You know your home county in Ireland inside and out, but do you know the meaning behind its name?
Life & Style

You know your home county in Ireland inside and out, but do you know the meaning behind its name?

THE 32 traditional counties of the island of Ireland are steeped in history - and the meanings behind their names are no different.

In order to capture the history behind these monikers, a project was set up to create a Placenames Database of Ireland, supported by the Irish Government, which would offer a public resource for Irish people at home and abroad, and for all those who appreciate the rich heritage of Irish placenames.

According to that site, here is a full list of where Ireland's counties got their names:

Leinster

Advertisement
Dublin was famously founded by Viking settlers [Picture: Dublin Castle] Dublin was famously founded by Viking settlers (Picture: Dublin Castle)
Carlow (Ceatharlach)

Founded c. 1306, Co. Carlow takes its name from the town 50 miles south of Dublin, literally meaning “place of cattle”.

Dublin (Áth Cliath/Duibhlinn)

Founded in 1185, Co. Dublin took its name from the city established by Viking settlers. Dublin comes from the Gaelic Dubhlinn, meaning “black/dark pool”. This refers to a dark tidal pool in the gardens of Dublin Castle.

Kildare (Cill Dara)

Founded in 1297, Co. Kildare takes its name from the town originally known as Cill Dara, translating to “church of the oak”.

Advertisement

Kilkenny (Cill Chainnigh)

Founded c. 1200, Co. Kilkenny also takes its name from its county town. Cill Chainnigh, meaning “church of Cainnech”, was named in honour of Saint Cainnech - who is said to have converted the area to Christianity in 597.

Laois (Laoighis)

Founded in 1556, Co. Laois derives its name from Uí Laoighis, meaning “people of Lugaid Laígne”—a hero of the area. The name is relatively new, with the county having been called “Queen’s County” until the formation of the Irish Free State in 1922.

Longford (Longfort)

Founded in 1586, Co. Longfort comes from An Longfort, meaning “the port”. The word was originally used by Irish chroniclers to describe Viking fortresses.

Louth (Lugh/Lú)

Advertisement

Founded c. 1200, Co. Louth has similar originins to Laois. It takes its name from the village of Louth, which itself was named after the Irish god Lugh, or Lú.

Meath (Mhí)

Founded in 1297, An Mhí literally translated to “the middle”. Meath was originally an entire province, thus the name. Prior to 1547 it encompassed all three of the modern counties of Westmeath, Longford and Meath itself.

Offaly (Uíbh Fhailí)

Founded in 1556, Co. Offaly took its name from territory of Uíbh Fhailí, a kingdom which lasted for a thousand years until the 16th century. The name is relatively new, with the county having been called “King’s County” until the formation of the Irish Free State in 1922.

Westmeath (Iamhí)

Founded in 1543, Co. Westmeath was originally part of Co. Meath meaning “the middle.” Westmeath quite literally means “west middle”.

Advertisement

Wexford (Veisafjǫrðr/Loch Garman)

Founded c.1200, Co. Wexford takes its name from the town of the same name. Veisafjǫrðr is an Old Norse word meaning “fjord of the mud flats”. The Irish name Loch Garman means “Garman’s lake”, named after the legendary character Garman Garbh, said to have been drowned in the mudflats by an enchantress.

Wicklow (Víkingalág/Cill Mhantáin)

Founded in 1607, Co. Wicklow comes from the Old Norse, Víkingalág, meaning “meadow of the Vikings.” Its Irish name Cill Mhantáin means “Church of Mantan”, a contemporary of Saint Patrick.

Munster

Reginald's Tower in Waterford is a clue to the county's Norse heritage [Via: Wikipedia Commons] Reginald's Tower in Waterford is a clue to the county's Norse heritage (Picture: Wikipedia Commons)
Advertisement
Cork (Corcaigh)

Founded c. 1200, Co. Cork is named after the city, its name literally translated as “swamp” from the Irish word Corcach.

