, and pale skin. To 24687, I think that is only in his family, if it's true at all. Black Irish might be a bad thing to some people, but I haven't met a single one who wasn't incredibly good looking.

By anon282861 — On Jul 31, 2012

My father is "Black Irish," with black hair and brown eyes. His grandmother was born in West Cork and also called herself "Black Irish." She always claimed there was a Spanish connection. Maybe it isn't a myth.

By anon280285 — On Jul 16, 2012

I'm Irish, myself. My mother was Irish and Swedish, and her father's side came here from Belfast. My father is half Irish and half Italian.

When I was young, my hair was jet black and I have green and brown eyes, or hazel. It depends on my mood. When I was a younger man, some asked if I was black Irish. I never heard of it until I asked what was he telling me.

Two weeks ago, I had my eyes checked and got new glasses. The woman who measured the frames and lenses told me I have brown eyes and green eyes. The rest of my brothers have light hair, like blonds, chestnut or red. My late younger sister had brown hair. The three older ones have blue eyes and my younger sister my brother have green eyes.

By anon255433 — On Mar 17, 2012

Interesting posts. I myself am of Irish descent with darker features and was interested in the term black Irish. I know through my families' research that I have quite a few ancestors from Spain and Portugal, including a whole family of upper class Spanish merchants whom arrived in Ireland about 200 years ago. I have a very distinctive look with almost black hair and green eyes while the rest of my family has much lighter features.

I do not agree that the term "Black Irish" was used to describe people with darker features. I

think the term "Black Irish" was a derogatory and discriminatory term used to perpetuate the idea that the Irish were collectively a lower class, the poorest in Europe, and comparable to the "blacks" in Africa.

By anon255340 — On Mar 16, 2012

Maybe it was because of some naughty priests who came from the south and had illegitimate babies. Not so uncommon here in the south some time ago...

Anyway, the mixture between blonde and brunets originates beautiful people.

By Hannigan — On Mar 13, 2012

Dia duit daoine mo ainm is é Hannigan. God, be with you people my name is Hannigan.

Let's get this clear. I am Irish. My bloodline goes back at least a 900 years in that country I like to call Hibernia. I have the blue eyes, the dark hair and the pale skin. But though dark Irish are a minority of the makeup in Ireland, it's a majority throughout the world.

It's possible that the Viking invasion before the 10th century, as well as the 16th century event of the Spanish landing on the Island, resulted in the Dark Irish. And though the majority have the blue genes as a dominate gene, we all still carry the brown eyed gene. So we ourselves in addition to the other two elements, I believe, resulted in the occurrence.

And to seal it off, for 800 years the English had their way with Hibernia. Which, if you think about all these factors working together, would result in the dark Irish.

By anon252058 — On Mar 03, 2012

Well, I am going to throw a kink into this discussion. Oddly, my high school history teacher (US) informed my classmates and me that "black Irish" refers to the color of the dark soil where they lived. We took her word for it, and it is only, now, I am learning it may be a literal description regarding race.

By anon251929 — On Mar 03, 2012

The basques (atlanteans/hebrews of the bible) are the original europeans (first white people around)and settled western europe. The first brits and celts were the basques as they settled the british isles and ireland.

By anon251629 — On Mar 01, 2012

Black Irish originated with the founding population genetics of the British Isles immediately following the last ice age. People migrated from Spain, North Africa, Italy and the Near East to the British Isles when the glaciers receded.

These people had olive Mediterranean features and were the founding populations of Britain. The purest of these features can still be found in northern Wales and Cornwall. Racism from the English focused a bit on this, even though many Englishmen have the same features (dark hair, brown eyes). "Black Irish" aren't "Moors", "Africans", or Spaniards; just one of the subtypes found throughout all the British Isles.

By anon251627 — On Mar 01, 2012

I'll tell you one thing: the Irish can be the fightin'est people around, with easily offended pride and quick to physical confrontation. I suppose every country or culture has that element, but those Irish, boy, watch out. More so in the old days, I guess, but still I think it will always be a cultural trademark, along with a very finely tuned lyrical and musical sense. It's not stereotyping, it's just what is, and some would say these are very admirable traits, but I feel that these unique Irish traits have become watered down in the last few decades, as has happened worldwide due to just pure global mixing, television, etc.

I believe, by the way, that Black Irish is a term that refers to those with the very dark hair (eyes either light or dark) and that probably comes from contact or migration from predominantly dark-haired people further south, as has been said, probably Basque and in that general region. After all, the British Isles were connected to the continent after the last ice retreated and the seas have been very very well traversed in any case over the many millennia since the separation from the continent.

Oh, forgot to add, I married into an Irish clan and have no Irish ancestry that I am aware of myself.

By anon250599 — On Feb 26, 2012

I always thought that the term 'black irish' came from the scotsmen who came over to live in the northern part of Ireland when it was opened up to settlement in the late 1600s. Since they were not Irish, they were called "black irish."

By anon244700 — On Feb 02, 2012

Myth mixing with history again is that stories of the "Faerie/Faery comes from the fact that the original inhabitants, being overwhelmed by successive invasions, simply retreated to the fringes of the new societies, gaining their reputations for mystery and magical powers.

In those days, what you didn't understand, ye feared, kind of like the USA today.

By anon244698 — On Feb 02, 2012

Everyone seems to be missing the truth (despite the number of arrows fired). Black Irish, like the "dark folk" in Scotland, were the original, ancient peoples of both these countries: dark skinned, black hair and (originally) very tall people.

Myth mixes with truth, and emigration from as far as the Indian sub-continent, over hundreds of years. The Declaration of Arbroath in the 14th century, Scotland's Declaration of Independence (from which many others were copied) states that Scotland's ancestors included Scythian warriors and Egyptian princesses; the myth is the daughter of Aeneas. The use of chariots, unique to the British isles(outside of Egypt) and pre-dating the Roman empire who copied their use, not from the Egyptians but the Britons.

The original inhabitants can now be recognized in Scotland, Ireland and Wales as small, dark, fine-boned people, unlike the tall, fair or red incomers (Celts).

By anon243799 — On Jan 29, 2012

The term "Black Irish" refers to those Irish who were borne to the Irish and the Moors---don't you know your history? The Moors overtook Ireland. Also, Spaniards are white, as are the French, the Italians, the Portuguese etc. They are all European, not Hispanic.Stop confusing the Spanish with the Hispanics -- hello! Study your history, ancient or otherwise, morons.

By anon243756 — On Jan 29, 2012

Black Irish has nothing to do with racial features. Black Irish were those people who opposed the 'Whiteboys' movement.

The Whiteboys were a Catholic group that promoted the idea of attempting to boycott all trade and commerce with the Protestant regime opposed on Ireland in the 16th century. The Whiteboys began committing terrorist acts against those farmers and business men who traded with the Protestants.

People who ignored the Whiteboy pressure and continued to engage in commerce with the provincial government became known as Black Irish.

By anon240608 — On Jan 14, 2012

Well I'm from Montana and married to a man who prefers to be known as a black Irishman. He is of Native American and Irish decent. His mother's maiden name was Finnigan and his dad was an Irish and Native American mix, so they just call themselves black Irish. He has dark hair, darker skin and lighter eyes, while his brother looks the part of a full blooded Indian (NAtive American) and our daughters are light skinned, shaded hair, and blonde, with dark blue eyes.

