Sunday, 28 October 2018

Ireland Place Names Explained

Having blogged samples of my books on English place names and also examined the etymologies of the nations of the world and their respective capitals I thought it time I cast my net a little wider. As English place names share some links to other tongues it would be interesting to see if any of the elements contributing to our place names could be found elsewhere. Continuing an alphabetical tour of the world and a look at the largest Irish towns and cities and this takes in both sides of the border.


Dublin is from the Irish for 'black or dark pool'.

Belfast is derived from the Irish for 'river mouth of the sandbar'.

Cork is from corcach meaning 'marsh'.

Wexford was originally named by the Vikings as 'inlet of the mud flats' or Veisafjordr and the modern name is simply derived from that.


Derry translates as 'oak grove or wood'.

Lisburn comes from the local name meaning 'the ringfort of the gamesters or gamblers'.

Newry is an Anglicised version of the Irish An Luraigh 'the grove of the yew trees'.

Galway comes from the Irish Gaillimhe or 'fort Gaillimh'.

Kilkenny comes from 'the church of Cainnech', Saint Cainnech of Aghaboe was a 6th century Irish abbot known as Saint Kenneth in Scotland.


Limerick is first recorded in AD561, although the original meaning is unclear but often said to be 'a bare or barre spot of land'.

Waterford is not what it seems but comes from the Old Scandinavian meaning 'wether or ram's ford'.

Swords does not mean what it seems but was originally Sord meaning 'pure, clear' and a reference to the local well, said to have been blessed by Saint Colmcille.

Dundalk is simply 'Dalgan's fort'.

Bray is the Irish for 'hill' or perhaps 'rising ground'.

Navan is thought to mean 'the cave'.

Ennis is a simple enough name meaning 'island'.

Carlow is the Anglicised verion of the Irish Ceatharlach meaning 'the four lakes' or 'the four-legged' depending upon who you ask.


Tralee speaks of itself as 'the strand of the river Lee'.

Newbridge brings no surprises and is only included to prevent emails asking why I left it out.

Balbriggan is claimed to mean 'Brecan's Town', although others maintain this is from the river name of Bracken, itself meaning 'little trout'.

Athlone is the 'town of Luan's ford'.

Celbridge is from the Irish for 'the church by the bridge'.

Bangor is derived from the Irish Beannchor meaning 'horned or peaked curve'.

Craigavon is a planned town and named after Northern Ireland's first prime minister James Craig, 1st Viscount Craigavon.

Ballymena is from the Irish for 'the middle townland'.

Carrickfergus is the Irish for 'Fergus's rock'.

Coleraine is from the Irish for 'nook of ferns'.

Antrim comes from the Irish for 'lone ridge'.


Note the spellings of the places are English as the piece is written in English.

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