Irish Counties

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Counties listed by name in Irish | Counties listed by name in English
including notes on meaning of names

The idea of counties was first introduced to Ireland following the Anglo-Norman invasion in the twelfth century. At that time 12 counties were defined in Leinster and Munster. From that time until the mid sixteenth century county borders were not well defined reflecting the weakness of English control during that period. During the reign of Elizabeth 1 the counties o f, Longford, Clare, Galway, Sligo, Mayo, Roscommon, Leitrim, Armagh, Monaghan (1585), Tyrone, Derry **, Donegal, Fermanagh (1585), and Cavan were formed. But still the county borders were not very clearly set out. However, improvements in mapping gradually resulted in the counties as we know them today. Wicklow, surveyed and destinguished into a county in 1606, was the last county to be formed. See Below

Counties were set up as areas for local government (County Councils). They still exist for this purpose in the Republic of Ireland except for Dublin which is divided into four and Tipperary which is divided in two. Northern Ireland is divided into administrative districts. Nevertheless, people still largely identify themselves by their native county.

Source: mostly Tudor and Stuart Ireland - Margaret McCurtain

Counties listed by name in English

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Antrim Aontroim ?
Armagh Árd Mhacha Macha's Hill
Carlow Ceatharlach four lakes
Cavan Cabhán a hollow
Clare Clár a level piece of land
Cork Corcaigh a marsh
Derry ** Doire an oakwood
Donegal Dún na nGall fortress of the foreigners (Vikings)
Down Dún a fortress
Dublin * Baile Átha Cliath black pool
Fermanagh Fir Manach the men (tribe) of Manach
Galway Gaillimh ?
Kerry Ciarraí the descendants of (tribe) of Ciar
Kildare Cill Dara church of the oak
Kilkenny Cill Chainnigh church of St. Canice
Laois Laois Lughaidh Laeighseach a chieftain
Leitrim Liatroim grey ridge
Limerick Luimneach a barren spot of land
Longford Longfort a castle or encampment
Louth ?
Mayo Maigh Eo the plain of yews
Meath middle (province)
Monaghan Muineacháin a place of little hills
Offaly Ua Fáilghe the descendants of (tribe) of Fáilghe
Roscommon Ros Comán St. Coman's wood
Sligo Sligeach shelly river
Tipperary Tiobraid Arainn the well of Ara
Tyrone Tír Eoghain the territory of Eoghan
Waterford * Port Lairge Vadrefiord (Viking)
Westmeath Iarmhí western middle (province)
Wexford * Loch Garman weis fiord (Viking)
Wicklow * Cill Mhantáin viking gelo (Viking)

* these cases are not an English pronunciation of the name in Irish.

** Derry or Londonderry. Both names are in use.

Counties listed by name in Irish

Listed by name in English | Top of Page | See the Map | County Page

Aontroim Antrim ?
Árd Mhacha Armagh Macha's Hill
Baile Átha Cliath Dublin town of the ford of the hurdles
Cabhán Cavan a hollow
Ceatharlach Carlow four lakes
Ciarraí Kerry the descendants of (tribe) of Ciar
Cill Chainnigh Kilkenny church of St. Canice
Cill Dara Kildare church of the oak
Cill Mhantáin Wicklow St. Mantan's church
Clár Clare a level piece of land
Corcaigh Cork a marsh
Doire Derry ** an oakwood
Dún na nGall Donegal fortress of the foreigners (Vikings)
Dún Down a fortress
Fir Manach Fermanagh the men (tribe) of Manach
Gaillimh Galway ?
Iarmhí Westmeath western middle (province)
Laois Laois Lughaidh Laeighseach a chieftain
Liatroim Leitrim grey ridge
Loch Garman Wexford Garman's lake
Longfort Longford a castle or encampment
Louth ?
Luimneach Limerick a barren spot of land
Maigh Eo Mayo the plain of yews
Meath middle (province)
Muineacháin Monaghan a place of little hills
Port Lairge Waterford ?
Ros Comán Roscommon St. Coman's wood
Sligeach Sligo shelly river
Tiobraid Arainn Tipperary the well of Ara
Tír Eoghain Tyrone the territory of Eoghan
Ua Fáilghe Offaly the descendants of (tribe) of Fáilghe

** Derry or Londonderry. Both names are in use.

The sources for the meanings of county names were either

The Way that I Went - Robert Lloyd Praegar or
Irish Local Names explained - P.W. Joyce


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The county of Wicklow has its origins in the early 1500s. In an indenture made at Dublin on 4 July, 1542 Thady O'Birne, described as captain of his nation, and other nobles inhabiting 'a certain country between the Wynde Gates and the town of Arklowe in the county of Dublin' petitioned the King that their country might be erected by authority of parliament into a county, with the name of the county of Wickow, so that henceforth they might hold their lands from the crown and a sheriff and other officers might be constituted there. The lord deputy and council ratified their submission provided the at the King should accept it within a year, but nothing was to come of this proposal. In the late 1540s instead, three administrative zones were created in what is now the county, corresponding to the areas inhabited by the three septs of the O'Byrnes, O'Tooles and Kavanaghs, each ruled by an english captain from a convenient fort.

In 1578 a royal commission issued for the areas south and east of Dublin to be bounded out into a shire, to be named and called the county of wicklow, Sir William Drury, the Lord Justice, defined the boundaries of the county but 'findinge that ther were not sufficient, and (fewer) gent, to be shriffes nor freeholders to make a jury for her Majestie' the matter was let drop.

It was thus not until 1605 that Sir Arthur Chichester as lord deputy completed the work of a generation earlier by having the county of the Birnes and Tooles surveyed and distinguished into a county. The shiring of Wicklow was finally completed only in the folowing yaer and, as Litton Falkiner points out, the county nearest he metropolis was the last to brought effectively within the scope of the English government.

Source: Wicklow - History and Society - From Grand Jury to County Council by Brian Donnelly.

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