Irish placenames around the world

Irish place names around the world

Did you know that if your town or city begins or ends with "bally", "derry", "rath" or "shan", that the placename is likely to be Irish in origin?

Many Irish placenames (often anglicised versions of the original Irish names) travelled with Irish emigrants as they left home to seek new opportunities all over the world.

As a result, many settlements were named after Ireland’s larger cities and towns. We’ve mapped 6 of them for you to look at.

Our first map (above) shows where you’ll find all the places named "Waterford", "Dublin", "Shannon", "Killarney", "Limerick", and "Kilkenny".

It’s not surprising that many of these places are in the United States, as it’s been a traditional destination for Irish emigrants for many years. The concentration on the east coast of the US is likely to have stemmed from the mass migration in the 18th and 19th centuries.

The most popular Irish placenames around the world

The most popular Irish placenames around the world

While Waterford is the most popular name in our sample*, with 23 destinations, Killarney is the best-travelled, with namesakes in the US, Australia and Africa!

Want to know more about the origins of the names we’ve featured?
  • Dublin: "Baile Átha Cliath" in Irish, meaning "town of the hurdled ford". Originally founded as a Viking settlement, it evolved into the Kingdom of Dublin and became the island’s principal city following the Norman invasion.*
  • Kilkenny: "Cill Chainnigh" in Irish, meaning "cell or church of Cainnech. The name came from a monastic settlement, first recorded in 1085.**
  • Killarney: "Cill Airne" in Irish, meaning "church of sloes". Founded in 640.*
  • Limerick: "Luimneach" in Irish, though what it means exactly is unclear. With the exception of the traditional oral stories, Limerick’s early history is virtually undocumented, due to Vikings destroying records. The earliest provable settlement dates to 812.*
  • Shannon: "Baile na Sionnainne" or "An tSionna" in Irish, named after the river that flows through the town.*
  • Waterford: "Port Lairge" in Irish, meaning windy fjord. The first Viking settlers gave Waterford its name when they arrived in 853 because of its fjord-like appearance.***
Sources
  • * Source: Wikipedia
  • ** Source: http://www.kilkenny.ie/eng/About_Kilkenny/History
  • *** Source: http://www.ncte.ie/viking/vikwater.htm
Laura Lilienthal
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Laura Lilienthal

Laura Lilienthal lead the Corporate Marketing team at eSpatial between 2010 and 2012. In that time she was a major author to the eSpatial blog and a real thought leader for the industry.