By anon240431 — On Jan 14, 2012

The term "Black Irish" should be changed to "Moorish Irish". Why is no one discussing the Moors who ruled Ireland for years. They are the "snakes" that Irish people celebrate chasing out of Ireland on St. Patrick's day.

By anon239333 — On Jan 08, 2012

I am Irish, so who gives a crap? "Black Irish" were not racially sensitive, unlike others.

By anon239052 — On Jan 06, 2012

Almost everything said in the comments so far about the looks of the Irish and about their origins is nonsense, I'm afraid. The suggestion of a Basque/Iberian is now known to be spurious. The Irish are a mix of many backgrounds, like the English. In general, they are typical of northern Europe. Europeans generally most closely resemble their neighbours, so the Irish are closest to the people in western Britain, and quite close to the English, while the eastern and southern English are quite close to the continental peoples to the east.

In appearance, the Irish are very fair-skinned and do not tan easily, have mainly light-coloured eyes, are quite tall, and their hair color ranges from black to dark brown or dark reddish brown, with some reds and blondes.

I don't know where the term 'black Irish' comes from, but it was hardly a taunt used by the English, since the vast majority of English are dark-haired.

By anon232780 — On Dec 02, 2011

I am of Irish descent also. I have been mistaken as being Indian or middle eastern. I have very light color eyes that turn gray, orange, green and hazel. I was born with blonde/brownish color hair, with blonde eye brows. My mom side is Irish decent, but she is darker. My GG Grand father is very light complexioned with one blue eye, and one orange eye. He has blonde/brownish hair also.

The person who they most relate me to looking like is Alicia Keys' skin color, but with green/hazel eyes, and blonde/brownish hair. My two sons both have the blonde color hair also, but my sister was born with red/orange hair. I have also tried looking deeper into our blood line by our blood types. But I will be having genetic testing done soon.

By anon222902 — On Oct 17, 2011

Most of the comments posted on this page are just people's theories. Black Irish is an American term and not used in Ireland. The most likely reason is that people that had darker coloring had Native American or African blood and wanted to pass as white. Black Dutch was also used.

Most Irish have blue, green or mixed hazel eyes. There are brown eyes but they are a minority. The darker haired and darker eyed Irish are the same people as the fairer ones. There can be dark, blond and red haired people in the one family. To say that Basque and Irish are related is an outdated theory. Genetics has moved on from this.

Like most western/central Europeans Irish, British, and Basque are y R1b and so are 50 percent of Germans. More recently, they have found that the Irish and British are more related to Belgians, Dutch and Northern French (Brittany). The R1b in these areas are a different subclade to the Basque proving they are not closely related. A real geneticist would be able to give a better answer.

By anon215937 — On Sep 20, 2011

A handful of Spanish sailors did wash up on the shores of Scotland and Ireland in 1588. However, as Great Britain and Ireland were at war with Spain, these castaways were mostly handed over to the authorities. There are records for this; it's not a mythical occurrence.

Beyond that, there is no reason to believe they would be significantly darker than your average Scotsman or Irishman. Even if a handful did hide out, their contribution to the gene pool would be negligible. You would need an Armada shipwrecked every year for a century.

By anon212251 — On Sep 05, 2011

My father was of irish descent, my mother scottish. Both parents had dark hair, fair skin and blue eyes. I have three brothers, two with dark hair, fair skin and blue eyes and one with red hair, blue eyes and freckled pale skin. I was born blonde, now have dark hair, with blue eyes and olive skin. I was once thought to be east indian when tanned, by a black man! My mother's sister has olive skin, brown eyes and dark hair. She has seven children. One has dark hair, olive skin and dark brown eyes. he looks just like he stepped off the Armada! He got it from his mom, not my blue eyed, dark haired, pale skinned irish uncle.

I have always thought that I my cousin and my aunt look so different. We are the only three in the whole family who have darker skin. As a child I looked Indian in the summer. Totally fascinating!

By anon211239 — On Sep 01, 2011

Black Irish is exactly what it sounds like. Black and Irish. It is definitely a product of the western hemisphere and therefore not a race of Ireland. Early black and white (Irish) slaves in America, Barbados, Montserrat and other colonies mixed sexually and culturally. This mixture led to the rise of lighter skinned Africans and Irish slave descendants with dark features. It also gave us the Catholic based Voodoo religions. We Black Irish in America are descended from America's slaves.

By anon207516 — On Aug 20, 2011

The oldest continent is Africa and everyone -- everyone is from there!

By anon205808 — On Aug 13, 2011

You are all wrong. The term black Irish refers to the real native Irish people who have dark features. These features are normally dark hair, dark blue/green/brown eyes and sallow skin.

The dark featured Irish are the original Irish people, genetically speaking.

It has been proven that the Irish are genetically different from all other ethnic groups in western Europe, but the Irish people are genetically traced to the Basque people of southern France and northeastern Spain. This would explain the dark features that can be commonly found in Irish people from remote North/South western Ireland this is the area that was least affected by the waves of colonisation by the Anglo Saxons and Norsemen.

Scientists have concluded that the Celts did not invade Ireland en masse, nor did they replace an earlier group.

Despite the widely held belief that the Irish are descended from Celts who invaded Ireland about 2,500 years ago, a 2004 genetic research study at Trinity College, Dublin (TCD) appears to argue against it.

The research however suggests that our blood if not also some (at least) of our culture can or should be attributed to wider origins: Spain, Portugal, Scandinavia and North Africa.

“The primary genetic legacy of Ireland seems to have come from people from Spain and Portugal after the last ice age," said McEvoy. "They seem to have come up along the coast through Western Europe and arrived in Ireland, Scotland and Wales. It's not due to something that happened 2,500 years ago with Celts." We have a much older genetic legacy.

The findings are published in The American Journal of Human Genetics at the University of Chicago.

Does this finally help explain the ‘dark Irish’ phenomenon?

By anon191414 — On Jun 28, 2011

Having read all of these interesting posts, I find it odd that no one came up with the story I was always told: The "Black Irish" were the lower-class folks, as in, not the "Lace-Curtain Irish" (Who were obviously rich because they could afford lace curtains.) Nothing to do with skin color or DNA in that story.

By anon173525 — On May 07, 2011

First, My family came to America in the 1600's from Ireland. Michael Dawley. Our entire lineage that has made its way down to this day is dark hair, and green eyes. When my husband was in the navy his friend was of Irish decent, named Daily - black hair and green eyes. At that time I did some research, and found that the 'native' Irish, before the scots were exiled to the Ireland with their red hair - were dark haired individuals.

By anon168791 — On Apr 18, 2011

People, get this straight. Most Irish people have light coloured eyes, not dark.

Most have blonde to brown hair tones, not black.

I'm talking about true Irish people, born in Ireland to Irish parents who are 100 percent Irish.

Take no notice of some of the comments here saying most Irish have dark eyes and hair. That is utter rubbish.

Most have grey/blue/green eyes.

Black Irish is a term for Irish people who are rare in their coloring. They have black hair, brown eyes.

They have fair, cool-toned skin like most Irish people.

