The Fascinating Origins of Ireland's County Names

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The Fascinating Origins of Ireland's County Names

Table of Contents:

  1. Introduction
  2. The Counties of Ulster 2.1. County Donegal 2.2. County Derry 2.3. County Antrim 2.4. County Down 2.5. County Armagh 2.6. County Tyrone 2.7. County Fermanagh 2.8. County Monaghan 2.9. County Cavan
  3. The Counties of Leinster 3.1. County Louth 3.2. County Meath 3.3. County Westmeath 3.4. County Longford 3.5. County Offaly 3.6. County Laois 3.7. County Kilkenny 3.8. County Wexford 3.9. County Carlow 3.10. County Kildare 3.11. County Wicklow 3.12. County Dublin
  4. The Counties of Munster 4.1. County Kerry 4.2. County Cork 4.3. County Waterford 4.4. County Tipperary 4.5. County Limerick 4.6. County Clare
  5. The Counties of Connacht 5.1. County Galway 5.2. County Mayo 5.3. County Sligo 5.4. County Leitrim 5.5. County Roscommon
  6. Conclusion

The Origins and Meanings of Ireland's County Names

I. Introduction

Ireland, with its rich history and diverse cultural heritage, is a land of ancient tribes, invaders, and settlers. These influences can be seen in the names of its 32 counties. Each county has its own unique story and origin, reflecting the people, plants, geography, and history of the area. In this article, we will take a journey through Ireland's counties, exploring the origins and meanings of their names.

II. The Counties of Ulster

  1. County Donegal: Dún na nGall - Stronghold of the foreigners or fort of the foreigners.
  2. County Derry: Doire - Oak Grove or Oak wood.
  3. County Antrim: Aontriom - Lone Ridge or long dwelling.
  4. County Down: An Dun - The fort.
  5. County Armagh: Ard Mhacha - Macha's height, referring to the ancient Irish goddess Macha.
  6. County Tyrone: Tir Eoghain - Land of Eoghan, after King Eoghan McNeil of the kingdom of Ailech.
  7. County Fermanagh: Fear Manach - The men of Manach, referring to the tribe of people that settled there.
  8. County Monaghan: Contae Muineachán - Hilly land or bushy hilly field.
  9. County Cavan: An Chabhan - The hollow.

III. The Counties of Leinster

  1. County Louth: Lu - Named after the Celtic God Lu, a member of the Tuatha Dé Danann.
  2. County Meath: An Mhi - The middle.
  3. County Westmeath: An Iarmhi - West Middle.
  4. County Longford: An Longfort - The fort or the port on the River Shannon.
  5. County Offaly: Uibh Fhaili - Named after the former Gaelic territory, later changed to the king's County by Bloody Mary Tudor.
  6. County Laois: Queen's County - Renamed by Bloody Mary Tudor from the original name, named after the original settlers.
  7. County Kilkenny: Cill Chainnigh - Church of Saint Cannis, who converted the pagans to Christianity.
  8. County Wexford: Loch Garman - Named after a thief drowned in the harbor while escaping with his loot, also called Waesfiord by the Norse.
  9. County Carlow: Catharlach - Place of cattle or herds, or a place for grazing.
  10. County Kildare: Cill Dara - Church of the Oak.
  11. County Wicklow: Cill Mhantain - Church of Mantan, referring to a saint whose teeth were knocked out by Irish pagans.
  12. County Dublin: Dubh Linn - Blackpool, later named Dublin by the Vikings who settled there.

IV. The Counties of Munster

  1. County Kerry: Ciarrai - The people of Ciar, a tribe of ancient Irish settlers.
  2. County Cork: Corcaigh - Marsh or swamp.
  3. County Waterford: Port Lairge - Larag's Port or the harbor of the Sun.
  4. County Tipperary: Tiobraid Arainn - The Well of Arra.
  5. County Limerick: Luimneach - Bear spot or mighty noise.
  6. County Clare: An Clar - Board or plank, referring to a board placed over the river Fergus outside Ennis.

V. The Counties of Connacht

  1. County Galway: An Gaillimh - Stoney, referring to the Rocky River Gaillimh.
  2. County Mayo: Maigh Eo - Plain of the yew trees.
  3. County Sligo: Sligeach - Place of shells or shelly place.
  4. County Leitrim: Liatroim - Grey Ridge.
  5. County Roscommon: Ros Comain - Comain's wood, named after Saint Comain who founded a Monastery in Roscommon.

VI. Conclusion

The names of Ireland's counties are a reflection of its rich cultural heritage, blending Celtic mythology, Viking influence, ancient history, and geographical features. From the strongholds of the foreigners in Ulster to the marshy settlement of Cork, each county tells its own unique story. Exploring the origins and meanings behind the names of Ireland's counties provides a deeper understanding of the land and its people. So, next time you visit Ireland, venture beyond the surface and uncover the hidden stories behind its county names.


  • Learn the fascinating origins and meanings of Ireland's county names.
  • Discover the influences of Celtic mythology, Viking settlements, and ancient history.
  • Explore the rich cultural heritage and diverse landscapes of Ireland's counties.
  • Gain a deeper understanding of Ireland's history and the people who shaped its counties.


Q: What is the meaning behind County Kerry's name? A: County Kerry, known as Ciarrai in Irish, gets its name from the tribe of people called Ciar who settled in the area. Ciar can also mean dark brown or black, possibly referring to the tribe's subtle skin complexion.

Q: Why is County Cork called the Rebel County? A: County Cork earned the nickname "the Rebel County" due to its history of rebellion and involvement in Irish uprisings, including the Irish War of Independence and the Irish Civil War.

Q: What is the significance of County Galway's name? A: County Galway, also known as An Gaillimh in Irish, means "Stoney" and refers to the Rocky River Gaillimh that flows through the county.

Q: Why is County Dublin named as such? A: County Dublin has Viking and Irish origins for its name. The Vikings initially named it Dyflin, meaning "Blackpool," referring to a dark tidal pool where the Liffey River met the Poddle. Later, the Irish called it Dubh Linn, which evolved into the name Dublin.

Q: What is the meaning behind County Meath's name? A: County Meath, known as An Mhi in Irish, translates to "the middle." It was called the Royal County as it was the former seat of the High Kings of Ireland.

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