Secondary schools


Placenames are used to identify places and to help with communications. The majority of Placenames in Ireland were in the Irish language. These names were anglicised when they were first published on Ordnance Survey maps. This happened early in the 19th Centuary.

The history of placenames goes back even further – to the earliest times in our history. The history of this country is reflected in our placenames.


Long ago the country was broken into small kingdoms. The ruling families gave their names to their kingdoms. Some names end in “righ” which means “kingdom”. An example is Ciarrigh, the kingdom of Ciar, which is now known as Kerry or Ciarraí.


Christianity spread throughout the country. Many towns grew up around religious settlements such as churches or monasteries. Lots of placenames begin with Kill, and the Irish word for church is Cill.
Kilkieran in Galway which is officially known as Cill Chiaráin in Irish .

Other variations are: Abbeyleix in Laois which is officially known as Mainistir Laoise in Irish or Bishopstown in Cork which is officially known as Baile an Easpaig in Irish.

In later times the word “town” came at the end of the name as in Bagenalstown in Carlow. This reflected the power of these families in an area.

Sometimes the local topography inspired the name. An example is Gendalough in Co. Wicklow. This name is derived from the Irish Gleann Dá Loch, Valley of the two lakes.This is shown on the map extract below.


Irish English
Ath Ford
Cluain Meadow
Gort Tilled Field
Barna Gap
Cnoc Hill
Tobar Well
Carraig Rock
Daire or Doire Oak

The Norse

The Norse settlers had their influence on placenames too. Their influence was strongest on the East and South coast. Names such as Blaskets, Dursey, Fastnet, Arklow and Wicklow show this.
Wexford is derived from the Weisfiord meaning bay of the mudflats.

There are many Placenames and it is interesting to study and research them. Have a look at these.

Official English Name Official Irish Name
Churchtown, Dublin Baile an Teampaill
Churchtown, Cork Baile an Teampaill
Churchtown, Derry Tulaigh an Iúir
Summerhill, Dublin Cnoc an tSamhraidh
Summerhill, Meath Cnoc an Línsigh
Ashbourne, Meath Cill Dheagláin
New Birmingham,Tipperary Gleann an Ghuail

Why not research the placenames in your own area. A knowledge of local history, geography and the Irish language will help you.

Here are some examples from the Index in the Road Atlas of Ireland.

Town name Irish Version County
Arklow An tInbhear Mór Wicklow
Arthurstown Colmán Wexford
Athboy Baile Átha Buí Meath
Ballyglass An Baile Glas Mayo
Ballyjamesduff Baile Shéamais Dhuibh Cavan
Ballynoe An Baile Nua Cork
Blackpool An Linn Dubh Limerick
Drogheda Droichead Átha Louth
Dromineer Drom Inbhir Tipperary
Glencolumbkille Gleann Cholm Cille Donegal
Oldcastle An Seanchaisleán Meath