By tinker — On Apr 05, 2011

you are all victims of the anglo-american public school scheme that reconstructed history and told you who you are. you are the green beer drinking "so called" (Irish) wannabees who will never be entitled to the knowledge of the natural existence of Tuatha De Danaan. wallow in your false pride!

By anon161544 — On Mar 20, 2011

Historically, mixed-race European-American Indian and sometimes full blood Indian families of the South adopted the terms "Black Dutch", and to a lesser extent, Black Irish, first in Virginia, North Carolina, and Tennessee. The practice of Cherokees' identifying as Black Dutch or Black Irish originated during and after the 1830s Indian Removal era. They used this term to explain their dark looks and to avoid being removed to Indian Territory or stigmatized by Anglo-American society.

By anon160717 — On Mar 16, 2011

Fascinating discussion. Things really change over the decades. I am African American of Irish and other European decent. My mother was not identified as Black, colored or African American on her birth certificate, although both of her parents are clearly of African descent, though not 100 percent.

The Irish genes definitely showed mom's strawberry blond hair and blue eyes. Since her mother was clearly "colored", her birth certificate actually says "Tan" on the line for race - no kidding - they knew they shouldn't call her white, but they didn't see a colored baby before them. Brooklyn 1953, go figure!

I'm saying all that to say, it's very possible for a priest or anyone else to improperly identify a child's race at birth. People make mistakes, and people try to rewrite history as well. I am so grateful to have my DNA tests and to have some knowledge of where my ancestors come from. As a female, I carry only female DNA. I definitely identify myself as a multiracial Black woman (my culture of origin), however genetically (cellularly) I am Caucasian (amazing but true!). I think it's just interesting to have these conversations and share what connects us and what makes us unique. Imagine what peace we could have on earth.

By anon157946 — On Mar 05, 2011

so Colin Farrell, Pierce Brosnan and Scotsman of Irish-ancestry Sean Connery and Irish-american George Clooney are all part of the Black Irish?

By anon157762 — On Mar 04, 2011

I think it's a person's heritage that is important, and not the color of anything on their body. Our heritage keeps us grounded. Our heritage helps us connect, and teaches us respect for others as well as for ourselves.

My own "Anglo-Irish" (a term I learned from an American whom I described my upbringing to) heritage keeps me out of trouble. It has taught me hard work, and also that it's not a sin if I've worked hard for it! Haha.

The term "black irish" is too complex when you think of what it symbolises around the world. Until there are no more signs in Europe and elsewhere that read "no irish need apply" or "no blacks, no irish" or even "no [fill in the blank]", then we should just stop using the term. It's just plain disrespectful to use a term with a negative connotation about any people of any race/religion/heritage being enslaved or murdered.

No one can be politically correct, but that doesn't mean they're trying to offend anyone. I understand this. Also, everyone of every color faces some degree of racism in their lifetime (unless they're living underground from birth, but that's unlikely).

People look at me and see me as white. But is that my race? We're all originally from Africa. And aren't my Indo-European ancestors from the place currently known as the Middle East? I always tell people I'm of the Human Race like everyone else on Earth. It upsets some people at first, but then they always get to know me as the person deeper than my skin. So, heritage before race!

And please, someone help in putting an end to ethnic cleansing among gangs in the United States! I've got family in the U.S., and I can't bear the thought of anyone being randomly killed for their perceived race!

@152949: Yes, I'd be afraid to wear it too! But enough of that, here's what I suggest. Maybe you could use the term "African-Irish" and "born in the United States" instead of just American if your Irish heritage is, well, your heritage.

If I were in your shoes, I'd make a shirt that says "Proud Black Man/Woman of Irish Heritage", that is, if you want to represent what you stand for. I think it's attractive. What do you think?

"Love is the answer, and you know that for sure!"

-John Lennon

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

March 1st - David for Wales

March 17th - Patrick for Ireland

April 23rd - George for England

November 30th - Andrew for Scotland

Let us not forget fellow Brits!

By anon153754 — On Feb 18, 2011

For what it is worth, being from Boston, with a heavy population of Irish (though now dwindling due to the south/central America immigrant explosion) to us, the term "black irish" refers to those of darker Irish features with no regard or discernment of the hundreds or thousands of reasons why.

Spanish, African, Iberian, Italian (Roman) or lower eastern Europe, which is also a mixed Euro-middle eastern, roots can be traced to most cultures. If there was a war anywhere, then there has been an injection of new genes, probably the only positive thing to come from war, after all, we'd all end up inbred otherwise!

I'm not the politically correct type, but most of the crap that comes with the term "black" really doesn't mean black irish are more musical than any other irishman. The color of your hair does not make for a more or less of a person. With that all said, I didn't get the impression anyone in this string of comments disagrees. I'm just speaking from Boston POV!

By anon152949 — On Feb 15, 2011

Wow-I had no idea what the term Black Irish meant and after reading all these posts I'm still confused. My friend bought me a Black Irish T-shirt because my mother is black and my father is half black, half Irish. Now after reading what Black-Irish means I'm afraid to wear the thing. Is there a correct term for someone who is actually African American and Irish decent?

By anon151898 — On Feb 11, 2011

From the perspective of someone living in Ireland, I would say the 'black' denotes wicked as in a Catholic V Protestant thing. Rivalry and animosity that goes back centuries associated with religion, politics, monarchies, papacies, wars, land, language, prestige, alliances with continental European powers etc. etc. One side regarding the other as wicked and vice versa.

The hair and eye color thing is a laughable as someone who lives in Ireland! I've brown hair and brown eyes myself and find it hilarious that red heads or whatever would discriminate against me hahaha.

By anon149981 — On Feb 06, 2011

I am only looking at this post because i myself have quite distinguished features. i am 100 percent irish (live in derry) but have asian shaped eyes, dark brown color and dark skin, my hair is dark brown. I have been described as hawaiian and so have my sisters. Someone also asked was i native american.

I have pictures of myself and my mother when we were born and we had the darkest skin. My mother particularly looked like an african baby. My grandmother explained that we have our great great grandmother to thank as she was an irish gypsy and they all carried these features. Even up to today's times, most of the irish gypsies have these features.

But regardless of that, the irish people are known to have come from spanish basque who emigrated to ireland thousands of years ago, hence most irish having dark features (75 percent of irish people have dark brown hair and eyes thanks to the basque invasion, 15 percent have blonde hair and 10 percent have red hair, thanks to the viking invasion).

Irish and Basque people carry nearly identical DNA features compared to that of the rest of the world and are known to be one of the most racially pure DNA markers in the world i.e no other mix of DNA has been introduced. Also the english/scottish settlers in ireland, used the term "black irish" to describe people who lived in mountainous regions of ireland who worked the land and therefore had very rough looking features due to sun exposure and being dirty due to working their land all day. It was a derogatory term used to classify these people.

If you look, lots of people have different ideas of what "black irish" means, and to be honest, there is no right or wrong answer because I'm sure the term has changed depending on where in the world it is being used and who is using it.

However, with regards to those who believe it was the survivors from the spanish armada who washed up on the beaches of ireland, this is completely incorrect as most of the survivors where slaughtered or taken to england for ransom and of those who managed to escape with their lives were so few that they would not have been able to make such a massive difference to irish DNA, especially in the space of a few hundred years.

