Placenamesni.orgthe history behind our place-names

About Us

The corpus of Northern Ireland place-names includes historical administrative names (6 counties, 60-plus barony and district names, 269 civil parishes, 9,600 townlands) and at least 20,000 non-administrative names (including the names of rivers, lakes, mountains, and other physical features). This database contains a gazetteer of these names which was compiled by the Northern Ireland Place-Name Project from map and other sources. The gazetteer continues to grow; additions are constantly required as new names are coined in urban landscapes and as traditional names (which have previously been unrecorded) are discovered in the field.

These names originated in a variety of languages: primarily Irish historically (e.g Belfast < Béal Feirste), but with increasing numbers of names in English (Draperstown) and Scots (Glarryford) appearing on record since the Plantation of Ulster in the seventeenth century. There are also names which originated in Old Norse (Strangford) or which indicate contact with, or knowledge of, other languages such as French (Pomeroy). The corpus of historical citations for these names currently stands at approximately 130,000 references in the database; these citations have been abstracted from a wide variety of sources stretching over the best part of two millenia.

The website provides a view into three tables:

  • Place-Name Gazetteer,
  • Historical References, and
  • Bibliography of Sources.

The primary aim of the database is to elucidate the origin and meaning of the corpus of names (of whatever linguistic origin) and, in that respect, the project is entering its final phase. Phase 1 of completion is concerned with the historical administrative names of County Down (townlands, civil parishes, baronies and urban settlements); the data for the names in these categories has been checked in the database and each name has been provided with an explanation and discussion of its origin. The other five counties will be completed in further phases, starting with Phase 2, County Antrim. The historical data for these five counties, while available in the database, will need to be checked in due course and should not be taken to be verified in its entirety at this stage.

The database is currently searchable by map (which facilitates the location of a name in its geographical context) and by place-name or place-name element (which provides the historical profile of the name and further discussion of it, where available). It is also possible to search for an historical form and to establish to what modern name it has been assigned in the database.

This website provides public access to a database produced and maintained by the Northern Ireland Place-Name Project, Queen's Universtiy Belfast in association with Land and Property Services, Department of Finance and Personnel (Northern Ireland).

Support has been provided by:

  • The Arts and Humanities Research Council,
  • Central Community Relations unit,
  • The Department of the Environment (Northern ireland) and
  • Foras na Gaeilge.

With further subventions from the:

  • Community Relations Council,
  • Esme Mitchell Trust,
  • Heritage Lottery Fund,
  • Ultach Trust.

The Project Team

Land and Property Services

The Northern Ireland Place-Name Project is greatly indebted to Land and Property Services (formerly the Ordnance Survey of Northern Ireland) for provision of the mapping and maintenance of the website, and to Lynn Conway (Geospatial Systems and Data Management) for her technical expertise and support.

The Northern Ireland Place-name Project

  • Current Director: Mícheál B. Ó Mainnín
  • Current Research Fellow: Frances Kane
  • Doctoral Student: Brian Devlin
  • Former Directors: Gerard Stockman (1987-1996), Nollaig Ó Muraíle (1996-2003), Dónall P. Ó Baoill (2003-2009)
  • Senior Research Fellow: Kay Muhr (1987-2010)
  • Research Fellows: Robbie Hannan (1987-1995), AJ Hughes (1987-1992), Eilís McDaniel (1987-1990), Fiachra Mac Gabhann (1994-1997), Pat McKay (1994-2010), Seán Ó Coinn (1993-1994), Mícheál B. Ó Mainnín (1987-1993, 1994-1996), Gregory Toner (1991-1997), Paul Tempan (2012-13)
  • Foras na Gaeilge Street-Names Project (2006-2007): Ciarán Dunbar, Paul Tempan
  • Research Associates and Assistants: Leslie Lucas, Colin Parmar

The Northern Ireland Place-Name Project is extremely grateful to the many students (listed below) who provided editorial and other assistance over the years:

Humayra Ahmed, Alboino Bizzicari, Neil Burns, Mary Alice Clancy, Colin Cummings, Rosemarie Doherty, Riona Egan, Aidan Enright, John Gourley, Aisling Kelly, Marianne Laird, Angus Lambkin, Bréanainn Lambkin, Magdalen Lambkin, Josephine McCaughey, Rachel McGraw, Sarah McIlmore, David MacIlreavy, Seana McRury, Aine Meegan, Danny Meegan, Dorothy Moffat, Tomas Ó Néill, Lynn Rollins, Elena Saiz, Neil Templeton, Méabh Toland, Lyndsey van Driest