Irish Placenames: C

Names beginning with Caher- or Cahir-

A Cahir or cathair is a fort, so the town name of Cahir in Tipperary simply means “Fort”.

  • Caherciveen Cathair Saidhbhín
    The second part of this name has itself two parts – ‘Saidbh‘ is a person’s name, ‘-ín‘ is a diminutive, so the name means “Little Saidbh’s Fort”. There is no V in the Irish language, but ‘bh’ sounds like V, which is where the english translation comes from.
  • Cahermore Cathair Mór
    Mór means big, so “The big fort”.

Forts predate monastic settlement and a caher is specifically a circular stone fort.  The suffux -more is very common in Irish names and always means big. So, what might Ballymore mean? Or Ardmore?

Names Beginning with Carn-

It was the practice in ancient Ireland to cover a grave with a mound of stones. These are the particular type of burial places referred to as Carns or Cairns.

  • Carnew Carn na Bhua
    Bhua means victory, so this is “Burial place of the victory” or simply “the Victory Mound”.
  • Carndonagh Carn Domhnach
    Domhnach is a church, so this is “the mound (or burial place) of the Church”

Names beginning Carrick- or Carrig-

Carrig means ‘rock’ and it is sometimes Anglicised as carrick.

  • Carrickfergus Carraig Fhearghais
    Fhearghais is a person’s name, the English version of which is Fergus. So the name means ‘Fergus’s castle’. People’s names are commonly found in Irish place names, though they are not always as clearly discernable as Fergus.
  • Carrigallen Carraig Álainn
    Álainn means lovely or beautiful, so “Beautiful rock”.

Names beginning with Cashel-

A cashel or Caiseal means a fort, specifically a ring fort surrounded by walls. There are a few Cashels in Ireland but the most famous is the town around the Rock of Cashel, which was the home of the Kings of Munster for 900 years prior to becoming a monastic settlement.

Names beginning with Castle-

Castle or caislean means what you would think but nonetheless these can be confusing names. Many are associated with a person’s name – as in “somebody’s castle” – while others reference some aspect of the castle location. Sometimes it’s not clear which is means, and finding the castle isn’t always easy either.

  • Castleconnell Caisleán Uí Chonaill
    Uí Chonaill is a family name, so this is exactly as you’d expect, “The castle of the Connells”.
  • Castlecomer Caisleán an Chomair
    Chomair means a meeting or confluence of rivers, so this means “The Castle at the meeting of the rivers”, and indeed it’s at the location where the rivers Deen, Brocagh and Clohogue come together.
  • Castleknock Caisléan Cnucha
    Cnoc (which is close enough to Cnuc) means hill and the addition of the ‘ha’ makes it plural, so this is the “Castle of the Hills”. But it isn’t a hilly place, so possibly it means “Chuch’s Castle”. Take your pick because it is not clear.

A common finding is the english name for a place starts with Castle, but the Irish name is completely different. This usually means the castle came relatively late and the older Irish name stuck with the local people. Thus there is:

  • Castlebellingham Baile an Ghearlánaigh
    The Irish name means ‘Gernon’s Town’, which was the name of the place before the Bellinghams built their castle there in the 17th century.
  • Castleplunket Lios Lochna
    The Irish names means “the fort of the lakes” and long predates the arrival of the Norman Plunketts.

Names beginning with Clon-

Clon- or cluain means meadow or pasture. There are quite often people’s names after the Clon-, the owners of the meadows obviously. Most refer to a feature of the meadow in question, many now lost to the busy streets of a town that grew up in what was once a meadow.

  • Clonmel Cluain Meala
    Meala means honey, but in the busy and growing town of Clonmel, “the honey meadow”, these days you will need to go to the supermarket for honey.
  • Clonfert Cluain Fearta
    Fearta means graves and you will still find the graves at the 6th century monastery here.

Article updated: March 31, 2017 | Image Credits

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2 Comments

  • Charles Kelly says:

    Clondalkin in the County of Dublin
    Can you tell me any history of this little village where I was born 84 years ago,
    It now seems to be more part of the city of Dublin..Thank you

  • Ms. Keven Nelson says:

    What is the meaning of the name of the Irish town Carrigatholt or
    Carrigiholt?

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