By anon144869 — On Jan 21, 2011

Thank-you so much to all of you. My mother's father was of Black Welsh and Black Irish stock. He looked deadset Indian, and all my Egyptian friends said "he is Egyptian".

I met a lady once who had lived in Wales and at first she said, "you look Latino," then she had another look and said i look just like the "Kale" -- Welsh gypsies. I have also seen a guy here in Australia who was Welsh, but definitely looked very Aboriginal Australian.

I believe that the original Celts were from India and Central Asian origin. The Iberian-Irish connection is 100 percent obvious also.

Other Celtic friends have told me they also know of the genetic link between Aboriginal Australians and "original Celtic peoples."

Anyway, I assume my grandfather, who looked Egyptian/Indian/Dark Latino to be of Gypsy stock. Most Spanish, Greek and southern Italians still retain their Indian roots. It is obvious to any of us with Gypsy ancestors. We are expert face readers. I would love to see all your photos, as i could read your face (Antonio}.

God bless every one of you. You have all made my day. I love you all.

By anon141967 — On Jan 11, 2011

Everyone says I think I know what it means, but don't you? It is simple. They were the northern Irish who had dark features, and when they came to refuge in other places like Europe and America, the Irish who were already living there wanted to distinguish themselves from the starving, dark-featured people by calling them Black.

Most of them have a Spanish Ancestor from the Spanish Armada incident or the fact that ship merchants were the drugstore and wal-mart of the day. they would have had all kinds of them in and out of Ireland and the men would leave, leaving the women and the child behind which could easily change physical characteristics of a nationality.

I think it's funny when Black folks of African descent think it means they are black Irish because they have a last name like Green. You see them at the parades and they are like "yeah I'm really Irish dude. I'm black Irish" I'm like, really? me too. how cool is that haha.

It really is some Spanish, or at least the same descendants of the Spanish, you can just see it and notice it even when it's only 10 percent.

By anon132230 — On Dec 06, 2010

Just wanted to say that Amy Pollick #71 is so right! By the way, I'm from the Pollock line. Small world, isn't it? lol.

Anyway, I can't speak for other parts of America, but I do know that we Irish of the south are so proud of our heritage. To be fair, no we can't say we know how it is to be Irish in Ireland anymore than the Irish of Ireland know what it's like to be an Irish American.

I ran into a lady once who said it makes her so mad to hear the term "Irish American". I smiled and replied, "Well Ma'am, if a family comes from China or Africa or Japan etc. and they have children born here, though they are Americans, aren't they still Chinese, Japanese, Africans etc. who just happen to be born in America?

In my humble opinion, no matter where we're born and raised, we are still who we are. I'm very proud to be Irish. Slán, Debra

By anon119626 — On Oct 18, 2010

@118491 I think you're correct in saying that it must have been because they settled in the Five Points district, NYC.

The Irish Potato Famine caused for a booming Irish population in Five Points, as the land decreased in value due to unclean living conditions.

Also, there were African-Americans living there at the time who'd been recently released from slavery.

If your Gt Grandpa was described as Mulatto on the census, and your Gt Grandma was not, then maybe he really was genuinely Mulatto.

It's not impossible for Mulatto people who are Irish to look more like their Irish parent, or vice versa.

I've been doing some research myself on the Irish in general and their experiences around the world (UK, US, and Australia). I'm more English culturally, though several generations from which I was directly descended were Irish.

By anon118491 — On Oct 14, 2010

I am dabbling in genealogy and was a bit perplexed about a recent lineage discovery from the census.

Gt grandma was born in Ireland in 1840 and married a born and bred New Yorker. On the census Gt grandpa was described as a Mulatto yet on the marriage certificate lines which specifically asked the race both were identified as white by the priest.

Their children- grandfather and great aunts were later described as mulatto on subsequent census until 1880 when again they were all described as white.

Here's the rub. The grandsons are all brown haired and blue eyed, as Irish as they come. Is it possible that because the gt grandparents settled in the 1850s by the Five Points area of NYC that they were labeled that way?

By anon111896 — On Sep 18, 2010

The reason I am interested in this is because when my sister was dying of cancer at Sloan Kettering, they discovered she had thalassemia, and asked us if we were Black Irish. We are English on my father's side and Irish on my mother's side. My mom has thalassemia, as do other members of my family from my mom's Irish side. It is prevalent in Mediterranean areas.

We mostly all have blue eyes and auburn hair. One sister has olive skin and green eyes. I do not know about the Black Irish thing, but the doctor at Sloan Kettering seemed to believe it came from Spanish in Ireland.

By anon109962 — On Sep 09, 2010

Also, can the world start using the term Irish for the race of people living in Ireland and please please irish american for the lovely people with Irish ancestors who are a different race. no offense to irish americans but i am so sick of being considered the same. i grew up in ireland, Europe, for god sake! culturally different!

By anon109959 — On Sep 09, 2010

I am from Ireland. The phrase Black Irish to me is talking about Irish people who clearly have Spanish ancestry, possibly from the Spanish Armada story. They are white Irish people with very very dark brown eyes, dark hair. In general Irish people have dark hair, we do have the odd red hair-not as many as are in Boston though! We do have a significant amount of blondes from our Viking heritage but most are bottle blondes these days!

By amypollick — On Sep 07, 2010

@Anon109506: The Irish experience you spoke of was more common in the northeastern U.S. The Irish came to the South and fit right in. My great-great grandfather, from County Tipperary, was one of them. In fact, your average Southerner claims Irish ancestry with pride. They call us "rebels" for a reason. Heh. You can't throw a rock in the South without hitting someone with Irish ancestry, and if you look in the phone book, you'll find enough Irish surnames to choke a mule.

As odd as it may seem, my g-g-grandfather was dead set against slavery and fought for the Union in the Civil War.

In the South, if you're "black Irish," it's not a slur, by any means. We're proud to be Irish!

By anon109506 — On Sep 07, 2010

I don't know about North Americans now days, but I do know that the term "black irish" has nothing to do with ethnicity, but rather nationality. The British once considered the Irish to be "black" when the English condemned the Roman Catholic church in favor of the new Anglican church. Irish Catholics lost all their natural human rights, and were considered inferior in society like people of African descent were once considered in the U.S., etc.

First, I want to say that nationality is something you feel, not something you can see - it's not like ethnicity.

Example: British children went to one school, while children of Irish nationality (children of families who refused to become British) were forced to go to another school. Like in the time of Martin Luther King Jr. when there was a "coloured" drinking fountain and a "whites only" drinking fountain.

Do you see where I'm getting at, where the Irish became "the black irish"? These are historical facts.

I certainly do not mean to offend anyone, but the term "black irish" has nothing to do with dark hair. Indo-Europeans have dark hair and the ability to produce varying amounts of melanin in their skin. Scandinavians originally had the fair hair. Scandinavian culture plays a roll in recent UK culture and it's evident in places like Yorkshire (ENG), Wales, and Scotland (where else did smoked salmon come from?).

Here's what I do know about the Irish in the U.S. from the experience of some family members, as well as some historical documentation: The Irish fled their bad situation at home to come to America, only to discover that, because they looked different due to their dark hair, and because they still spoke Gaelic, they were once again "black".

