Many place names in Ireland
in the English language
are either anglicisations of those in the Irish language
, or completely different, such as the name for the capital of Ireland
, which in English is Dublin
, but in Irish is Baile Átha Cliath
. The former means black hole/pool
(anglicised from dubh
) and the latter means town of the hurdle ford
. After the foundation of the Irish Free State
in 1922, some names were changed including Kingstown in County Dublin
, which was changed back to the original Dún Laoghaire
(by English speakers, and by Irish speakers) and Queenstown in County Cork
reverted to Cóbh
([koːv]). King's County and Queen's County were renamed County Offaly
and County Laois
respectively in 1921.
Pursuant to the Official Languages Act, 2003 and the advice of the Coimisiún Logainmneacha (Place-Names Commission), the statutory instrument 59 of 2005 Placenames (Centres of Population and Districts) Order 2005 was issued listing the equivalent in the Irish language of place-names specified in the Order with its English form. The Irish words then had the same meaning and same force and effect as the place-name. This order lists a little fewer than 2,000 place-names, many of which were changed from the Irish form used since independence, e.g. Bray went from Brí Chualann to Bré and Naas changed from Nás na Rí to An Nás.
In the Republic, both Irish and English names have equal status and are displayed on road and signs, although postmarks are only in Irish. 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. At the moment, only Fermanagh has Irish language roadsigns, and is this case, it is only on indicative signs and not directional ones. Some towns in Omagh District Council and Cookstown District Council also display bilingual names on some welcome signs (eg. "OMAGH" An Ómaigh). Many road signs in Magherafelt District Council are displayed bilingually, including all road signs in Bellaghy.
The name of Ireland itself comes from the Irish name, Éire, affixed to the Germanic root, '-land'. According to mythology, Éire was an ancient Celtic princess (see Ériu).
Common words found in Irish place names include:
- Agha- achadh - 'field' (e.g. Aghaboe)
- Ard- ard - 'high' (e.g. Ardara)
- Ath- áth - 'ford' (e.g. Athlone)
- Bally- baile - 'town' or 'Mouth of a river' (e.g. Ballybay)
- -beg beag - 'small' (e.g. Killybegs)
- Bel- béal - 'mouth, i.e. mouth of a river' (e.g. Belfast)
- Ban-/Ben-/Bin- beann - 'peak or point' (e.g. Bangor)
- Bun- bun - 'bottom or mouth of river' (e.g. Bundoran)
- Capp- ceapach - 'plot or tillage' (e.g. Cappoquin)
- Carry/Carrick/Carrig- carraig - 'rock' (e.g. Carrickmacross)
- Clon- cluain - 'meadow' (e.g. Clontibret)
- Coom- cúm - 'hollow'
- Cor- cor - 'small round hill' (e.g. Corblonog)
- Cul-/Cool- cúl - 'back' (e.g. Coolmine)
- Cul-/Cool- cuil - 'corner' (e.g. Coolock)
- Derry- doire - 'grove' (e.g. Derry)
- Dona- domhnach - 'church' (e.g. Donagh)
- Drohed- Droichead - 'bridge' (e.g. Drogheda)
- Drom-/Drum-/-drum Droim - 'ridge or hillock' (e.g. Dundrum)
- Dun- dún - 'fort' (e.g. Dungannon)
- Ennis- Inis - 'island, strand or water meadow' (e.g. Enniskillen)
- Esk-/Eish- eiscir - 'Esker'
- Fin- fionn - 'clear or white' (e.g. Finglas)
- Glas- glas - 'stream' (e.g. Glasnevin)
- Glen- gleann - 'valley' (e.g. Glenties)
- Inish- inis - 'island, strand or water meadow' (e.g. Inishcrone)
- Kill-/Kil- cill - 'church' (e.g. Kildare) or coill - 'forest'
- Kil- coill - 'wood' (e.g. Kilmore)
- Knock- cnoc - 'hill' (e.g. Knockatallon)
- Letter- leitir - 'hillside' (e.g. Letterkenny)
- Lis- lios - 'ring fort' (e.g. Lisburn)
- Lough- loch - 'lake' (e.g. Loughrea)
- Maum- mám - 'mountain pass' (e.g. Maum)
- Magha-/Maga- machaire or maigh - 'plain' (e.g. Magherafelt)
- May-/Moy- má - 'plain' (e.g. Maynooth)
- Mulla-/Mala- mullach - 'summit' (e.g. Mullaghmore)
- Mullin- muileann - 'mill' (e.g. Mullingar)
- -more mor - 'big or large' (e.g. Tullamore)
- Poll-/Poul- poll - 'hole' (e.g. Poulaphouca)
- Port- port - 'stronghold' (e.g. Portlaoise) 'or landing place' (e.g. Portmarnock)
- Rath-/Rah- rath - 'fort' (e.g. Raheny)
- -roe rua(dh) - 'red'
- Ros(s)- ros - 'wood'
- Shan- sean - 'old' (e.g Shandon)
- Sheskin- Seiscenn - 'marsh, bog or quagmire' (e.g. Sheskin)
- Slieve- sliabh - 'mountain' (e.g. Sliabh Beagh)
- Termon- termon - 'church lands' or 'place of sanctury' (e.g. Termon)
- Tra- trá - 'beach or strand' (e.g. Tramore)
- Tuam- tuaim - 'burial mound' (e.g. Tuam)
- Tulla-/Tulra- tulach - 'hillock or mount' (e.g. Tullamore)
Names of provinces
The four provinces (cúigí - singular: cúige) are known as:
- Connacht - Connacht(a) / Cúige Chonnacht - meaning "Conn's land"
- Munster - An Mhumhain / Cúige Mumhan - meaning "Land of Mumha's men"
- Leinster - Laighin / Cúige Laighean - meaning "Land of Broad Spears"
- Ulster - Ulaidh / Cúige Uladh - meaning "Land of Ulaid's men"
The word cúige originally meant 'a fifth', as in one-fifth part of Ireland, and comes from the fact that 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.
