Counties of Ireland

Counties of Ireland

Almost anyone with an Irish heritage can tell you to which county in Ireland his or her roots can be traced. That's because in Ireland, there has always been a close relationship between people and place. Each Irish county has its own unique identity, and each county name has its own unique meaning. What does your county's Irish place name mean? Read on for the English translation and a few facts about the 32 counties of Ireland.

 

Antrim / Aontroim

Established c. 1400, the name translates to "lone ridge" or "lone dwelling." Co. Antrim is the furthest northeast point of Ireland. The county is home to Belfast City, the capital of Northern Ireland. Its history includes the site of construction of the Titanic. Common last names from Antrim include Smith, Johnston, Stewart, Wilson, Thompson, O'Neill, Campbell, Moore, Bell, Robinson, Millar, Brown, Boyd, Scott, and Graham. Writer C.S. Lewis and U.S. Presidents Andrew Jackson, Andrew Johnson, Chester Alan Arthur, Grover Cleveland, William McKinley, and Theodore Roosevelt all have Antrim roots.


Armagh / Ard Mhacha

Established c. 1584, the name means "Macha's height." Macha was a Celtic goddess said to have given birth to twins after racing a horse. Co. Armagh is located in Northern Ireland. Armagh is the smallest county in Northern Ireland and is the burial place of the legendary king Brian Boru.


Carlow / Ceatharlach
 
Established c. 1306, the name translates to "place of cattle." Co. Carlow is located in the southeast of Ireland. An agricultural county, Carlow has a range of historical abbeys and sites, including neolithic areas such as the Haroldstown Dolmen, which is among the oldest sites in Ireland.

Cavan / An Cabhán

Established in 1584, the name translates to "the hollow." Co. Cavan is an inland county in Ireland. With ancient settlement dating as far back as the neolithic era, Cavan is a rich historical county. Hiking across broad hills and varied landscapes is one if the highlights of Co. Cavan, which has a strong agricultural economy.


Clare / An Clár

Established in 1565, the name translates to "plain." The county may have been named after the Norman de Clare family. Before 1565, Clare was known as Thomond, which means "North Munster." Co. Clare is in the southwest of Ireland in the province of Munster. The county is famous for its musical traditions, with set dance and traditional music traditions a highlight. The county is also home to the fascinating phenomenon of The Burren, a karst landscape.


Cork / Corcaigh

Established c. 1200, the name means "swamp" or "marsh." Cork is in the far south of the island of Ireland. With a proud sporting and musical history, Co. Cork is one also one of the scenic highlights of the country. Cork City has many areas of cultural interest, including the 18th century English Market.


Derry / Doire

Established in 1585, the name "doire" means "oak wood." Derry is one of the six counties of Northern Ireland. The county is on the north coast of the country. It has a strong sporting and cultural tradition. In 2013, Derry hosted the Turner Prize as part of Derry City's role as European Capital of Culture


Donegal / Dún na nGall

Established in 1584, it means "stronghold of the foreigners" (Vikings). It was also known by some as Tir Chonaill, which means "the land of Conall." Donegal is the highest point in the northwest of Ireland. Its rolling hills are one of the most striking natural landscapes of Ireland. The most northerly point in Ireland is Mizen Head in the Inishowen Peninsula. The sea cliffs at Slieve League in Donegal are thought to be the highest in Europe.


Down / An Dún
 
Established c. 1520, the name means "the fort." The county has a broad coastline and is home to many thrilling vistas. It is also home to some fascinating historical sites such as Dundrum Castle.

Dublin / Áth Cliath / Dubhlinn

Established in 1185, the "Áth Cliath" part means "hurdled fort" and the "Dubhlinn" part means "black pool." Dublin is an ancient settlement with a broad historical and current cultural focus. The music and art scene are vibrant in Dublin, with cultural highlights including Whelan's Bar and The Olympia for music and theatre, The Lighthouse Cinema for film, and TBG&S for visual art.


Fermanagh / Fear Manach

Established in 1584, the name translates to "Men of Manach" or, more specifically, "men from the county of the lakes." Fermanagh has a historical culture, with grand landscapes around areas such as Beleek. It is also home to the Marble Arch Caves. The county town Enniskillen hosts The Buttermarket, a craft area featuring local maker's wares.


Galway / Gaillimh

Established in 1565, the county was named after the river Gaillimh, which means "stony." Galway, the largest county in the province of Connaught, is celebrated in song and story throughout the world and is located on Ireland's western seaboard. Home to a famous annual arts festival, Galway is a county rich in culture and heritage.


Kerry / Ciarrai

Established c. 1200, the name translates to "People of Ciar." Break it down further, and you find that Ciar means "black" or "dark brown" and Raighe means "tribe." Kerry is  located In the southwest region of Ireland, which is also part of the province of Munster. It is known for Killarney National Park, ideal for family walks and cycles, the mountains, the sea and the picturesque roads.


