Odd & Unusual Irish Place Names

Some of these we mentioned on the first page of this series of articles, others are names that have unexpected meaning or hide interesting stories.

Short and Sweet

While many Irish names are long and difficult to pronounce, others seem unusually short. Quite often these mean something very different than you might expect.

  • Knock
    Not an invitation to announce your presence but meaning hill, from the Irish cnoc.
  • Inch
    May or may not be a small place, however the name comes from the Irish Inis meaning Island.
  • Camp
    A town of boy scouts perhaps, or a Mecca for the flamboyantly gay? Sadly no, it derives from the Irish An Com meaning the hollow.
  • Swords
    Nothing at all to do with duelling at dawn, the name is from sord meaning well, so presumably there was one here once.
  • Ovens
    Though it may well be home to many cooks, the name comes from Uamhanna (mh is pronouced v in Irish) meaning caves.
  • Effin
    The name comes from the saint who founded the local church, Eimhín, or Evin.
  • Muff
    Not a furry hand warmer nor indeed a …. well, never mind, it is in fact a mispronunciation of the Irish magh, meaning plain.
  • Kill
    Not an invitation to murder, but a church (Chill) or wood (Coill).
  • Nobber
    Quiet there are the back!! It’s an English pronounciation of An Obair, meaning “the work”, said work being a moate around a Norman castle.

Peculiar Names

Often these names suggest an intriguing story in the background, sometimes there even is one! Others just seem plain strange but usually there is a simple explanation.

  • Ireland’s Eye
    From the Norse ey meaning Island, this is an Island close to Dublin.
  • Horse and Jockey
    There is now a pub here called, surprise, “Horse and Jockey”. And the name comes from an Inn of that name which stood here, though not in quite the same location.
  • Horseleap
    Hugh de Lacy, a landowner in this area, when fleeing from his enemies by horseback made what seemed like an impossible leap over the moat surrounding his castle. His feat gave the name to the place but the castle and the de Lacy family are long gone.
  • Stonybatter
    This is part phonetic pronunciation of and part translation from the Irish, An Bothar Clochach, the stony road.
  • Stillorgan
    Not at all what the English words separately suggest, musical or otherwise. It is a phonetic rendition of Stigh Lorcan or Lorcan’s House.
  • Hackballscross
    It sounds awful and it was. This was the location where a group of men variously described as rebels or thieves were hung and gibbeted following an attack on a local landowners house. That this happened is not disputed, but the name may in fact derive from someone’s name.
  • Vinegar Hill
    A phonetic rendering of “Cnoc Fiodh na gCaor“, which actually means “”Hill of the wood of the berries”.

Unexpected Names

Moscow in Ireland?

  • Boston
    Yes, that’s right – it’s Boston, Co Clare. It’s a tiny place with the rather macabre Irish name Móinín na gCloigeann meaning “little meadow of the skulls”. It’s probable that the English name was an ironic nickname that stuck.
  • Moscow
    More than one person has been confused by seeing a signpost for Moscow in deepest West Cork. No, there isn’t a place called Moscow here, but someone thought to put up a helpful signpost anyway.

Published: December 13, 2008 | Updated: March 31, 2017 | Image Credits

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  • Helen Murphy says:

    I’m wondering if you could tell me the meaning of the place name ‘Forúir’. ‘Frure’ in English, also spelled ‘Furroor’. Located in Lissycasey, Ennis, Co Clare.

    Looking forward to your reply.
    Thank you

  • SUSAN DURNEY says:

    Can someone tell me how to pronounce “Tybroughny?”  My sister and I are of two different minds as to the “gh”  Is it a hard sound like k or silent, as it would be in most English words?  In fact, I’m not sure about how to pronounce any of it.  It is part of a mailing address in Piltown, Co. Kilkenny.

  • […] (All explained here) […]

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