In fact, they generally lived in ghettos (like non-English-speaking immigrants of that time), and some worked alongside black (African) slaves in the coal mines.

"Black Irish" is a bit of Irish humour, you see. If you say it to the wrong person they may take it as a nasty racial slur. I know this from when I was in school and the British-Irish kids would tease the minority of non-British Irish kids about being "black".

I have dark reddish-brown hair, green eyes, and very fair skin that browns in the sun, and I consider myself to be of Irish ethnicity. I have been the butt of a "black irish" slur, and have been referred to by my English ex as a "bloody native".

Some Irish call themselves natives in reference to the fact that they owned Ireland before their people were forced to "speak English or be black".

As for "black irish" meaning some mixture of different ethnicities, that's the best and most non-offensive way to look at the term. Unfortunately, it's not an idea that came from Ireland.

When an Irish person tells their child they have dark hair because they're "black irish", it means they have dark hair because they're not of British heritage. (People like myself, who are of British heritage, obviously have dark hair, but that's not the point.) The point is, it's something like the idea that having dark skin means your soul is white - like in William Blake's "The Little Black Boy". Hence the folklore about us being touched by fairies ... *fond childhood memories.*

@24687, or 26002: Schizophrenia is said to be genetic, and not one ethnicity alone is more likely to have individuals experience any mental illness.

Mental illness can be caused by a genetic defect that can be seen through brain imaging (MRI), the use of certain substances, certain vitamin deficiencies, and a traumatic experience of some kind (everyone reacts to trauma differently. Psychosis is rarely permanent. My cousin is a psychologist. I hope this helps.

From Ulster With Love

By Irish13itch — On Sep 01, 2010

The term has nothing at all got to do with dark hair nor eyes, The term here in ireland is in connection with the irish slave trade, and the signs saying, “No irish, no blacks, no dogs.” We are known as the blacks of europe, purely on racist terms. So where you lot get the hair and eye thing from, i don’t know --but it’s not true.

And just another point on the whole red hair, pale skin: it is totally scottish, not irish. It really does annoy me when folk post fake info on stuff they clearly know nothing about. Sorry, but it really does.

P.S. I’m from dublin, ireland. Have been all my life.

By anon106930 — On Aug 27, 2010

My Mother was tall, dark skinned, with almost black hair, very high cheek bones, and when tanned, she was very dark skinned. She used to tell me that part of her family was "black Irish".

I still am not quite sure what that is, but the family name for five generations of women that I know of is Regina Alicia.I don't think that is a traditional Irish name. The last names were traditional Irish names(fairly common). Anyone have any ideas?.

By anon102412 — On Aug 07, 2010

from a distant Spanish relative, I believe her family came from Connemara. originally father told me some years ago that his father told him that we were descended from a Spaniard who came off a ship in Bantry bay. not sure when, and also i came across an irish lady here in Sydney who says her name, Dolores, was a tradition carried down in her family.

By anon100217 — On Jul 29, 2010

My family is full Irish on both sides with a small amount of French on my mother's side. I have blue/green eyes but very dark features. I have brown hair with very, very light hints of red, no freckles, and my skin is incredibly tan. So tan that in fact, I am often mistaken for being mixed black and white or Hawaiian.

Years ago in high school, a teacher told me that I must be black Irish. I had no idea what that meant and shrugged it off until now when i stumbled across this site.

Thank you for informing us "Black Irish" on our confusing, but highly tropical, appearances! I will continue to look more into this.

By anon98448 — On Jul 23, 2010

I was a blond baby, which gradually turned to blue-black hair and thick. I have green eyes and many freckles from childhood, however, my fair skin usually gradually tans nicely, perhaps with a reassertion of some freckles. My question is; how can people have blue black hair and blue or green eyes? How is this explained? In N. Ireland I was called black Irish by some protestant thugs but it was mystifying to me.

I think black-irish should only be used for the unusual traits of very light skin and Blue/green eyes with a very fair completion.

By anon97625 — On Jul 20, 2010

no i've never heard of black'47. is that a famine or a plague?

By anon97429 — On Jul 19, 2010

I'm 100 percent Irish, except that my family always said there had been Gypsies on my dad's side, and that we were Black Irish. My dad was dark, as dark brown wood year round. He had curly black hair, clear, bright blue eyes. Whenever the subject came up, my mom said to be quiet, that Black Irish was a derogatory term the English used.

By amypollick — On Jul 12, 2010

@Anon99496: I wouldn't be so quick to discount the article's definition. My family is also Black Irish, and we're from Counties Limerick and Tipperary in Ireland, and never moved to Scotland, that I know of. My cousin actually went to Ireland and traced our genealogy.

You should see my Ryan cousins and ancestors -- they're almost all dark-haired and brown or hazel-eyed and tan dark brown. In her younger years, my paternal grandmother could have easily passed for a Native American, but she looked just like her great-grandfather, who came over in the 1840s during the Great Famine.

My Daddy always said the Ryans were Black Irish, and if you look at them, you can easily see why.

By anon94996 — On Jul 11, 2010

This is a completely incorrect definition for the term for Black Irish. Black Irish has absolutely nothing to do with physical characteristics and appearances. Black Irish merely refers to a group of families who moved from Ireland to Scotland at some time (I don't know exactly when) in the past. And I should know because our family is Black Irish.

By anon94542 — On Jul 09, 2010

Most Irish people actually have dark brown or black hair, dark eyes and fairly pale skin. Everyone thinks they are mainly red heads, which isn't true. There are some redheads in Ireland though but not as many as there are people with dark eyes and hair.

By anon88707 — On Jun 06, 2010

I was adopted and have always been asked what my nationality was, since I have no idea. I do have dark, almost black, thick hair, blue eyes and tan skin.

After reading about black irish I believe I may be black irish. I was told I was from the SE part of Missouri and I researched that Black Irish settled there. So maybe...

By anon82477 — On May 06, 2010

well my last name is scottish, and me, my brother, and dad all have dark brown hair, and either dark hazel/dark brown eyes, which is also stated in my family crest history. Dad, though, is tan and has some native and me and my brother are both fair skinned. does that mean we have "blackscot" origin?

By anon82402 — On May 05, 2010

"Black Irish" refers to to moodiness of some Irish.

When they are happy, life is great.

When they are sad or angry, the dark (black) side of life takes over.

By anon78625 — On Apr 19, 2010

The red hair, pale skin and freckled look is Scottish, not Irish. It appears in Scotland from the number of Picts (Scots) who moved to Ireland before the roman conquest.

The Irish are Celtic, and therefore dark haired.

By kat4444 — On Apr 17, 2010

It's the first time I've heard the term "Black Irish." I have very dark/black hair and pale skin with hazel/green eyes. My family are from Ireland.

Someone recently said I look Irish, I always thought the "Irish Look" was red hair. Very interesting. I want to know more.

By anon77247 — On Apr 13, 2010

I have black hair bright blue eyes and tan skin all natural. I was told i was black irish so i don't know but these are my features, but they made for one hell of a model.