Kildare / Cill Dara

Established 1297, it means "church of the oak." Kildare county was the birthplace of Arthur Guinness, of the world-famous brewery. Maynooth University is located in Kildare, and the county has a monastic tradition dating back centuries.


Kilkenny / Cill Chainnigh

Established c. 1200, it means "church of Cainnech," and was named in honor of St. Cainnech, who converted the county to Christianity in 597. The town of Kilkenny was voted Ireland's Top Tourism Town for 2013 by Failte Ireland, Ireland's main tourism body, and it was voted 9th friendliest city in the world by readers of Conde Nast Traveler, and the friendliest city in Europe.


Laois / Laois

Established in 1556, the name derives from Uí Laioghis, which means "people of Lugaid Laigne." Lugaid was granted land in the area after driving invaders out of Munster. Hard to spell, but better than its original name, "Queen's County," which was in honor of "Bloody Mary" Tudor. A beautiful county for rolling vistas, Laois was also the birthplace of poet laureate Cecil Day Lewis.


Leitrim / Liatroim

Established in 1565, the name means "gray ridge." Leitrim is defined by water, which  influences  both the county's character and  the activities that take place in the county. The Shannon Erne Waterway, Europe's longest inland navigable waterway, stretches through the county.


Limerick / Luimneach

Established c. 1200, the name means "bare spot." The Viking name for the county was "Hlymrekr" which meant "mighty noise." More than the inspiration for a type of verse, the city of Limerick is the capital of Ireland’s midwest region with a population of more than 200,000. Conquered by the Vikings in the ninth century, this bustling modern city has a rich medieval past.


Longford / An Longfort

Established in 1586, the name means “the port” or “the riverside fortification,” a reference to the Shannon River. Common last names from the county are O'Farrell, Quinn, Kenny, Kiernan, Mulvey, Smith, Leavy, Kelly, Glennon, Keenan, Casey, Colum and Murphy. Actor Mel Gibson has Longford roots.

Louth / An Lù

Established c. 1220, the name means "after Lugh, an Irish god." The smallest county in Ireland at only 319 square miles, County Louth is steeped in myth, legend and history. The archaeological landscape is dominated by the three well-known large passage tombs, Knowth, Newgrange, and Dowth, built some 5,000 years ago in the Neolithic or Late Stone Age. An additional 90 monuments have been recorded in the area. Common last names include Byrne, Kelly, Murphy, Smith, Clarke, Duffy, McArdle, and Reilly


Mayo / Maigh Eo

Established in 1565, the name means “plain of the yew.” County Mayo is on the western seaboard of Ireland and is the third largest county. Mayo was one of the worst-affected parts of Ireland during the Great Famine in the 1840s, resulting in a large number of Mayo people emigrating at this time. Common Mayo last names include Gallagher, McHale, Barrett, McNulty, McNicholas, Brennan, Henry, Doyle, Harkin, Doherty, Foy, Kelly, Loftus, Gaughan, Walsh, Burke, Gibbons, Joyce, Murray, Murphy, O'Malley, Moran, Duffy, O'Connor, Waldron, and Farragher.


Meath / An Mhí

Established in 1297, the name means “the middle.” Known as the "Royal County," Meath was once the home of the High Kings of Ireland. The earliest traces of prehistoric man in Ireland were found in Meath–flints of a hunter from the Mesolithic era uncovered near Navan, from 9,500 BC. Common last names from Meath include Reilly, Smith, Lynch, Brady, Farrell, Farrelly, Kelly, Brien, Daly, and Maguire. Actor Pierce Brosnan and the Duke of Wellington have roots in Meath.


Monaghan / Muineachán

Established in 1585, the name has a few translations: “hilly land,” “bushy / hilly field,” or "place of the shrubs." The most dominant old Irish clans of Monaghan were the MacMahons and McKennas. These names remain popular in the county today. Monaghan is the sixth smallest of the 32 counties of Ireland, and during the Great Famine of the 1840s, Monaghan lost almost one third of its population. Common last names include McKenna, McMahon, McCabe, Smith, Kelly, Treanor, Duffy, Woods, Hamilton, Connolly, and, of course, Monaghan.


Offaly / Uíbh Fhailí

Established in 1556, it was originally named after the Gaelic territory of Ui Failghe. “Bloody Mary” Tudor named this area “King’s County” after her husband, Philip of Spain. The name was changed to Offaly after the creation of the Irish Free State. Offaly is the location of one of the earliest human settlements in Ireland, and archaeology on the shoreline of the Boora Lakes dates back to the Mesolithic era over 8,000 years ago.


