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Gaelic Geographical Root Words for Irish Town Names

Ever wonder what some Irish town names mean in English? Here is an alphabetical list of terms with their English translation, the variant spellings, and examples.

Thanks to Ray Marshall for sharing this information with other Kerry researchers. He in turn thanks John Fitzgerald for the list of Gaelic words.

Term/Translation Variations Examples
Achadh (field) Agha-, Ath-, Aha-, Agh-, A- Aghadoe
Ard (hill/height) Ard- Ardmore, Ardagh
Ath (ford) Agha-, Ath-, Aha-, Agh-, A- Adare, Athenry, Athlone, Annacloy
Baile (town/homeplace) Bally-, Bal-, Ball-, Ballina-, Ballyna- Ballydehob, Ballinlough, Ballyagherty
-Bawn ( )    
Beal (mouth) Bal-, Bel- Ballina, Belfast, Belmullet, Bellanagare
Beann (peak, pointed hill) Bin-, Ben- Binroe, Benburb
-Beg (lesser, under, lower, smaller)    
Bóthar (road) Boher- Stoneybatter, Boherduff
-Brack ( )   Knockbrack
Bun (bottom, mouth of a river) Bun- Bunclody, Buncrana, Bunratty
Caiseal (circular fort) Cash- Cashel
Carn (cairn, heap of stones) Carn- Carndonagh, Carnew, Carnlough
Carrig (rock) Carrig-, Carrick- Carrick, Carrickfergus, Carrickmacross
Ceapach (tillage plot) Cap- Capparoe, Cappamore
Ceathru (quarter) Car(ra)-, Carrow-, Curra- (ry-), Curragh-  
Cill (church) Kill-, Kil- Killarney, Kildare, Kilcullen, Kilkenny
Cluan (meadow) Cloon-. Clon- Clones, Clonmel, Clontarf, Clontibret
Cnoc (hill) Knock- Knockdown, Crockaness, Cruckanim
Coill (a wood) Kil-, Kyl- Kylemore, Cuilbane, Killinch, Killeshil
-Creen ( )   Knockeenkreen
Cruach (rounded hill) Croagh- Croaghbeg, Croaghpatrick
Cúl (rear) Cool-, Cul  
Cúm (hollow) Coom- Coomcallee, Coomclochan


Doire (oak wood, grove) Derry- Derry, Derrycarna, Derrygarriv
Domhnach (Sunday/church) Donny-, Dunna-, Donna- Donaghmore, Donnybrook, Rathdowney
-Down ( )    
Dún (fort, palace) Dun-, Don- Doneraile, Dundrum, Dunloe, Doonagore
Droim (ridge, hillock) Drum-, Drim-, Drom- Drumcree, Drumanoo, Drumcondra
-Duff ( )    
Eiscir (esker)   Ahascragh, Esker
Fionn (clear, white) Fin- Finglas, Fintragh
Glaise (small river) Glas- Glasagh
Glaisín (stream) Glash- Glasheencoombaun
Gleann (glen, valley) Glen-, Glan- Glendalough, Glenealy, Glenroe
Gort (tilled field) Gurt-, Gort- Gortboy, Gortahork, Gurteenflugh
Inbhear (mouth of a river)   Dromineer, Inver
Inis (island, water meadow) Inis- ,Inish- ,Inch- ,Insh- Ennis, Inch, Inistioge, Lahinch
Kil- See Cill  
Knock- See Cnoc  
Leath (half) Le-, La-  
Leitir (hillside) Let- Letterkenny, Lettermore
Lios (ring fort) Lis- Lismore, Listowel, Lisheenagower
Loch (a lake) Lough- Lough, Loughbeg, Loughrea


Machaire (a plain) Magh- Maghera, Magherafelt
Magh (plain) May, Moy Maydown, Mayboy, Moybuy, Moycullen
Mám (mountain pass) Maum- Maum,Maumtrasna, Maumturk
Meen ( ) Meen- Meenleitrim, Meanganeare
-Mor (greater, over, upper, larger)    
Muileann (a mill) Mullin- Mullinahone, Mullinavat, Mullingar
Mullach (a summit) Mal-, Mul- Malahide, Mullagh, Mullaghmore
Poll (a hole) Pol- Pollans, Pollrone
Port (bank of a river, landing place) Port- Portlaoise, Portmarnock, Portroe
Rath (circular fort, earth mound) Rath-, Ra- Raheen, Rabane, Rathkeale, Rathmore
Ros (wood, headland) Ros- New Ross, Roscommon, Roscrea
Sean (old) Shan- Shandon, Shankill, Shanmullagh
Sliabh (mountain) Sl- Slemish, Slievenamon, Slievenamuck
Tamhlagh (grave) Talla-, Tamla-  
Tra (strand, beach) Tra- Tralee, Tramore
Tuaim (burial mound) Tuam- Tuam, Tuamgraney
Tullach (hillock, mound) Tulla-, Tul-, Toll- Tullamore, Tulrahan
Uaimh (cave)   Mullinahone, Ovens


Ray Marshall contributed this information for County Kerry, Ireland at
This page created November, 1999.
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