The Origin and History of Irish Names of Places, Vol 1

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These two volumes were the first ever written on the subject of Irish Place Names. They were well received, so that they have, in the interim, passed through many editions, and they still command a steady sale. About the Publisher Forgotten Books publishes hundreds of thousands of rare and classic books.

Joyce, The Origin and History of Irish Names of Places.

Find more at www. Forgotten Books uses state-of-the-art technology to digitally reconstruct the work, preserving the original format whilst repairing imperfections present in the aged copy.

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In rare cases, an imperfection in the original, such as a blemish or missing page, may be replicated in our edition. We do, however, repair the vast majority of imperfections successfully; any imperfections that remain are intentionally left to preserve the state of such historical works. Learn about new offers and get more deals by joining our newsletter. Sign up now. However, some names come directly from the English language , and a handful come from Old Norse and Scots. The study of placenames in Ireland unveils features of the country's history and geography, and the development of the Irish language.

In some cases, the official English or anglicised name is wholly different from the official Irish language name. An example is Dublin. For most of the " Gaelic period ", there were very few towns or large settlements in Ireland. Hence, most places were named after noteworthy features of the landscape, such as hills, rocks, valleys, lakes, islands, and harbours. As time went on, more places were named after man-made features, such as churches, castles, and bridges. Some of the most common elements found in Irish placenames are shown in the table below.

The differences in spelling are often due to differences in pronunciation. During the s and s , Vikings from Scandinavia raided monasteries along Ireland's coasts and waterways. The Vikings spoke the Old Norse language and are also called Norsemen. They set up small coastal camps called longphorts — these were used as bases for their raiding parties and as shelters during the winter. Eventually some longphorts grew into Norse settlements and trading ports. After the Norman invasion of Ireland , which began in , Anglo-Norman and English language placenames emerged in the areas under Anglo-Norman control.

Most of these are within the bounds of " The Pale " — the area that stayed under direct English control for the longest, and where English language and culture held sway. It stretched along the east coast from Dundalk in the north to Dalkey in the south. Between and , during its " conquest of Ireland ", the English colonised parts of the country with settlers from Great Britain. This is known as the " Plantations of Ireland ". After the Battle of Kinsale defeat in which the Gaelic aristocracy fled to continental Europe the northern province of Ulster was the most heavily colonised.

Those who settled as part of the " Plantation of Ulster " were required to be English speaking made up mostly of Lowland Scots and some northern English. The result is that northeast Ulster also has a great number of English-derived placenames.


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Such placenames often refer to buildings and other manmade features. They often include forms such as -town , -ton , -ville , -borough , -bury , bridge , mill , castle , abbey , church , etc. However, forms such as hill , mount , mont , wood , bay , brook etc.

Place names in Ireland

Some placenames that seem to come from English are in fact anglicized Irish names modified by folk etymology. The Lowland Scots who settled during the Plantation of Ulster also contributed to place-names in the north of Ireland, particularly in the Ulster Scots areas. The Scots influence can be seen in places such as Burnside stream , Calheme from 'Cauldhame' coldhome , Corby Knowe raven knoll Glarryford from 'glaurie' muddy , Gowks Hill cuckoo and Loanends where the lanes end in County Antrim, Crawtree crow , Whaup Island curlew and Whinny Hill from 'whin' gorse in County Down and the frequent elements burn stream , brae incline , dyke a stone or turf wall , gate a way or path , knowe knoll , moss moorland , sheuch or sheugh a trench or ditch and vennel narrow alley.

Other Scots elements may be obscured due to their being rendered in Standard English orthography. One reason for this is because foreign names can be perceived as more fashionable than native ones. Particularly in middle-class areas, names of Italian origin have been used because of this perception and many roads e.

Vico Road and Sorrento Road in Dalkey and housing estates have obtained their names in this way. More rarely, this has led to the naming of whole suburbs e. Montenotte and Tivoli in Cork.

Irish Names of Places - Volume I

Portobello, Dublin was named in celebration of the British victory at the Battle of Porto Bello. Another source of place names is from Anglo-Norman.

Considering the number of surnames of Norman origin in Ireland, these are surprisingly rare. Nevertheless, some examples do exist, such as the town of Buttevant from the motto of the Barry family - Boutez en Avant and the village of Brittas from the Norman-French Bretesche , "boarding, planking".

Others exist in portmanteau with words of Irish or English origin, such as Castletownroche , which combines the English Castletown and the French Roche , meaning rock. Most widespread is the term Pallas from Norman paleis , "boundary fence" which appears in over 20 place names, including the towns Pallasgreen and Pallaskenry. A further source of place names of other origin is places names after religious sites outside Ireland.


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In the Republic of Ireland , both Irish and English names have equal status and are displayed on roadsigns. During and after the foundation of the Irish Free State in , some English names were returned to their Irish form. Although most of the changes were accepted by the wider public, some did not catch on and were eventually undone. The Local Government Act allowed locals to petition for a name change.

Joyce: Irish Names of Places

The Irish words then had the same meaning and same force and effect as the place-name. In Northern Ireland , the new recognition of the status of the Irish language does not extend to bilingual roadsigns — it is down to individual district councils to decide to place them. Irish-language street signs may be erected at the request of locals, provided there is enough support. This is because Meath , as seat of the High King of Ireland, was once a province in its own right, incorporating modern counties Meath, Westmeath and parts of surrounding counties.

Meath was later absorbed into Leinster. In Irish, the counties are known as contaetha , the singular of which is contae. Irish versions of county names only have official status in the Republic of Ireland. Most of the counties were named after a town in that county commonly referred to as a county town ; usually an administrative centre. Some of these towns, such as Louth , have declined into small villages or have lost their county town status to other towns.

The county of Londonderry is named after the city of the same name , though its county town was Coleraine until when counties were abolished as administrative units in Northern Ireland and replaced with unitary councils. In , County Dublin was abolished as an administrative unit and replaced with three new administrative counties:. Many streets and roads in Ireland derive their name from that of the townland, settlement or parish it goes through or heads towards, many of which are of Irish origin.

Other streets and roads derive their names from local buildings, manufacturies or people etc. Whilst Irish forms only have official status in the Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland district councils are allowed to erect bilingual roadsigns.


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