Ulster is a veritable mongrel of a country, with influences from a plethora of European Countries especially Spain, Scandinavia, and the British mainland. This influx of national cultures blending with the native parlance, has created an intriguing and distinct dialect. Most of the terms are Gaelic, either Irish or Scots, and those names are surprisingly logical usually referencing an aspect of nature such as a river or a hill, or possibly a man made structure such as a fort or a settlement.
According to my Irish Language Specialist, when the Protestant landowners rose to power they performed a census/audit of their local areas. They sent guys round with a clipboard and pen, with the task of noting down the local settlement names, but they may have had some difficulty understanding the country brogue, so just scribbled down a best guess. That's why much of the nomenclature is similar but still a little different, a form of unintentional Anglicization. Pair this with the intentional Anglicization and that is why a number of the more Gaelic names have faded somewhat, but a little research intimates as to their influence.
Below is a selection of some of the more intriguing names that we came across. This will grow the deeper we delve.
|Bally||Gaelic (Baile na)||'Place of' or 'Town of'||Ballymena (middle town), Ballymoney (town of the moor), Ballymacarret (town of MacCarrett)|
|Carrick||Gaelic (Carraig)||Rock||Carrickfergus (Fergus's Rock), Carrick-a-rede (Throwing Rock)|
|Down/Dun/Don||Gaelic (Dun)||Fort||Downpatrick (St Patrick's Fort), Dundrum (fort of the hill), Donegal (Fortress of the Foreigners)|
|Drom/Drum||Gaelic (Drim||Ridge||Dromore (large ridge), Drumcree (Boundary Ridge)|
|Kil/Killy||Gaelic (Chill)||Church||Shankill (old church), Killaney (church of the marsh)|
|Knock||Gaelic (Cnoc)||Hill||Knocknagoney (hill of the rabbits), Ballyknock (town of the hill)|
|Slieve||Gaelic (Sliabh)||Mountain||Slieve Donnard (Donards Mountain), Slieve Muck (Pig Mountain)|
|Ford||Norse (Fjordor)||Sea-Inlet||Strangford (Strong Sea-inlet), Carlingford (Sea-inlet of the hag)|
|Burn||Gaelic (Burn)||Brook or Stream||Crawfordsburn (The stream of the Crawfords),|
Interesting Place Names
|Ulster||Gaelic (Ulaidh) and Norse (ster)||Ulaidh is Ulsterman, Ster is land of|
|Belfast||Gaelic (Beal Feirste)||rivermouth of the sandbank (Farset)||The river Farset derives its name from an Irish word meaning sandbank, hence|
|Falls Road||Gaelic (túath na bhFál)||territory of the enclosures||In Ulster Scots it is Faas Raa, Slightly ironic given the second word|
|Cave Hill||Gaelic (Benmadigan )||Little dog's Peak||Madudhán was the little dog, and a former king of Ulster|
|Rowallane||Gaelic (Rubha Alainn)||beautiful promontory||Due to its setting as a country garden you're just as likely to see brides as beasts at Rowallane Gardens|
|Portavogie||Gaelic (Port an Bhogaigh)||Port of the Bog||Actually not a badspot for a drink despite its name|
|Lough Neagh||Gaelic (Loch nEathach)||Eochaidh’s lake||Caused when a magic well overflowed|
|Limavady||Gaelic (Léim an Mhadaidh)||leap of the dog||So called as a hound made the leap to warn its master of a surprise attack on their lands|