Friday, 11 May 2012

What's in a Place Name?

The places in Ireland some of our CONDR*N ancestors came from have such evocative names.  Many times, the place name is an anglicized version of the Gaelic, which is descriptive of the place's physical geography, topography or history.

For example, Tullamore in County Offaly (King's County) comes from the Gaelic Tulach Mhór, meaning Big hill.  Tulach means hill, and Mhór or Mór means big.

Dublin is an anglicized version of Dubh Linn, meaning Black pool.  Dubh means black and Linn means pool.  In this case, as can be seen from the road signs pictured above, the modern Gaelic name is different: the modern Gaelic name for Dublin is Baile Átha Cliath (or just Áth Cliath), meaning Town of the hurdled ford.

And some place names in English and Gaelic are straight translations of one another.  So in the picture above, the names Blackrock and Carraig Dhubh are literal translations of one another (Carraig = rock, and Dhubh or Dubh = black).

Some place names are even older, and derive from the Norse name.  For example, Arklow in County Wicklow comes from the Norse meaning Arnkell’s meadow.

Here are some places that CONDR*Ns come from, their Gaelic names, and their meaning.

  • Athlone (Westmeath), Átha Luain, Luan’s ford
  • Ballylynan (Queen’s Co.), Baile Uí Laigheanáin, O Laigheanan’s homestead
  • Clogh (Kilkenny), Cloch, Stone castle
  • Cloghan (King’s Co.), Clochán, Stony place
  • Clonmacnoise (King’s Co.), Cluain Mhic Nóis, Pasture of the descendants of Noas
  • Clonmore (Carlow), Cluain Mhór, Large pasture
  • Donaghmore (Wicklow), Domhnach Mór, Big church
  • Kilbeggan (Westmeath), Cill Bheagáin, Beagan’s church
  • Rahan (King’s Co.), Raithean, Ferny place
  • Rathdrum (Wicklow), Ráth Droma, Fort of the ridge
  • Screggan (King’s Co.), Screagán, Rough place
  • Shandrum (Cork), Seandroma, Old fort
  • Stradbally (Queen’s Co.), Sráidbhaile, Street-town
  • Tubber (King’s Co.), Tobar, Well
  • Tullamore (King’s Co.), Tulach Mhór, Big hill

My source for this information is the book, “Irish Place Names”, by Deirdre and Laurence Flanagan.  If there are any other Irish place names you’d like to know the meaning of, let me know – I’ll do my best!  Email condran[AT]

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