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BS: Irish Towns - understanding their names

Duke 27 Jan 10 - 02:20 PM
GUEST,mauvepink 27 Jan 10 - 02:50 PM
gnu 27 Jan 10 - 03:22 PM
Dave MacKenzie 27 Jan 10 - 03:24 PM
Duke 27 Jan 10 - 03:42 PM
Lox 27 Jan 10 - 04:01 PM
mg 27 Jan 10 - 04:04 PM
Paul Burke 27 Jan 10 - 04:45 PM
Don(Wyziwyg)T 28 Jan 10 - 05:31 PM
Joe Offer 28 Jan 10 - 07:41 PM
Dave MacKenzie 29 Jan 10 - 04:21 AM
MartinRyan 29 Jan 10 - 05:36 AM
Dave MacKenzie 29 Jan 10 - 08:15 AM
Nigel Parsons 29 Jan 10 - 10:04 AM
Liberty Boy 29 Jan 10 - 10:46 AM
Dave MacKenzie 29 Jan 10 - 11:09 AM
Peter K (Fionn) 29 Jan 10 - 11:58 AM
MGM·Lion 29 Jan 10 - 12:56 PM
robomatic 29 Jan 10 - 02:27 PM
MartinRyan 29 Jan 10 - 08:31 PM
Peter K (Fionn) 30 Jan 10 - 07:40 AM
GUEST,Learaí na Láibe 30 Jan 10 - 08:03 AM
GUEST 30 Jan 10 - 08:17 AM
Paul Burke 30 Jan 10 - 09:29 AM
GUEST,Donal 30 Jan 10 - 08:34 PM
Thompson 31 Jan 10 - 04:45 AM
Paul Burke 31 Jan 10 - 09:01 AM
GUEST,Dáithí 01 Feb 10 - 07:20 AM
Matthew Edwards 01 Feb 10 - 03:19 PM
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Subject: BS: Irish Towns
From: Duke
Date: 27 Jan 10 - 02:20 PM

I've noticed that many Irish towns are called Bally something or other. Can anyone tell me what Bally means?


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Subject: RE: BS: Irish Towns
From: GUEST,mauvepink
Date: 27 Jan 10 - 02:50 PM

try this

Hope it helps

mp


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Subject: RE: BS: Irish Towns
From: gnu
Date: 27 Jan 10 - 03:22 PM

Kewl mp... thanks.


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Subject: RE: BS: Irish Towns
From: Dave MacKenzie
Date: 27 Jan 10 - 03:24 PM

Bally (or something similar) in Irish and Gaelic just means a town, eg

Ballynahinch (Co Down) - town of the island

Baltimore (Co Cork) - town of the big house

Ballachulish (Argyll, now Highland) - town by the narrows


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Subject: RE: BS: Irish Towns
From: Duke
Date: 27 Jan 10 - 03:42 PM

That was quick! Thanks, people. My question has been answered.


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Subject: RE: BS: Irish Towns
From: Lox
Date: 27 Jan 10 - 04:01 PM

Even Dublin is "Baile Ath Cliath" in Irish.

And to the south of Dublin you have Booterstown, otherwise known as "Baile An Bothair"

The list goes on.

My favourite is Ballinspittle, a village that you could miss if you blinked whilst driving through it.


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Subject: RE: BS: Irish Towns
From: mg
Date: 27 Jan 10 - 04:04 PM

My ancestors are from or near from Ballyferriter..town of Ferriters I presume. mg


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Subject: RE: BS: Irish Towns
From: Paul Burke
Date: 27 Jan 10 - 04:45 PM

Irish townsfolk are fond of bally dancing. It keeps them on their toes.


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Subject: RE: BS: Irish Towns
From: Don(Wyziwyg)T
Date: 28 Jan 10 - 05:31 PM

Grandparents and Dad came from Croughta, Baile na Cloagha (Ballyclagh), County Cork.

Don T.


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Subject: RE: BS: Irish Towns - understanding their names
From: Joe Offer
Date: 28 Jan 10 - 07:41 PM

Below is the full text of the information in the link above to an unfinished document on Irish placenames. There's a longer list of place name elements in the Wikipedia article on Place Names in Irish.

