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Tara, County Down


Ir. Teamhair (na hArda) ‘the enclosure (in the Ards) demarcated for sacred purposes' or 'the Tara of the Ards' 


In Cormac’s Glossary (10th-century), and in LL (12th century) the opinion is expressed that the Irish word 'temair (Mod. Ir. teamhair) means any high place, eminence, hill from which a view can be had and that it is borrowed from a Greek word temoro’. The Greek origin was rejected by the modern scholar Vendryes (LÉIA s.v. temair), although the noun teamhair was clearly understood by Irish scribes and glossators in the medieval period to mean a conspicuous or eminent height, a view subsequently shared by O’Donovan, Hennessy (1889:v), and Joyce (i 294-6), in addition to the editors of DIL (s.v. temair). However, Wagner (1979, 26), in his discussion of the identification of the Earth-goddess with sacred hills and the dual function of life and death, took Teamair to mean ‘the dark one’, stating: ‘It is almost certain that the root tem- (cf. Old Irish temel ‘darkness’) from which we can derive Temair, is also contained in the name of the river Themes [modern Thames, London] cf. Sanskrit tamasa- ‘dark-coloured’. Thus Temair would appear to derive from a root tem- ‘dark’, possibly a reference to the inner hill, although Harris (Harris Hist. 131) describes Tara in the Ards as ‘an inconsiderable place’.  However, it seems that the term teamhair came to be understood as ‘eminent height’ in ordinary spoken Irish from as early as the Old Irish period, although it has since disappeared from the everyday vocabulary of modern Irish. There is no significant height in the townland of Tara.  However, there is a conspicuous ring fort named Tara Fort and this may be the feature from which the townland is named.

Regarding the etymology of the element teamhair and its distribution in Irish place-names, see the contributions to The Kingship and Landscape of Tara (ed. Edel Bhreathnach, Dublin, 2005) by Dónall Mac Giolla Easpaig ('Significance and Etymology of the Placename Temair', 423-48) and Nollaig Ó Muraíle ('Temair/Tara and Other Places of the Name', 449-477).


Hughes A. J. (1992): Place-Names of Northern Ireland vol. 2 p. 131

Additional Information

N.B. reassigned from Witter to Ballyphilip

Historical name form

Old FormRef. DateReference
~Temair na hArdda1160cLL v 35088
~Temair na hArdda1160cLL v 35088
Thewer, grangia de1300cCharts St. Mary's Abbey i 4
Thewer, grangia de1300cCharts St. Mary's Abbey i 4
Tener, Capella de1306cEccles. Tax. 24
Tener, Capella de1306cEccles. Tax. 24
Teure, the tenement of1328cGreat Rolls Pipe 45 Rpt Dep Keep
Teuyr, the tenement of1341cGreat Rolls Pipe 53 Rpt Dep Keep
cath Temra Arda Ulaid [death of Eochu Gunnat, King1400cL. Gabála (Macalister) v 338 $603 R3B
~Temuir Arda .i. Ard Ulad1450cMesca Ulad l.129
~Temuir Arda .i. Ard Ulad1450cMesca Ulad l.129
Ballentonragh + Ballnbentlyng1559Sav. Ulst. 301
Ballentonragh + Ballynbentlyng1559Sav. Ulst. 175
Ballyntawragh1571Fiants Eliz. $2090
Ballytawraghe1588Fiants Eliz. $5264
Tarragh als Bull1595Mercator's Ulst.
Ballenetawragh al. Balletouragh1620Inq. Ult. (Down) $9 Jac. I
Ballinetamragh1620Inq. Ult. (Down) $9 Jac. I
Tawragh1620Inq. Ult. (Down) $9 Jac. I
Teragh1620Inq. Ult. (Down) $9 Jac. I
Tussellhauragh1623Ham. Copy Inq. [1623] xxxv
Ballyntawragh1625Inq. Ult. (Down) $14 Jac. I
Ballytawragh1625Inq. Ult. (Down) $14 Jac. I
(?)Torreyonyle al. Toradonill1627Inq. Ult. (Down) $10 Car. I
Ballenetauragh1627Inq. Ult. (Down) $10 Car. I
Ballenotawrogh1628Sav. Ulst. 368
Ballenetauragh1637cSav. Ulst. 373
Balletaura1645Inq. Ult. (Down) $104 Car. I
Taragh1659cCensus 1659 91
Turragh1661BSD 84
Tara1810Wm. Map (OSNB) E42 no. 100
Tarra1830cHigh Const. Applot. (OSNB) E42 no. 100
Tarrah1830cBnd. Sur. (OSNB) E42 no. 100
Tarah1834cMr Nugent (OSNB) E42 no. 100
~Teamhair ""a pleasant hill""1834cJ O'D (OSNB) E.34
Ards Upper
Parish in 1851
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