By anon76731 — On Apr 11, 2010

OK i have read everyone's letter on here.

i just want to say that i have black irish on my dad's side and my moms side is cherokee indian. i am 4 feet 11 inches tall; that is from the black irish. my dad's brother has dark skin and hazel eyes and dark hair. he is the only one who took after his grandfather. But all my brothers and me took after him and my dad's sisters. we are short, but my brothers and me look like indians after my mom's side. my grandmother and grandfather were indians and i'm a country girl from Tennessee.

By anon76488 — On Apr 10, 2010

With all respect, the term Black Irish is an American invention. It has never been proven. James D.

By anon76466 — On Apr 10, 2010

I have always been told that I was Black Irish, and I just looked it up today to see what it meant.

Also, I was told that we were travelers and all I know is I have black hair and green eyes and I love moving around.

My Dad had black hair and blue eyes, thick curly hair as I did. I just always thought it had something to do with being a traveler.

The rest of my family has red and blonde hair and blue eyes so I guess me and my dad are the only black Irish in the family.

By anon75444 — On Apr 06, 2010

Yeah all irish are dark skinned, and dark haired --whatever you want to believe but that's not true. My dad's family is originally from northern Ireland, and he has the typical red hair, freckles, and pale skin.

The dark irish is a result of either mixing with native americans, or spanish people. Some features of the irish look asian to me, not african. Sometimes the eye shape known as the smiling eye looks like a mix between asian, and european features but it could be just a unique irish trait.

I would have to say out of all the people in the world, the irish have the most mysterious eyes ever -- as if they are looking into your soul. I had also read that we are descended from israelites, which probably everyone here did as well since we came from Noah.

The romans were the ones who were barbarians, and brutal beasts. They would take over anything they could get their hands on, and Ireland would not have been an exception if they could get it.

If the irish were such cave men as what the romans claim, then it should have been a piece of cake to take them down since roman army had lots of weapons to do so.

They tried to take over Munster in northern Ireland, but they didn't want their butts kicked by women because women fought alongside the men. Where are the romans now? They are gone. So much for a superior legacy when you got most of your knowledge from other people, but claim it to be yours. You then consumed yourself out of existence.

By anon74970 — On Apr 05, 2010

The basic facts: The Ancient Irish were children of King David of Israel. From 2 Samuel 13,

Tamar was David's royal daughter, known as Tea, daughter of LugHaidh (Bethel meaning God's House).

When Rome invaded Ireland many, many times they found they could never defeat the Irish, and as we all know, if you can't re-write history, then you can discredit it!

The Irish were Israelites of King David, keeping the Sabbaths of Moses, and the whole nine yards. The Apostles came to Ireland around 31AD, and as history goes, it was St Patrick who taught the heathen of Ireland Christianity, but again another insult to the Irish and their long, honored and amazing history that would clear up who the native Americans are, and all the lost ten tribes.

When it is time to know it, and the world can handle the truth, the whole world will understand.

History has become hijacked by political bandits with a motive. The motive is to discredit the Irish accomplishments, by placing them as subhuman, which in modern times is demeaning to people of color, and to the Irish themselves. All this come from the ignorance of bitter, jealous people who cannot extinguish the fire of their own hatred towards their fellow man.

By anon74768 — On Apr 03, 2010

I'm black..but my last name is O'Neal does this mean I have Irish decent?

By anon71340 — On Mar 18, 2010

I'm just learning about my background and -- wow. All this information, and I still don't know if the term "black Irish" is real. Seems no one really knows.

By anon71212 — On Mar 17, 2010

My parents were from Ireland. My father from the predominately Protestant Northern Ireland where Catholics were called "Black Irish". My mother was from the West where the predominant Catholics called the Protestants "Black Irish".

By anon71177 — On Mar 17, 2010

TO: anon26002: I am black irish and so is my entire family on my mother's side. We are from County Roscommon- the O'Boyles - we have dark black hair and hazel eyes- freckles and pale skin. We are black Irish. That is what that is.

Most all my family is still in Boyle and that is what it is. So there is your answer anon26002, or whatever your number is.

I don't appreciate your tone either. All the people on here are asking perfectly natural questions. Think before you write. Thank you.

By anon71144 — On Mar 17, 2010

The Black Irish don't have fair skin usually. They tend to have dark, almost olive tone with thick, dark hair. My family is from Cork and the majority fall into this category. I happen to be fair-skinned because my father was although he had very thick, almost-black wavy hair. I don't care for the term "Black Irish" all that much either.

By anon69945 — On Mar 11, 2010

I was always under the impression that "Black Irish" meant you were fair with light eyes and very dark hair. All the women in my family fall under this description. My grandmother tells us that there is a touch of wild in the Black Irish. Something strange and a little off. She liked to tell us that we were touched by fairies. Love those old family stories.

By anon69869 — On Mar 10, 2010

Black irish, one of the biggest crap expressions ever invented, basically made up by irish Americans who expect all Irish people to have red hair and freckles. Do some basic research on genetics. The first settlers in ireland arrived from what is now the Basque region in Spain.

By anon68061 — On Feb 28, 2010

I am trying to figure out my family history. But, my grandparents do not really talk about it, also I really do not know who my real father is.

All that I do know from my mother's side are that my great grandmother was either half or full indian on my grandpa's side. My grandmother's side is irish.

Anyway all of my cousins have dark brown eyes, dark hair, pale skin tone, and short. On the other hand my grandfather and I are the only ones with blue eyes and over 5 6in tall with very dark brown hair.

Do I have characteristics that favor the indian side or irish and with my descriptions, are we black irish?

By anon66777 — On Feb 21, 2010

Me and my brothers were all told we where black irish by our father and grandfather. Our grandfather is 84 and still has jet black hair. He has blue eyes and fair skin. Our father has dark brown hair and blue eyes and also very fair, almost pinkish, skin.

My oldest brother has dark brown hair, green eyes and freckles. I have jet black hair, some freckles, kind of pinkish skin and hazel eyes. My youngest brother has dark brown hair and dark brown eyes.

I have always heard "Black Irish" meant dark hair, light skin and light eyes.

By anon66723 — On Feb 21, 2010

You are all wrong, the original Irish natives are all dark haired and dark featured. The Irish people are descended for the basque people; this is a proven fact.

The whole red hair and freckles thing is a myth. Only two or three percent of Irish people have red hair or freckles.

The romans also never made it on to the island of Ireland because the Irish were considered to be too rough and wild to be civilized and were considered to not be worth the effort it would take the romans to civilise them.

If you look at Ireland you will notice that people on the east coast, where most of the invasions landed, are paler than the people in the west, who by and large escaped the worst of the invasions by foreign settlers.

The real, original Irish are all dark haired and dark featured. The whole pale thing with red hair is nothing more than myth!

By anon64869 — On Feb 09, 2010

"Black Irish" describes Irish Catholics who resorted to converting to Protestantism. The Spanish Armada thing is a myth, it has nothing to do with pigmentation.

By anon62859 — On Jan 28, 2010

Although all races began in africa with black skin (the 30,000 years prior to the last ice age the whole european population maintained their black skin), it was not until after the last ice age during the last resettlement of europe 10,000 years ago and the switch from hunter gatherer, herder to agriculture, there was no longer enough vitamin d in the food supply to sustain the dark skin color.