Components of Irish Placenames

Evolution of Placenames

Components of Irish Placenames

If you spend time studying a fairly detailed map of Ireland, it becomes clear that there are sounds and parts of words that appear over and over again in many placenames. This is true of any culture (eg English -borough, -pool, -ham, -cester, -town; French -ville, German -burg). Ireland is no exception, except that its placenames can trace their ancestry to three language families: Gaelic, English and Viking.

If you have the name of an Irish placename, it is often possible to work out its origins. Many of them are made up of descriptions of the neighbourhood. For example, if there are two features, say lakes, close together, the larger one will often have -more in its name, and the smaller one -beg. Human structures also find their way into names: droichead is a bridge, and dun is a fortress. Many others are named after people, usually the lords who owned the lands on which they were built. Castledawson and Manorhamilton are examples.

A word of caution, however. A large number of Gaelic words sound similar, and in many cases the Anglicisation of Gaelic placenames has confused the spelling, making it look as if a placename means one thing when it actually means something completely different. Too many people fall into the trap of taking the English spelling, looking it up in an Irish dictionary and assuming they have the right meaning.

This is a list of some of the more common placename components in Ireland:

Ard Signifies a high place in Gaelic languages. This ususally means a physically high place, but it can also mean a place of importance. For example: the Ards Peninsula (county Down), Ardstraw [A high, or important, rath] (county Tyrone), Ardfert (county Kerry). A few places seem to be an 'Ard', but are actually not. For example, Ardee (county Louth) is actually an abbreviation of the older name 'Atherdee', where 'Dee' is the name of the river on which it stands.
Bally, Ballyna, Ballina Bally is an extremely common prefix to town names in Ireland, and is derived from the Gaelic phrase 'Baile na', meaning 'place of'. It is not quite right to translate it 'town of', as there were few, if any, towns in Ireland at the time these names were formed. For example, Ballyjamesduff [Place of James Duff] (county Cavan), Ballymoney (county Londonderry). The Irish name for the site of present-day Dublin was 'Baile Átha Cliath', which, if anglicised, would be spelt something like 'Ballycleeagh'. Note that 'Dublin' is actually a Viking word.
...beg This means 'small' in Gaelic. Usually used at the end of a name, this often means that this feature is the smaller of a pair of adjacent features. A similar name ending in 'more' is often found nearby. For example, Killybegs (county Donegal), Lambeg (county Antrim). North of Lough Neagh, Ireland's largest lake, is a much smaller lake called Lough Beg.
..bridge When found at the end of a name, this means that the town developed beside a bridge, or became famous as a bridging point. These town names are usually of English language origin. For example, Banbridge (county Down) which grew up around a bridge over the river Bann. Newbridge (county Kildare) grew up when a bridge over the Liffey was built at that point. (Newbridge is increasingly being called Droichead Nua, which is a Gaelicised version of the original English name.) This illustrates the importance of bridges to trade.
Carrick, Carrig Carrick means 'rock' in Gaelic languages, and Carricks are abundant across Ireland. For example Carrickfergus [Rock of Fergus] (county Antrim), Carrickmacross [Rock of MacRoss] (county Monaghan), Carrick-on-Suir (county Tipperary).
Castle A prefix whose origins are in the English language. Towns with this name once, and in a few cases still do, have a castle. For example Castlederg (county Tyrone), Castlebar (county Mayo), Castleisland (county Kerry).
Clon, Cloon A Gaelic word meaning a dry place. This name is much more common in Connaught than elsewhere in Ireland. This is because Connaught in wetter, so a dry and well-drained site was more valuable and well regarded. For example, Clonmel (county Tipperary), Clonmacnois (county Offaly), Clonfert (county Galway).
Derry This term evolved from the Gaelic name for a place of Oak trees [Doire], or sometimes a grove or clearing of the same. Oak trees are found in many places in Ireland, so there are many examples of the name Derry. The most famous place to have this name is Derry city (county Londonderry). Other examples include Derryaghy (county Antrim) [a former village which is now part of Belfast city], Edenderry (county Offaly).
Down, Dun, Don These prefixes all evolved from the Gaelic word 'Dun', meaning a fortified place. As Ireland has always had wars, there are many examples of fortified places. Donegal [Fortress of the Foreigners] (county Donegal), Dungannon (county Tyrone), Portadown [Port of the fortress] (county Armagh), Dungarvan (county Waterford), Downpatrick [Fortress of Patrick] (county Down).
Droichead A Gaelic word meaning a bridge. The prime example is Drogheda (county Meath), which is an evolved spelling derived from the Gaelic word. Also the town of Droichead Nua [New bridge] (county Kildare).
Drum, Drom A Gaelic word meaning a ridge. Examples include Dromore [The greater ridge] (county Down & Tyrone), Drumquin [Quinn's ridge] (county Tyrone), Drum [the ridge] (county Monaghan)..
..ford Names containing 'ford' could have either a Gaelic or Viking origin. If the place is by a narrow bay, it is likely to be Viking. The word evolved from the Viking 'fjord'. Examples include Waterford [Fjord of the father], Wexford [A very shallow fjord], Strangford [the strong fjord (ie, strong current)] (county Down). Alternatively, it could be a Gaelic/English word meaning a shallow crossing point in a river. For example, Longford.
Gal, Gael A Gaelic word meaning 'strangers' or 'foreigners'. For example, Donegal [Fortess of the foreigners]. Note that Galway is not an example of this word. It translates to something like 'a port at some small islands'. The word 'Gaelic' itself means 'foreigners', because it originates from the language of pre-Celtic peoples who referred to the Celts as foreigners or 'Gaels'.
Glen A Gaelic word meaning a valley between mountains. For example, Glenariff (county Antrim), Crossmaglen (county Armagh).
..hill An English word used for any town on or near a hill. For example, Markethill (county Armagh), Richill (county Armagh).
Kil, Killy A Gaelic word meaning a church. Famous examples include Kildare (Cill Dara) meaning 'the second church', Kilkenny. The Shankill area of Belfast is Gaelic for 'old church'.
Knock A Gaelic word meaning a hill. There are many example of this, including Knock (county Mayo), Knock (Belfast, county Down) and Knockmore [the great hill], county Antrim. For a period several centuries ago, Carrickfergus (county Antrim) was known as Knockfergus.

