Irish Place Names: K-L

Names beginning with Kill-

These are another confusing set of names, as the Kill could be coill which means wood, or chill which means church (ch is pronounced like K in Irish). It’s often hard to decide which is which as so many places contain not just a church but a wood too. Sometimes its easy to figure out from the second part of the name:

  • Killarney Cill Airne
    Airne are sloe berries, so we can guess this means “the wood of the sloes”
  • Kilkenny Chill Chainnigh
    Chainnigh or Canice was the saint who founded the town, so this is undoubtedly “Canice’s Church”
  • Kilkelly Cill Cheallaigh
    I’d guess this is “Kelly’s wood”, since Kelly is a family name not a saint’s name.
  • Kilmaine Cill Mheáin
    Meáin means middle, but is it “the middle church” or “the middle wood”? It’s generally taken to be the former, but I would not be sure.

Names beginning with Kin-

Kin- comes from the Irish word ‘Coinn’ meaning head, and usually refers to some feature of the landscape – a headland, a promontory or the top of a hill.

However in one case, Kinitty (Coinn Eitigh) or “the head of Eitach” it actually means a person’s head – the name derives from the burial place of the head of the unfortunate Eitach, an early Irish princess.

  • Kinsale Cionn tSaile
    Saile means sea, so this is simply but descriptively “the Head of the sea”. Mara also means sea, so Kinvara (Cinn Mhara) has an identical meaning.

Names beginning with Knock-

Cnoc means hill and in pretty much every place with this sort of name it will be clear where that part of the name came from, even if the second half is less obvious.

  • Knockcroghery Cnoc an Chrochaire
    Crochaire is the word for a hangman so “Hill of the hangman”
  • Knockboy An Cnoc Buí
    Buí means yellow, so presumably “the Yellow hill” was once covered in some sort of yellow coloured vegetation.

Names beginning with Letter-

Leitir means hillside in Irish, and specifically suggests a wet hill, either a boggy one or one with a stream on it.

  • Letterfrack Leitir Fraic
    Fraic or Frac is a name, so “Frac’s hillside”.
  • Letterfinish Leitir Fionnuisce
    Fionn means clear and uisce means water, so this is “the Hillside of the clear water”, suggesting there was a stream there that was good for drinking from.

Names beginning with Lis-

Yes, we’re back to forts again, a Lios is an enclosure or ring fort, but unlike some of the other names used for forts, Lis- is very rarely used for monastic settlements. These were purely military or defensive structures.

  • Lisdoonvarna Lios Dúin Bhearna
    The word fort appears twice in this name – Lios and Dun, so we can assume the lios means enclosure in this case. Bheara means broken or damaged, so we get “the Enclosure of the broken fort”
  • Listowel Lios Tuathail
    Tuathal is a person so this was “Tuathal’s fort”

Article updated: March 31, 2017 | Image Credits

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2 Comments

  • John Ó Laithbhertaigh. says:

    Hi! I have a great place with the Knock prefix, Knocknagoney, from Gaelic Cnoc na gconai, Hill of the Rabbits:) its an area in East Belfast, I grew up there. Our School’s insignia was some little white rabbits with a hill behind:) And yes the aforementioned hill did have rabbits on, and lots if cows, probably more cows than rabbits. Maybe a more suiting name now would be Knocknabow (Cnoc na bó), hill of the cows:)

    • John Ó Laithbhertaigh. says:

      A little more Info, Knocknagoney is one of the only parts of Belfast to be in County Down, its probably closer to Hollywood than to the centre of Belfast:) Knocknagoney.

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