Origins 2

Meaning of the Name - NOT!

by in collaboration with Oxford University Press

On you can enter Dowling into a box and it will give you the following result:


"Dowling Name Meaning
English: nickname for a stupid person, Middle English dolling, a derivative of Old English dol, dull, stupid (see Doll). Irish: variant of Dolan 1."
Source: Dictionary of American Family Names (c) 2013, Oxford University Press as used by Ancestry.

Click HERE to go to Ancestry's original page to see for yourself.


Firstly, I believe the above definition is incorrect, not only for an Irish name, but for a Middle English name too. My reasons are as follows:

  • REASON 1: Imagine, just for a moment, that your name was literally 'Stupid Person.' Just how long, in practical reality, would you keep that name? (2 seconds? Today? A year? A lifetime?). Would that change whether you were living today or in Middle England? Would you pass it down to your children? Would they keep it? For people with the name to be alive now the ancestors with that name must obviously have married... across the generations there would have been many marriages and spouses. Would your new spouse have proudly taken that name in matrimony? I believe this would be so contrary to human nature that it would just not occur in practice and indicates the use of a 'sounds-like' approach as the height of Dictionary's authors academic prowess. Consequently, I am not convinced that the remainder of the definitions of names they purvey are any more accurate or credible.

  • REASON 2: I believe it is wrong for the search technique used by Ancestry here to accept the entry of a name that is NOT Middle English and yet give a result that purports to be Middle English. If you typed an English name into any number of 'foreign language' name search engines it would be obvious to all, except perhaps Ancestry and the Oxford Press, that the result is likely to be nonsense. From looking into this, I have to say that a large number of names interpreted in Anglo-Saxon can look very rude indeed! Now I know that doing that is a nonsense but this is, in effect, what Ancestry have done. For Ancestry, ignorance seems to be bliss.

  • REASON 3: But "It's the Oxford University Press, they have credibility" I hear you say, and certainly this was part of an Ancestry e-mail response. Well I am not sure they do, or would even claim to. Oxford University Press did not respond to three e-mails and one letter but remember that they are, first and foremost, a commercial publishing company NOT an arbiter of what is 'right' or 'correct' or even the 'best hypothesis." How do I know this? Well the Oxford University Press also publishes Adolf Hitler's "Mein Kampf!" Just because the company publishes does not make it right or correct does it! Oxford University Press have a right to publish anything really and it is good they publish some distateful documents if only so we can learn from history. So, the point here is that, Oxford University Press can publish any old nonsense, their name does not make the content correct.

  • We have a choice as to whether we consult or use an original source, such as the one above, and, if we decide the source is useless, inaccurate, inappropriate or just unhelpful we can decide not to use it in future. We appear to have no choice as to whether Ancestry actually displays this incorrect definition next to our name without them proividing an alternative view. This source is promoted by Ancestry who publish it on-line when a user types this name into it's 'What's in a Name' search engine, despite it's inaccurate application in this case to a name that is not 'Middle English'. This comes up in and

    The issue is not that they quote this source BUT that they don't give alternatives. Click HERE for how the Surname DB site handles the same search.

    Ancestry have been contacted about this insulting and highly unreliable search result and Aisling, a Customer Solutions Associate, on 23 July 2018 has passed the buck to the Oxford University Press. This is the equivallent of publishing insulting and abusive language and pleading it is acceptable to leave it on-line because someone else said it. This excuse in not acceptable for website publishers who RE-PUBLISH racist, disciminatory or inciting language and I do not believe it is acceptable, even at this lower level, for this to remain a search result from Ancestry. Oxford University Press have been e-mailed and just do not reply at all.

    I have given Ancestry a reasonable time to address this issue and they have not done so. Consequently, as a result of this, and Ancestry's dropping of Family Tree Maker, and their dropping of promoting the DNA Y-47 test many of us took without providing a free alternative to those who had already paid good money, I have stopped subscribing to Ancestry. This is after very many years and now I subscribe to an alternative data source.


    I do have a humerous streak and looked up the names of the staff of ANCESTRY in an ALTERNATIVE source: "Alternative Dictionary of American Family Names (c) 2018, Chiswell Green University Press"


    Bell Name Meaning

    Hungarian: nickname for a person who makes a lot of noise but is empty inside.

    English: a person who makes a lote of noise, Middle-English bell-like. Anglo-Saxon bell, bellow, cry.


    Keeley Name Meaning

    Gujarati: name for a murderous person, Gudjarati Keel translates as kill, murder.

    English: a person who gets thing upside-down, Middle English/Old Norse keel, on the bottom (See keel-over)


    Kempski Name Meaning

    English: a person who likes bondage, chains, Anglo-Saxon camp, in bodage, fettered;

    English: a person always at war with themselves or other people, Anglo-Saxon cempa, war, battle. (See also Old Norse kempa, bearded, course)


    Lincoln Name Meaning

    Anglo-Saxon: person who does the laundry, Anglo-Saxon lin, linen and coln, river. Washerwoman, old scrubber, wet around the ears.


    Murray Name Meaning

    Anglo-Saxon: person who is addicted to inhailing plant material, Anglo-Saxon Murra, aromatic plant, weed, intoxicating herb.


    Norris Name Meaning

    English: a person who is negative but always knows better, Middle English nor, never, nil.


    Noto Name Meaning

    Latin: a person who cannot do anything unless its written down for them, Latin noto, note, scribe, instructed.


    Panicker Name Meaning

    English: a person who panics a lot, English panic, anxious, not in control.


    Rivas Name Meaning

    English: a person who is unstable or split-minded, inconsistent, Middle English rive, split, apart, torn.


    Source: Alternative Dictionary of American Family Names (c) 2018, Chiswell Green University Press

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