This list stops here: because of time constraints I have been unable to complete it.

 

Evolution of Placenames


As people of various linguistic background have lived in Ireland, so the names have evolved.

Gaelic names being Anglicised The most common evolution in Ireland occurred when English began to take over from the Gaelic languages as Ireland's dominant language. This usually resulted in the names staying the same, but their spellings changing. For example, Beal-fierste became Belfast, Tir Eoghain became Tyrone, Doire became Derry. There were very few towns in existance in Ireland before the Normans took control in the 1100s. Thus, many of the new town names were anglicised spellings of Gaelic region names, rather than the names of actual towns.

Viking names being Anglicised Many places in Ireland had been named by the Vikings, and these also evolved into English spellings. For example, Strangford [Strang Fjord] (county Down), Dublin [Dubh Linn] and Wexford [Weis Fjord]. Sometimes the Vikings and the Gaels had different names for the same thing, but only one ever survived. For example, the Gaelic name for the area of Dublin was Baile Atha Cliath, but this name was never used to refer to the town (although it has been appearing as such on roadsigns in the past few decades).

New English names appearing As new towns were founed after English had become the main language, they naturally had English names. For example, Newtownabbey (county Antrim), Waterside (county Londonderry), Celbridge (county Kildare) or Lucan (county Dublin).

English names being Gaelicised After the Republic of Ireland became independant, the government re-named some English name towns into Gaelic equivalents. For example, the county Kildare town of Newbridge, founded in 1816, was Gaelicised literally as Droichead Nua. Some other towns had their names totally changed. For example, Kingstown (county Dublin) became Dun Laoghaire, a re-Gaelicised version of the name (Dunleery) by which it had been known until 1821. Dunleery, in turn, had been an Anglicised version of a Gaelic name for the area. In fact, in the late Norman period many Norman (early English) names of towns were Gaelicised by the residents once the influence from across the Irish Sea waned.

