1. Travel
You can opt-out at any time. Please refer to our privacy policy for contact information.

Common Place Names in Ireland

By

Signpost
© 2003 Bernd Biege licensed to About.com, Inc.

When touring Ireland you will notice the similarity of many place names. Every second town seems to be either Kil-something or Bally-other. Which, broadly speaking, is true. Most names are descriptive and contain elements from the Old Irish:

  • ar or ard - height, high
  • ass or ess - waterfall
  • a, ah or ath - ford
  • baile, bal, bally or bel - town
  • beg - small
  • ben - mountain
  • carrick or carrig - rock
  • cashel - stone fort
  • crock or knock - hill
  • curra or curragh - marsh
  • darry or derry - oak
  • dubh or duff - dark or black
  • dun - castle, fortress
  • eden - hilltop
  • ennis, inch or in(n)is - island
  • gael - Irish
  • gall - strange, foreigner
  • inver - river mouth
  • isk or iska - water
  • glas(s) - green
  • glen or glyn - valley
  • kil(l) - church
  • lin(n) - pool
  • lios or liss - mound or ring fort
  • lough - lake (or a lake-like sea inlet)
  • mona or mone - peat bog
  • mor - great
  • mullen or mullin - mill
  • raha or rath - ring fort
  • slieve - mountain
  • toom - burial place
  • tra - beach
  • tul or tullagh - small hill

And now enjoy making sense of your planned route - which might lead you from the Black Pool (Dublin) to the Fortress of the Foreigners (Donegal)!

But take note that not all names are easily explained. The Kildare town of Prosperous was founded in 1780 by Robert Brook and the name was chosen as auspicious. Bad choice - in 1786 Brooke and his town went bankrupt. Swanlinbar (County Cavan) was also named on a whim by its founders Swift, Sanders, Darling und Barry. So it might as well have ended up as Ifterdarry.

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.