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What is Black Irish? Photos of Black Irish People

Updated on July 18, 2016

Enya

Black Irish Celebrity

Jennifer Connelly, Black Irish
Jennifer Connelly, Black Irish

What is Black Irish? The term tends to be used among Irish Americans and sometimes leaves people of other ethnic groups perplexed.

This hub will explain what black Irish means and features photos of black Irish people -- celebrities and notable individuals who have Irish descent and have these features.

People of Irish ancestry often use trinkets that represent their heritage to signify to other people that they are Irish. Looks also do a lot of the translation.


What Black Irish Is

Black Irish is a colloquial term. The most traditional explanation of black Irish refers to people that have Irish ancestry and have black hair, pale skin, and blue or green eyes. Their eyelashes and body hair are also noticeably black.

Jennifer Connelly is part Irish and she would easily be labeled black Irish in a Celtic group of people.

To look like Jennifer, there are ways women can wear specific makeup colors to magnify these beautiful features. Having black Irish features can definitely be one of the most gorgeous looks on the planet!

Black Irish American Jennifer Connelly in Western style photoshoot
Black Irish American Jennifer Connelly in Western style photoshoot

Paul Ryan: Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives

More Black Irish Celebrities

Rob James Collier, Black Irish
Rob James Collier, Black Irish
Lara Flynn Boyle, Black Irish
Lara Flynn Boyle, Black Irish
Peter Gallagher, Black Irish
Peter Gallagher, Black Irish

Where Did the Term Black Irish Come From?

During periods of high European immigration to the United States, European-descended people had a tendency to distinguish ethnic European groups and sub-groups from one another.

The majority (65%) of Irish people have brown hair. Since only 15% of Irish people have black hair, and within that 15% almost all of them fair-skinned and blue or green-eyed, classifying them with the term "black Irish" made them instantly distinguishable as a sub-group.

This was a way of also noting that black Irish people have a tribal differentiation from the tribal makeup of people with more typically Irish features. But it should also be noted that black Irish are higher in number than redheaded Irish.


What Are the Origins of Black Irish People?

The Irish people have a deeply rich history and the black Irish are part of that tradition, even though some of it is entrenched in mystery.

There are many theories about the origins. There is evidence that a small percentage of prehistoric people that lived in present-day Spain and Portugal (Iberian Peninsula) migrated to present-day Ireland. The Iberian Peninsula already had different ethnic subgroups of people living on it, including people from the Eastern Mediterranean. Many ethnic Iberian groups have also since died out.

Another theory notes that the Irish were originally descended from Scythians, from present-day Iran (and that these people also migrated to Spain). They were white-skinned with black hair. They intermarried with other tribes in Ireland and the results were blue and green eyed people with black hair and fair skin.

It should be noted that there hasn't been any exclusively proven theory as to how the black Irish came about. Black hair can be found in almost every European people, so these specific features are not exclusive to the Irish in Europe.

Another even smaller group of Irish people (around 1% of the population) have black hair, light or tan skin, and brown eyes. This group is also sometimes referred to as black Irish.


What Are Some Examples of Notable People that Are Black Irish?

Enya, Paul Ryan, Lara Flynn Boyle, Peter Gallagher, Rob James Collier, and Jennifer Connelly all have Irish ancestry, and all four of them would be called black Irish in the colloquial sense.

The Beautiful Siouxsie Sioux -- Possibly Black Irish

The Beautiful Siouxsie Sioux, Black Irish?
The Beautiful Siouxsie Sioux, Black Irish?

The Case of Siouxsie Sioux

I had always thought Siouxsie Sioux (born Susan Janet Ballion) of the punk band Siouxsie and the Banshees was Irish. According to her Wikipedia bio, she is Belgian Walloon and English.

I am convinced that Siouxsie has Irish blood through the English side simply because she is just about the most Irish-looking human being I've ever seen, with her lovely square-oriented face, blue eyes, and black hair.

For the majority of her career as a singer in the public eye she has kept her hair black. I don't think anyone has looked prettier with jet-black hair than her.

Not only that, but her band name is very Irish sounding (banshee, anyone?), and many of her songs have Celtic sounds to them.

YouTube Video

Black Irish Poll

Are you Black Irish?

See results

Real World's Jemmye Carroll: Has the Black Irish Look

Jemmye Carroll might or might not have Irish ancestry, but she sure looks the part.
Jemmye Carroll might or might not have Irish ancestry, but she sure looks the part.

Poll

Which of the above celebrities looks the most black Irish to you?

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