Roscommon / Ros Comáin

Established c. 1292, the name means “Comán’s wood” and was named in honor of St. Comán, who founded the monastery of Roscommon in 550. In 2008, it was revealed that statistically, Roscommon has the longest life expectancy of any county on the island of Ireland. Common last names include Hanley, Kelly, Brennan, Connor, Flynn, Cox, McDermott, Brady, and Farrell. Actress Maureen O'Sullivan and actor Chris O’Dowd have roots in Roscommon.


Sligo / Sligeach

Established in 1565, the name means “shelly place,” a reference to the river’s abundant supply of shellfish. Irish poet William Butler Yeats chose the peaceful churchyard at Drumcliff in County Sligo as his final resting place. The graveyard includes the remains of a round tower and a high cross, constructed in the 11th century when there was a Christian monastery on the site. Common Sligo last names include Gallagher, Brennan, MacGowan, Kelly, Healy, Walsh, Hart, Loughlin, Connor, and Conlon. W.B. Yeats, Edward P. Doherty (who allegedy caught Lincoln assassin John Wilkes Booth), and Bram Stoker are famous people with Sligo roots.


Tipperary / Tiobraid Árann

Established in the 13th century, the name means “well of the Arra,” a reference to the river that runs through the county. The Rock of Cashel is one of the most famous of Tipperary's landmarks with a group of medieval buildings sitting on top of a rocky outcrop dominating the skyline of the town of Cashel. Cashel is where Ireland's most famous king, Brian Boru, the last High King of Ireland, was crowned. Common last names include Burke, Butler, Carey, Casey, Donovan, Dwyer, Fitzgerald, MacCarthy, McGrath, Ryan, Shea, and Walsh. U.S. President Ronald Reagan's roots were in Tipperary.


Tyrone / Tir Eoghain

Established in 1585, the name means “Land of Eoghan.” It’s a tribute to Eogan mac Néill, who founded the Kingdom of Ailech, which is present-day Tyrone. Tyrone is one of the country's most beautiful inland counties and is the largest county in the North. Common last names in Tyrone include Loughran, McGurk, Grimes, Monahan, Skeffington, O'Neill, Harte, Clarke, Quinn, Mullan, Kelly, Donnelly, Gallagher, McKenna, Campbell, and Hughes.


Waterford / Port Láirge

Established c. 1200, the name means “Larag’s port.” It was also known by the Norse term for “ram fjord.” The Vikings came to the area in the 800s, as is evidenced by the remains of Woodstown, a Viking settlement just west of Waterford city. It is the only large-scale Viking settlement of that era to be found in Western Europe. Today, the county’s name is synonymous with fine Irish crystal works, due to the House of Waterford Crystal and the Irish Handmade Glass Company, both located in Waterford city. Common  last names in Waterford include Barron, Butler, Dalton, Fallon, Farrell, Fay, Fitzgerald, Flynn, Foley, Harper, Kelly, Lombard, MacGraw, MacGrath, McCarthy, Morris, Morrissey, Mulcahy, Murphy, O'Brien, O'Flanagan, O'Neill, Phelan, Power, Rodgers, Rogers, Ryan, Talbot, Shannon, Sullivan, Walsh, Whelan, White, and Wyse.


Westmeath / An Iarmhí 

Established in 1543, the name means “west of the middle.” Westmeath was the meeting place of five ancient provinces in Ireland. There are many castles located here, but Tullynally is the most famous. Tullynally is a beautiful castle, nearly a quarter of a mile long, and is still the residence of the family of the Earl of Langford. Common last names in Westmeath include Geoghegan, Brennan, O'Coffey, O'Mulleady, O'Malone, O'Daly, McAuley, and McCormack.


Wexford / Loch Garman

Established c. 1200, the name comes from the Norse term for “fjord of the mud flats.” Wexford is famed for having the nicest climate in Ireland and is often called the Sunny South East. It is home to many stunning beaches, Curracloe Beach for example was used as the location for filming the D-Day landings in Normandy for the Hollywood blockbuster, "Saving Private Ryan." Common last names in Wexford include Murphy, Doyle, Walsh, Rossiter, Brown, Stafford, Devereux, and Kavanagh. U.S. President John Fitzgerald Kennedy had Wexford roots.


Wicklow / Cill Mhantáin

Established in 1607, the Irish name translates to “Church of the Mantan.” “Mantan” means “toothless one” and refers to a saint whose teeth were knocked out by irish pagans around the time of St. Patrick. Local history contends that the town of Wicklow was founded by the Vikings, probably around 795 AD. However, given the area's natural harbor and fertile land, it is likely that a small settlement existed before the Vikings landed. Common  last names in Wicklow include Quinn, Moore, Farrar, Rice, Duffy, Byrne, O'Neill, Hannigan, Murray, and Powers. Irish singer Sinead O'Connor hails from Wicklow.


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