Irish Place Names: M-O

Names beginning with Mon- or Money-

These get their names from muine, meaning a tree grove or bog.

  • Moneygall Muine Gall
    Gall means foreigner and most often meant English, so this is the “Grove of the foreigners”
  • Monivea Muine Mheá
    Mheá or Mead is an alcoholic drink made from honey (mh is prenounced V in Irish) so this is “Grove of the mead”, probably a place where honey was produced rather than the drink itself.

The town officially known as Muine Bheag (Small thicket) in Co Carlow was given that name to replace its original English name at the founding of the Irish state. Previously it was called Bagenaltown, named for Walter Bagenal, an English landowner who founded the town in the 18th century.

In spite of the passage of almost 80 years and the fact the Muine Bheag is the name that appears on maps, signposts, train timetables etc, the town is invariably referred to locally as Bagenelstown. Perhaps if they had come up with a more attractive Irish name it would have caught on.

Names beginning with Moy-

These names come from ma or magh, meaning plain, flat land. You’ll usually find you’re in an area of excellent farming land when you come upon such a name.

Moy is also often at the end of a name, as in Fermoy (Mainistir Fhearr Maí), “the town of the men of the plain”, and indeed to this day the town serves a hinterland of large farms and well off farmers, and Galmoy (Gabhalmhaigh), “the stony plain” (not such good farming land there maybe).

  • Moyglass Maigh Ghlas
    Glass, glas or ghlas mean green so this is “The green plain”
  • Moyvalley Magh Bhealaigh
    Bhealaigh sounds like valley, but it means a road. So this means “The plain of the road”. The ‘plain of the valley’ would not make a lot of sense.

Names beginning with Muck-

Muc, muic means pig or pigs. Muck can also be at the end of a name where it means the same thing, as in Rosmuck, the headland of pigs.

  • Muckross Mucros
    A ros is a wood or headland, so this beautiful and much visited place near Killarney is actually called “The Pig Wood”.
  • Muckanaghederdauhaulia
    This name appears in Wikipedia and has propagated all over the web as a result. It’s said to be a place in Galway and to have the longest placename in Ireland. To be frank I have my doubts about its actual existence. I know Galway well enough and never came across it and there are lots of things about the spelling that suggest it isn’t Irish. Anyone?

Names beginning with Owen-

Owen comes from abhainn, meaning river and most often is in the name of an actual river. At the start of a word that’s what it invariably means, but at the end it can refer to Owen or Eoghain, a person’s name. Thus Inishowen (Inis Eoghain) does not refer to a river on this lovely island, it translates as “Owen’s Island”. Lucky Owen.

  • Owenmore Abhainn Mór
    Mór means big, so this is “the big river”. Along its banks you’ll find the town of Owenbeg, which translates as “the small river”.
  • Owenduff Abhainn Dubh
    Dubh means black, so this is the “Black river”.

Article updated: March 31, 2017 | Image Credits

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1 Comment

  • Patti Clements says:

    In doing family research, I found ancestors who lived in Muckenagh. That is how the town was listed in the records – not the long name you cited. I’m thinking they are one and the same?

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