Clare (Clár)

Founded in 1565, Co. Clare takes its name from the Irish word Clár, simply meaning “plain”. It may also have come from the Norman de Clare family, who took their name from an English town. Co. Clare was known as County Thomond until 1565, from the Irish Tuamhain meaning “North Munster”.

Kerry (Ciarraí)

Founded c. 1200, Co. Kerry comes from Ciar—meaning “black” or “dark brown”, and raighe—meaning “people” or “tribe”. Thus, Kerry can be interpreted as meaning “people of black”.

Limerick (Hlymrekr/Luimneach)

Advertisement

Founded c. 1200, Co. Limerick is named after the city, whose own name means “bare spot.” The Vikings named it Hlymrekr, meaning “mighty noise” in Old Norse.

Tipperary (Tiobraid Arann)

Founded sometime during the 1400s, Co. Tipperary comes from the Irish Tiobraid Arann, meaning “well of the Arra”—a reference to the river which flows through the county.

Waterford (Veðrafjǫrðr/Port Láirge)

Founded c. 1200, Co. Waterford takes its name from the Old Norse Veðrafjǫrðr, meaning “ram fjord”. Its Irish name Port Láirge translates to “Larag’s port”.

Connaught

Advertisement
Mayo was named after its Yew Tree population [Via: Wikipedia Commons] Mayo was named after its Yew Tree population (Picture: Wikipedia Commons)
Mayo (Maigh Eo)

Founded in 1565, Co. Mayo takes its name from the village of Mayo or Maigh Eo, meaning “plain of the yew”—a common tree in Mayo at the time.

Sligo (Sligeach)

Founded in 1565, Co. Sligo takes its name from the Irish word Sligeach, meaning “shelly place”—referring to the abundance of shellfish in its rivers.

Leitrim (Liatroim)

Founded in 1565, Co. Leitrim is another county named after a town. Liatroim comes from the words for “grey” and “ridge”, and was originally spelled Liathdruim.

Advertisement

Galway (Gaillimh)

Founded in 1565, Co. Galway is named after Connaught’s largest city. The Irish word Gaillimh roughly translates to “stoney”. Galway was originally known as Dún Bhun na Gail.

Roscommon (Ros Comáin)

Founded c. 1292, Co. Roscommon’s name comes from Ros Comáin, meaning “Comán’s wood.” Saint Coman was a monk who founded the monastery of Roscommon in 550.

Ulster

Armagh takes its name from Macha, a giant Irish Goddess [Via: Wikipedia Commons] Armagh takes its name from Macha, a giant Irish Goddess (Picture: Wikipedia Commons)
Advertisement
Antrim (Aontroim)

Founded c. 1400, Co. Antrim’s name derives from the word Aontroim, meaning “lone ridge”.

Armagh (Ard Mhacha)

Founded in 1584, Co. Armagh comes from Ard Mhacha, meaning “Macha’s height.” Macha was an Irish goddess associated with both Armagh and Ulster altogether.

Cavan (Cabhán)

Founded in 1584, Co. Cavan can trace its name back to the town originally known as Cabhán, meaning “the hollow”.

Derry (Doire)

Advertisement

Founded in 1585, Derry takes its name from the Irish Daire meaning “oak wood”. The prefix “London” was added in 1613 by English and Scottish settlers.

Donegal (Dún na nGall)

Founded in 1584, Co. Donegal is named after the town meaning “stronghold of the foreigners” - referring to its Viking past.

Down (Dún)

Founded in the early 1500s, Co. Down derives its name from the settlement of Dún ná Lethglas, and means “the fort”.

Fermanagh (Fear Manach)

Founded in 1584, Co. Fermanagh comes from the Irish Fear Manach, meaning “Men of Manach”. Manach itself comes from the word Magh Eanagh, meaning “county of the lakes”.

Advertisement

Monaghan (Muineachán)

Founded in 1585, Co. Monaghan takes its name from the town of the same name. Muineachán is roughly interpreted as meaning “land of the little hills”.

Tyrone (Tír Eoghain)

Founded in 1585, Tyrone is named after the Gaelic territory of Tír Eoghain, meaning “Land of Eoghan”—Eógan mac Néill being a historic king of the area.