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In Irish mythology, Ériu (/ˈeːrʲu/), daughter of Ernmas of the Tuatha Dé Danann, was the eponymous matron goddess of Ireland. Her husband was Mac Gréine (‘Son of the Sun’). She was the mother of Bres by Prince Elatha of the Fomorians.

The English name for Ireland comes from the name Ériu and the Germanic (Old Norse or Anglo-Saxon) word land.

Role and mythic portrayal

With her sisters, Banba and Fodla, she was part of an important triumvirate of goddesses. When the Milesians arrived from Spain each of the three sisters asked that her name be given to the country. This was granted to them, although Ériu (Éire) became the chief name in use (Banba and Fodla are still sometimes used as poetic names for Ireland, much as Albion is for Great Britain).

Ériu, Banba and Fodhla are interpreted as goddesses of sovereignty.

According to Seathrún Céitinn the three goddesses of Éire, Banbha and Fódhla were Badhbh, Macha and Móirríoghan (respectively?). Like Ériu, Badb is also sometimes named as a daughter of Ernmas; the two goddesses may possibly therefore be seen as equivalent.

Name and etymology

The University of Wales' reconstructed Proto-Celtic lexicon gives *Φīwerjon- (nominative singular Φīwerjō) as the Proto-Celtic etymology of this name. This Celtic form implies Proto-Indo-European *piHwerjon-, likely related to the adjectival stem *piHwer- "fat" (cf. Sanskrit pīvan, f. pīvarī and by-form pīvara, "fat, full, abounding") hence meaning "fat land" or "land of abundance", applied at an early date to the island of Ireland. The Proto-Celtic form became *īweriū in Q-Celtic (Proto-Goidelic). From a similar or somewhat later form were also borrowed Greek Ἰέρνη I[w]ernē and Ἰουερνία Iouernia; the latter form was converted into Latin Hibernia.


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