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Ballyblack, County Down


Ir. Baile Bhláca ‘Black’s or Blake’s townland’; possibly earlier Eng. Blacke(s)ton


The name of the townland of Ballyblack has its origin in the gaelicization of an earlier Anglo-Norman name, which probably resembled Blacke(s)ton. The trouble lies in trying to establish the exact meaning of the English surname Black(e)/Blake. Reaney (1958, 34) shows that Anglo-Norman names in Britain such as Willelmus Blac, Niger (1086AD) did mean ‘the Black’. This is the most likely meaning in our case, but we must also note that when Old English blæc ‘black’ (via an inflected form Old Eng. blaca) gave Middle English blāke, a separate Middle English word blāk(e) (from Old English blāc meaning ‘bright, shining; pale, wan’) would then have been forced out of everyday use, although it may have been fossilized in the personal name Blake.  So as some of the forms for Ballyblack point to both -black and -blake, we must bear in mind Reaney’s remarks that ‘the exact meaning of Blake is doubtful’, as Blake, while probably signifying ‘black’, could also mean ‘the pale one’.  There is another townland named Ballyblack in the nearby parish of Greyabbey.


Hughes A. J. (1992): Place-Names of Northern Ireland vol. 2 p. 43

Additional Information

Historical name form

Old FormRef. DateReference

Baile an Bhlácaigh "Black's or Blake's Town"

1834cJ O'D (OSNB) E.93
Ballywlake1559Sav. Ulst. 301
Ballywlake1559PCR Eliz. I (Sav. Ards) 175
Ballywlake1571Fiants Eliz. $2090
Balliblacke1588Fiants Eliz. $5264
Ballyblacke1588Savage Lands 4
Ballyblacke1625Inq. Ult. (Down) $14 Jac. I
Ballyblake otherwise Ballyblack1637cSav. Ulst. 373
Ballyblack1659cCensus 1659 91
Ballyblaicke1661BSD 86
Ballyblack1810Wm. Map (OSNB) No. 44
Ballyblack1830cBnd. Sur. (OSNB) No. 44
Ballyblack1830cHigh Const. Applot. (OSNB) No. 44
Ballyblack1833Reg. Free. (OSNB) No. 44
Ards Upper
Parish in 1851
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