The receptor protein-rogers2004:107, which is responsible for pale skin, took over as it is killed off in intense sun (Africa) and was necessary to allow the population to absorb sunlight to survive.

The "black Irish" is a more modern re-introduction to to the population from african genes through the slave trade and atlantic migration from the spanish and portuguese.

By anon57234 — On Dec 21, 2009

I read that "Black" placed before an ethnicity, i.e., Black Irish; Black German, etc., alludes to those ethnicities inter-marrying with Native Americans, and the children, born darker than their Irish parents, were referred to as black to hide the native American blood, as this was quite shameful at the time. Any truth to this?

By anon52261 — On Nov 12, 2009

How about the Roman occupation of the british isles? That lasted several hundred years, plenty of time to infuse their genetic characteristics into the indigenous population of britons. Look at people like Gabriel Byrne. Now there's a noble roman profile!

By anon51302 — On Nov 04, 2009

id never heard of black irish until recently, but all my family are from ireland, some born there and all have black hair. some have like afros even though they white people. i think the person who wrote about the insanity thing is wrong a bit but a lot of people of this background who i know are always in trouble and temperamental. not sure why just how it is. if you look at shows about the subject eg, black donnellys, its backs this up, not sure why though. --liam

By anon48162 — On Oct 10, 2009

my mama always told me that the black irish (people from ireland, or people with irish ancestry, who had dark hair, dark eyes, and often darker skin as well) were the result of dna passed down by the roman soldiers who invaded the british isles.

By anon46675 — On Sep 28, 2009

I am 100 percent Irish American with possibly 1/8 Belfast Orangewoman blood. My grandfather has always been described as Black Irish with thick, black wavy hair, dark eyes and skin. Also, his wife, my paternal grandmother came from a family of three siblings - one red haired and freckled like me (like my grandmother), one blond haired, blue eyed with pale skin who looked Scandanavian and one who was dark haired, with dark eyes and skin. Both my parents are dark haired with blue eyes (although my mothers hair was blonde when she was younger), my three siblings were red-haired and freckled with one sister with blond/light brown hair and green eyes. That said, most groups that have a relatively high incidence of redheads are groups with mostly dark hair (brown and black). Red hair was a mutation of the protein that normally expresses (genotype) as eumelanin, in the realm of the black/brown hair color. This mutation, pheomelanin, is responsible for the yellow-red pigmentation, while eumelanin is the default coloring for most humans - the brown-black end of the pigmentation scale. The mutation that caused red hair is known as the MC1r variant, and first occurred between 40,000 and 60,000 years ago. It first appeared in humans with dark hair and skin, enabling them to take advantage of their ability to make more D vitamins, which enabled them to flourish in the higher latitudes. Blonde hair, on the other hand, took much longer to develop, starting gradually with hair colors only slightly lighter than in preceding generations. Consequently, the blonds in northern Europe took longer to develop than the mutant redheads (I say this with tongue in cheek, being of the red persuation myself, lol). Therefore, of the groups inhabiting northwest Europe, while the blonds were the result of extended exposure to the higher latitudes of Europe over a period of time, the redheads appeared suddenly (due to mutation) within dark haired, original populations of CroMagnon Europe. If there could said to be an aboriginal population during the Upper Paleolithic, this was them. In addition to appearing amongst humans, the pheomelanin carrying individuals also appeared amongst mammoths, bears and other mammals of the Upper Paleolithic. It would eventually show itself amongst other animals of the period, continuing until today. Irish setters and Persian cats also bear their coloring in the modern era. So, the orignial group that redheads appeared amongst were those with the eumelanin characteristics. That said, an ancestral relationship of dark hair/coloring/eyes in the greater ethnic group of the Celts would be compatible with a high incidence of red/yellow haired/colored individuals. That does *not* preclude the general coloring of Irish individuals to include those with darker hair and coloring. Where this coloring may originate is an interesting question. Given that Celtic lanuages have as much in common with Semitic languages as with IndoEuropean languages, it is no great stretch to imagine an ancestral group with general coloring in line with Jews and Arabs. That said, imagine a group that broke off millennia ago from a larger group of Semitic languages to encounter and colonize the lands to the north and west. Over time, this group would retain much of its original language, and incorporate the language of the "new" peoples it encountered. What you get in the end are Irish and Scots Gaelic. Moreover, the Celts looked different from the Germanic peoples who lived nearby. Their hair was curly/wavy instead of straight and lank. Their noses were softer and smaller than their Germanic counterparts - more like African than "European" (as it was generally understood). That, along with other characteristics, show the modern day Irish and Scottish and others of the original Celtic nations to be a distinct people unto themselves, rather than some variation of Teutonic origins, as with the English. Yes, there are black Irish - maybe they are examples of the first Celts.

By anon44520 — On Sep 08, 2009

My Mom, one sister, and one brother are all dark skinned, with dark hair, light green/hazel eyes, out of a family of 8 children. Of those eight only two of their children are are like them, me and one boy cousin. My brother and sister were fair skinned with blonde hair and blue eyes. I get very very dark in the summer, never burn and have green eyes.

I've been told my whole life I'm black Irish, don't know what it is or where it comes from.

By anon42030 — On Aug 18, 2009

My mother is black Irish mainly and a bit of English. Her father was dark as was her mother, both american born but Irish last names.

My mother has black hair black brown eyes.

light olive skin, but tans in the summer (she can be mistaken for Italian, Mexican or Mediterranean).

My father was scotch Irish, flaming red hair and freckles and brown eyes.

I'm trying to find the root of the Black Irish cause that's what she swears she is.

By anon34665 — On Jun 26, 2009

People on the west coast of Ireland are almost genetically identical to people in the Basque region. As are the welsh. If you go to Irish speaking communities, you will see a significant number of the population with dark features. I look like a Spaniard in the summer.

By anon34496 — On Jun 23, 2009

i'm irish descent living in Scotland, my fathers side & me have the same features, Black hair, blue eyes, high cheek bones & the same size teeth.

on my mums side the features are brown hair & brown eyes.

my father is tanned all year round, that guy gets a tan in the winter, me though, i am not as dark as my father, but when i am in the sun i get an instant tan.

i have heard that the Irish, Scottish & Manx are the Lost Tribe Of Judah that settled in the UK thousands of years ago, the Celts are the Tribe of Judah from Israel?

By anon34038 — On Jun 16, 2009

i have been told a couple times that i am dark skinned like tanned i suppose and my father's family are descendants of Ireland and Britain and my mother's are of Ireland Scotland Germany and Britain and my mom seems to think i could have black Irish in me because i am dark all year round, is this possible?

By anon28525 — On Mar 18, 2009

I also would like to know, seriously and without offending anyone, about 24687's comment about Black Irish gene pool and mental illness.

By anon28511 — On Mar 17, 2009

My wife is Black Irish I believe. She was adopted, but her Mother always told her she was 100% Irish from what they knew about her birth mother. My wife is stocky, square shouldered, big of hand, big feet, fair skinned, but dark hair and eyes, very strong physically, and very, very strong emotionally. Stubborn, a born fighter, violent, physical, passionate. I tend to think that there is an ancient dark Pictish strain in this.

By anon28465 — On Mar 17, 2009

ANON 24687:

No, Black Irish folks are not known for being particularly insane. No more so than any other genotype from any other nationality.