Names of counties
Most of the counties were named after a town in that county, 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. Counties not named after towns include County Fermanagh, County Kerry and County Westmeath.
The 32 counties (contaetha - singular: contae) of Ireland are known as:
- County Antrim - Aontroim / Co. Aontroma - meaning "Solitary Farm"
- County Armagh - Ard Mhacha / Co. Ard Mhacha - meaning "Macha's Height"
- County Carlow - Ceatharlach / Co. Cheatharlaigh - meaning "Abounding in cattle", not "four lakes" as some might assume
- County Cavan - An Cabhán / Co. an Chabháin - meaning "The Hollow"
- County Clare - An Clár / Co. an Chláir - meaning "Level Land"
- County Cork - Corcaigh / Co. Chorcaí - meaning "Marsh"
- County Donegal - Dún na nGall / Co. Dhún na nGall - meaning "Fort of the Foreigners" (Vikings) or Tír Chonaill / Co. Thír Chonaill - meaning "Conal's land"
- County Down - An Dún / Co. an Dúin - meaning "The Fort"
- County Dublin - Áth Cliath / Co. Átha Cliath - meaning "Town by the Hurdle ford"
- County Fermanagh - Fear Manach / Co. Fhear Manach - meaning "Men (tribe) of Monach"
- County Galway - Gaillimh / Co. na Gaillimhe - meaning "Rocky/Stony River"
- County Kerry - Ciarraí / Co. Chiarraí - the descendants of (tribe) of Ciar
- County Kildare - Cill Dara / Co. Chill Dara - meaning "Church by the Oak"
- County Kilkenny - Cill Chainnigh / Co. Chill Chainnigh - meaning "Canice's Church"
- County Laois - Laois / Co. Laoise - named after Lughaidh Laeighseach, a chieftain
- County Leitrim - Liatroim / Co. Liatroma - meaning "Grey Ridge"
- County Limerick - Luimneach / Co. Luimnigh - meaning "Bare Land"
- County Londonderry - Doire / Co. Dhoire - meaning "Oak Wood"
- County Longford - Longfort / Co. Longfoirt - meaning "Fortress"
- County Louth - Lú / Co. Lú - originally Lughbhadh, which was named after the Celtic god Lugh. Does not mean "smallest".
- County Mayo - Maigh Eo / Co. Mhaigh Eo - meaning "Plain of the Yews"
- County Meath - An Mhí / Co. na Mí - meaning "Middle", because it was the middle province
- County Monaghan - Muineachán / Co. Mhuineacháin - meaning "Place of Thickets"
- County Offaly - Uibh Fhailí / Co. Uibh Fhailí - derived from "Ua Fáilghe" meaning "Descendants of Fáilghe"
- County Roscommon - Ros Comáin / Co. Ros Comáin - meaning "Corman's wood"
- County Sligo - Sligeach / Co. Shligigh - meaning "Shell-river"
- County Tipperary - Tiobraid Árainn / Co. Thiobraid Árainn - meaning "House of the Well of Ara"
- County Tyrone - Tír Eoghain / Co. Thír Eoghain - meaning "Eoghan's Land"
- County Waterford - Port Láirge / Co. Phort Láirge - "Waterford" comes from the Viking "Vadre fjord"
- County Westmeath - An Iarmhí / Co. na hIarmhí - the western part of the old Meath
- County Wexford - Loch Garman / Co. Loch Garman - "Wexford" comes from the Viking "Hvitar fjordr" meaning "white fjord". Loch Garman/Loch Gorman/Loch gCorman means Gorman's Lake
- County Wicklow - Cill Mhantáin / Co. Chill Mhantáin - meaning "Mantan's Church"; "Wicklow" comes from the Viking "Vikingarlo"
Names of cities
Names of towns
Names of streets and areas
Names of countries, states, provinces and cities outside Ireland
Names of continents