Irish Placenames – Logainmneacha


Oftentimes on bus tours across the country I am asked to pronounce or explain placenames. This is a very good question as Irish placenames sound gibberish to a lot of us – when spoken in English – and, of course, they are!
Irish placenames however mean something when the original Irish meaning is explained, and as a Gaeilgeóir or fluent Irish speaker, I am able to help explain these names and their origin, as well as the history of the phonetic conversion of these names to English…cuidíonn an taistil leis an oideachais!

In the 1830s, British Army sappers mapped Ireland for the Ordinance Survey (primarily a military operation). One such event concerning this was made into an excellent theatre drama by the late playwright, Brian Friel – Translations.

These sappers simply stuck a phonetic translation onto the original Irish word for the area, and in some cases, invented their own words. Basically gibberish – I mean what does Ennis mean? Or Gort? Well. Nothing in English. In the original Irish however, Ennis comes from ‘Inis’ meaning ‘island (Ennis is a island on the River Fergus in County Clare), Gort or Gort in Irish, means ‘field’.

I always explain the keywords to watch out for:

Kill before a placename signifies a church (Cill means church – Killarney, Kilkenny)
Dun, Rath, or Lios signify a fort (Dún is fort – Dunmore, Rathkeale, Lismore)
Clon a meadow (Cluain – Clontarf, Clonmel)
Bally a town (from Baile) – numerous examples

Cuidíonn eolas ar Ghaeilge ag an té chun logainmneacha a thuiscint is a mhíniú i gceart do dhaoine. Is iomai uair a cheistíonn mé ó thaobh ainmneacha éagsúla timpeall na tíre agus, ag tagairt dom chuid neart eolas Gaeilge, táim in ann iad a fhreagairt – agus is dócha go ceart!

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