By anon28390 — On Mar 15, 2009

maybe it's different in america, but my dad said before that the term black irish was used to describe carribeans of irish and african decent in london and that a hundred years ago to justify oppression the english used to try to make similarities between irish and africans. the thinking at the time was that these people were not capable of self government.

By anon28139 — On Mar 11, 2009

im black irish too and my dad is actually a citizen who came to america when he was 23. he and almost all of his family have black hair and blue eyes and fairly tan skin. i have brown hair and green eyes with olive skin. i have a spanish last name as well.

By anon26099 — On Feb 08, 2009

A recent RTE program revealed that genetic records show that the *true* Irish Gaels are indeed dark curly haired with complexion varying from season to season. It also concluded that the closest genetic race to Irish is Basque from guess where, the Iberian peninsula. To the native Irish, the term Irish applies to anyone born on the island of Ireland. For the record, I am Irish born, I am 6'1, dark curly haired, pale in winter, red in summer, speak Irish language, play bag pipes, gaelic football, hurley and have been involved in the fight for freedom against the british. How's that?

By anon26002 — On Feb 06, 2009

i am anon24687. no1 has yet answered my question... does any1 have an answer 4 me? Read my question and if you have an answer post it. i will check occasionally 4 if any1 has answered. Maybe some1 who is black irish can answer it truthfully 4 me?

By anon25525 — On Jan 30, 2009

I am part irish i am also half italian but I do have black Irish features. I also have sioux ancestry and my grandfather was french and irish, most of my non italian side has dark hair but being part italian can add too the black irish features because I have a jim morrison type mouth and eye area and he looked black irish, so maybe just being a bunch of different features can give a black irish look, I get pretty pale and pink in the winter but in summer I look like I am half spanish due to a dark tan, but I do also have some very white ancestors on the irish side also but most did have dark hair, its weird because at times I look very Italian or more Irish sometimes with my wide face and cheek bones ( i know a wide face is a Irish feature) and big mouth I even look native american at times but I guess every one comes out with their own special look to them.

By anon25401 — On Jan 28, 2009

I am of the darker phenotype. I had a 21-marker-pair autosomal test through DNA tribes. My only strong results were for Spain and Italy. Other Irish have simply tested high for Ireland, Wales, and Scotland in this autosomal test. Of the regions in Spain that I tested high, Basque was the highest. ...legend sometimes hides truth. If the Spanish Armada story is an unlikely answer, then perhaps we should consider the hundreds of years of "trade" with Spain in Irish ports.

By anon24687 — On Jan 16, 2009

ummm, a "friend" of mine is black irish. brown hair, green eyes (that change color), and fairly pale skin. He says (and i'm not trying to offend anyone, this is a VERY serious question) that the Black Irish were also known for insanity. That, he says, is why schizophrenia shows up every few generations in his family. Is that true? R they really known for insanity? I'm concerned. *sigh* ne1 got an answer?

By sumgurlie — On Nov 11, 2008

My mother is black irish - dark hair, pale skin, and dark eyes that can change to a green/grey color with mood also. One of her three sisters looks like she could be spanish. She is very tanned, dark brown hair and dark brown eyes. You wouldn't believe she was born in Ireland at all.

However I'm short, fair hair, pale skin, blue eyes and freckles. I guess the more 'stereotypical' Irish.

By anon17164 — On Aug 23, 2008

I just recently found my father and found out that we are everything under the sun!! We are black, black irish, sioux indian and spanish!!! Wow... its amazing!!!

By gardfam4 — On Apr 05, 2008

My mother is a red haired very pale skin irish, my father is the jet black hair dark eyed irish with medium skin tone..I ended up with black hair and hazel eyes that change with my mood between dark brown to gray to green...I wish more was know about how the 'black irish" came to be. but there is also indian on my dad's side as well.

By anon9998 — On Mar 17, 2008

i'm black irish myself and when talking to my dad he says it does refer to the color of our skin/hair/eyes. unlike stereotypical irish we all have dark skin and dark eyes and hair. my dad said that it is another term for scots, which was somewhat mentioned in the article.

By anon9498 — On Mar 07, 2008

anon9141 sounds like a mixture similar to the Melungeons. My father, whose parents are both Irish, is black Irish with dark hair, eyes and olive skin. He's often mistaken for Mediterranean descent. Ireland was under the dominion of the Moors before other inhabitants moved the the island. Look up Moor in a law dictionary and you will see inhabitant of Isle of Man which is in vicinity of Ireland and Scotland. Also research the link between the Moors and Spain. The history speaks for itself.

By anon9448 — On Mar 06, 2008

There are stories of the "Black Irish" being American Indians (or part Indian) back in the 19th century. They tended to avoid the census takers, but when confronted, rather than being shipped off to Indian Territory (Oklahoma, at the time), they claimed to be "Black Irish."

These stories persist in the midwest and some of the Indian communities - my mother's family, too. She claimed to be of "Black Irish" descent on her mother's side (her mother or grandmother may have been part Indian in the Missouri Territory). They did not want to be sent to Oklahoma - thus the deception and the taking of an Irish surname, Rowan.


New Jersey

By anon9141 — On Feb 29, 2008

I have 3 Grandparents that where straight off the boat Irish, 1 grandparent that is Miwok Indian.

I have (heavily tattooed) tan skin, brown eyes, reddish brown hair, bright red facial hair. I use the term Black Irish...maybe I should use the term Modern Black Irish :-)

By anon7950 — On Feb 05, 2008

the movie "the secret of roan inish" gives a mythical story behind the black irish..that they came from seals..it's interesting anyway. im irish but i don't look like any of the other members of my family who have light eyes and light hair. my eyes are brown, my hair is jet black and my skin is very pale..people often tell me i look russian but i don't have russian heritage..its all seemingly irish and scottish..im trying to do more research on my ancestry..

By anon5592 — On Nov 30, 2007

I heard that Black Irish was a derogatory comment for Irish people that had dark hair, pale skin, and usually dark eyes. I also heard that this is what the Irish that have the traditional coloring called them. I think I read somewhere that this was because of Irish people and the Moors integrated. I myself happen to be Black Irish, or so I'm told by my dad and grandmother because they are too. I have dark brown hair, although it used to be black, but I dyed it blond a while ago, so it's proving difficult to get the color completely back. anyway my skin is extremely pale, cause I tend to burn, so sunscreen, sunscreen, sunscreen. And my eyes are green hazel, which means they are mostly green/gray with some brown, and they change with my mood. My dad isn't pale like me but he has blue eyes and black hair. My mom is too, but she dies her hair. her skin has a beige tint, so she doesn't look pale, and she has brown eyes. My sister shows so much more of our German heritage than our Irish.

By anon4445 — On Oct 18, 2007

The Irish potato famine was also a time of many deaths due to a disease known as Black Fever.

By anon3049 — On Aug 07, 2007

black Irish - potato famine of the mid-nineteenth century - black rot. Nothing Iberian about it.

ever heard of "black '47"?

Diane Goettel
Diane Goettel
"Diane Goettel has a BA from Sarah Lawrence College and an MA in English from Brooklyn College. Diane lives in Mount...
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