Place names

Below is a list of some common place names.

Antrim, County Antrim

Aontroim, ‘lone ridge.’ A monastery was founded in Antrim in AD 795 and an English settlement had formed around the Six Mile River by 1596.

Armagh, County Armagh

Ard Mhacha, ‘height of Macha’ The name of the city and county comes from the ancient Irish goddess Macha who is reputed to have been buried here. In the fifth century, Armagh became Ireland’s ecclesiastical capital, after St Patrick founded his church here.

Bangor, County Down

Beannchar, ‘perhaps meaning 'place of points.' Quite a few townlands in various parts of Ireland have been anglicised as Banagher and derive from an original Beannchar. Yet Beannchar in North Down was anglicised as Bangor. It may have been influenced by the name Bangor which is commonly used as the name of ecclesiastical sites in Wales. Beannchar here could have initially referred to a fence round the monastery.

Belfast, County Antrim

Béal Feirste, ‘mouth of the sand-bank ford.’ The river Farset flows below High Street. It enters the river Lagan near this point and has been named from the ford (fearsaid, genitive feirste).

Carrickfergus, County Antrim

Carraig, ‘a rock.’ Originally known as Carraig Fheargusa or Carraig Fheargais meaning Fergus’s Castle. It was named after Fergus Mór mac Eirc, the sixth-century king of Dál Riata. Carrick, as it is known as locally, is County Antrim's oldest town. It pre-dates Belfast and is one of the oldest settlements in the north.

Coleraine, County Derry

Cúil Raithin, ‘nook of the ferns.’ Coleraine was to be the county town of County Coleraine, as it was called from 1585 to 1613. After the Flight of the Earls in 1607, the Crown confiscated almost the entire county from its Irish owners. The territory was given to the City of London Corporation in 1609 and became part of the new County Derry in 1613.

Derry, County Derry

Doire, ‘oak grove.’ Originally known as Doire Chalgaich, Derry is now better known in Irish as Doire Cholmcille after St Colmcille founded a monastery there in the sixth century.

Donegal, County Donegal

Dún na Gall, ‘meaning fort of the foreigners’. Donegal town gave its name to county Donegal. It was the stronghold of the O’Donnell clan and capital of the Gaelic kingdom of Tír Chonaill until the 1600s.

Downpatrick, County Down

Dún Pádraig, meaning ‘the fort or stronghold of Patrick’ Downpatrick is the county town of Down. It has traditionally been seen as the burial place of St Patrick.

Dublin, County Dublin

Dubhlinn, ‘meaning ‘black pool.’ Dublin is the capital of Ireland and its' largest city. The city is known as Baile Átha Cliath in Modern Irish, a name which translates as the ‘town of the hurdled ford.’ The original Dubhlinn or ‘black pool’ was a small lake used to moor ships at the confluence of the River Liffey and the River Poddle.

Enniskillen, County Fermanagh

Inis Ceithleann, ‘Ceithlenn’s island. Enniskillen is the county town of Fermanagh. The town is situated between Upper and Lower Lough Erne. Ceithleann is believed to have been a goddess who was injured in battle and drowned while trying to swim across the River Erne.

Lisburn, County Down

Lios, ‘meaning fort’. The ‘burn’ section of the name is obscure. Lisburn lies on the River Lagan which divides counties Antrim and Down. The town was oiriginally known as Lisnagarvy from the Irish Lios na gCearrbhach the ‘fort of the gamblers.’ Lisburn was given city status in 2002. Despite the fact that the town was burned in the 1641 Rising, it is unlikely that this burning gave rise to the name of the city.

Newry, County Down

An tIúr, ‘the yew tree.’ Also known in Irish as Iúr Cinn Trá, or the 'yew tree of the head of the beach.' Newry is believed to be one of Ireland’s oldest towns and was granted city status in 2002.

Omagh, County Tyrone

An Ómaigh, ‘the virgin plain.’ One of the earliest recorded settlements here is of a monastery which was founded in 792 AD. Omagh replaced Dungannon as the County Town of Tyrone in 1768.