Modern changes Names are still changing today. In 1837, the town of Newtownards (county Down) was spelt Newtown-Ardes. The county Londonderry town of Limavady was then known as Newtown-Limavady. There are likely to be further changes in the future. The town of Craigavon (county Armagh) was built (rather unsuccessfully) from scratch in the mid 20th century and named after a former Northern Ireland Prime Minister. The town of Shannon (county Clare) was born shortly after the opening of Shannon airport. It now has 7000 residents. People have still not settled on a single universally accepted name for towns such as Toome/Toomebridge, Londonderry/Derry and Carrickmore/Termon Rock.

For an interesting recent story of place name evolution in Ireland, check out this Irish Times news article on the town of Newtownsandes, county Kerry. You now have to pay to read this web site.


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Subject: RE: BS: Irish Towns - understanding their names
From: Dave MacKenzie
Date: 29 Jan 10 - 04:21 AM

Dublin, of course, is not a Viking word, but is derived from the Irish for Black Pool.


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Subject: RE: BS: Irish Towns - understanding their names
From: MartinRyan
Date: 29 Jan 10 - 05:36 AM

In modern Irish the adjective would follow rather than precede the noun - so we'd expect the place to be called Lindub rather than Dublin! I've never seen or heard convincing evidence that the order was otherwise, say, 1000 years ago. While I'm no expert on Early Irish (and I am a Dub), I remain agnostic on the name origin for now!

Regards

p.s. Jerry O'Reilly might have something to say on the matter - I'll drop him a line.


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Subject: RE: BS: Irish Towns - understanding their names
From: Dave MacKenzie
Date: 29 Jan 10 - 08:15 AM

I agree about the word order. As far as I know it's the same in all Celtic languages. Maybe it was a Viking trying to speak Irish, as I haven't come across any suggestions for North Germanic roots to the name.


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Subject: RE: BS: Irish Towns - understanding their names
From: Nigel Parsons
Date: 29 Jan 10 - 10:04 AM

Reading the comments from that Irish site, I would wonder if 'Bally' with its variant spellings is related to the English 'Bailiwick'.


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Subject: RE: BS: Irish Towns - understanding their names
From: Liberty Boy
Date: 29 Jan 10 - 10:46 AM

Regarding the origins of the name Dublin, as far as I can gather it has no Irish connection but comes from the Norse, Dyflin. Baile Atha Cliath, the name by which Dublin is known in Irish, means the town at the ford of the hurdles and the site of the ford is several hundred yards upstream from the Norse town. In modern days close to The Brazen Head pub. Hope this is of some help!


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Subject: RE: BS: Irish Towns - understanding their names
From: Dave MacKenzie
Date: 29 Jan 10 - 11:09 AM

But what's the origin of Dyflin?


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Subject: RE: BS: Irish Towns - understanding their names
From: Peter K (Fionn)
Date: 29 Jan 10 - 11:58 AM

P W Joyce, in The Origin and History of Irish Names of Places (McGlashan & Gill, 1875), which until recent times was the definitive authority, seems to imply that Ath-cliath (subsequently Baile-atha-cliath) predated Duibh-linn and did indeed refer initially to a foot-crossing on the Liffey "where Whitworth bridge now stands."

He notes that Duibh-linn was translated into Latin as nigra therma (black pool) in the Life of St Kevin, and that this pronunciation (Duvlin or Divlin in English) continued "until comparatively recent times." It appeared in old English writings and on Danish coins as Dyflin and Divlin. The inference is that the name Dublin had its origins in Ireland and in Gaelic rather than in Scandinavia.


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Subject: RE: BS: Irish Towns - understanding their names
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 29 Jan 10 - 12:56 PM

Why, what a Rocky Road, to be sure — Wack-fo-lol-dee-da.


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Subject: RE: BS: Irish Towns - understanding their names
From: robomatic
Date: 29 Jan 10 - 02:27 PM

How about Sligo?


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Subject: RE: BS: Irish Towns - understanding their names
From: MartinRyan
Date: 29 Jan 10 - 08:31 PM

Sligo <-- sl(o)igeach (Eng. shelly i.e. abounding in shells) is the usual derivation, IIRC.

Regards


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Subject: RE: BS: Irish Towns - understanding their names
From: Peter K (Fionn)
Date: 30 Jan 10 - 07:40 AM

That's consistent with Joyce, Martin: "Sligo: named from the river: sligeach, shelly river."


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Subject: RE: BS: Irish Towns - understanding their names
From: GUEST,Learaí na Láibe
Date: 30 Jan 10 - 08:03 AM

While adjectives generally follow the noun in Irish the opposite is the case for compound nouns created by a noun and adjective.

Dubh: black

Na Dubhaoiseanna = the Dark Ages

Dubhoighear = Black frost

There are also many words in the dictionary beginning with 'du' which derive from 'dubh'

Therefore, Dubhlinn (Dublin) = Black Pool. There is nothing strange about that construction. It is quite logical to assume that was the original name which was 'norsified' by the Vikings.

Even though 'bh' is usually pronounce roughly as 'v' in modern Irish it was probably pronounced as 'b' in earlier times.

Regarding the prefix 'baile' so common in Irish placenames; it very often equates to 'townland' the smallest unit of territory found on Irish maps.


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Subject: RE: BS: Irish Towns - understanding their names
From: GUEST
Date: 30 Jan 10 - 08:17 AM

Why can't I edit my post?

Sorry, Peter K, I ran through this thread too quickly. In view of your info from P. W. Joyce, it appears I was wrong about the earlier pronunciation of "Dublin". The v/f sound of Irish seems to go right back.


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Subject: RE: BS: Irish Towns - understanding their names
From: Paul Burke
Date: 30 Jan 10 - 09:29 AM

And don't forget Doolin on the far coast, same name I believe. I don't think it's consistently true that colour adjectives precede the noun- I quick example is Gortroe, the red field, with the colour afterwards.


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Subject: RE: BS: Irish Towns - understanding their names
From: GUEST,Donal
Date: 30 Jan 10 - 08:34 PM

P W Joyce's 'The origin and history of Irish names of places' is available on line at http://www.archive.org

Click here

--------------------Link added. Mudelf--------------------


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Subject: RE: BS: Irish Towns - understanding their names
From: Thompson
Date: 31 Jan 10 - 04:45 AM

An 18th-century book I have somewhere says Dublin on old maps was handwritten Baile Abhan Liath (Place of the Grey River), but the handwriting was mistranscribed as Atha Cliath. Sounds plausible enough - the Liffey is grey-green during most tidal stages.


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Subject: RE: BS: Irish Towns - understanding their names
From: Paul Burke
Date: 31 Jan 10 - 09:01 AM

Don't take books like Joyce as holy writ. Placenames are subject to subtle changes that disguise their origins, and replace them with false leads. It's very common in English, and you can be sure that Irish is not immune. A good example is the "sea" ending in places such as Chelsea and Battersea, which has nothing to do with the ocean, but is derived from a word for "landing place". His history is distorted by nationalism and Celticism, and he seems determined to deny "alien" influences whenever possible. There's a lot of good scholarship gone on since then.


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Subject: RE: BS: Irish Towns - understanding their names
From: GUEST,Dáithí
Date: 01 Feb 10 - 07:20 AM

My pet hate is the fact that many Irish placenames have been rendered meaningless by English map makers; so we have the "oily river" which is their tranliteration of the "Áille" river - which means "beautiful" - the opposite of what one might infer from the English name!
And the River Braddon - which means nothing at all..from the river "Bradáin" which means river of salmon.
Or the equally meaningless "Owentocker" river - where the name is derived from the Irish words "Abhain t-socair" meaning the still river.
D


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Subject: RE: BS: Irish Towns - understanding their names
From: Matthew Edwards
Date: 01 Feb 10 - 03:19 PM

I've found this site very helpful: the official Placenames Database of Ireland/Bunachar Logainmneacha na hÉireann with some helpful links to archival records.

The site is available in English and Irish language versions.

Matthew


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