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Ballynafern, County Down


Ir. Baile na Fearna ‘townland of the alder’


The name Ballynafern seems to be derived from baile followed by the article followed by a final element which has two syllables in the earliest forms. e.g. Ballynefarin 1609 (CPR Jas I 394b).  The Ordnance Survey Name Book records five syllables in the early 19th-century pronunciation Bal-ly-na-ferin, sometimes reflected in the spelling Ballynaferin in 1830 (Newry Tel. (OSNB)) which made Dean Mooney suggest Baile na Fearthainne ‘townland of the rain’ (Mooney 1950c 21) .  However -fern is now pronounced as one syllable and O’Donovan’s suggestion, i.e. Baile na Fearna ‘town of the alder’, is here followed (J O'D (OSNB)).  Fearn ‘alder’, now masculine in gender, was originally feminine and remains feminine in Scottish Gaelic.  Fernhill House in the townland seems to have been named from an English folk-etymology of Ballynafern.


Muhr, K. (1996): Place-Names of Northern Ireland vol. 6 p. 65

Additional Information

Historical name form

Old FormRef. DateReference

Baile na Fe(a)rna "Town of the Alder"

1834cJ O'D (OSNB) E18.172

Baile-na-bhfearn "the town of the fearns/alder trees"

1913Joyce iii 110

Baile na fearthaine "Town of the rain''?

1950cMooney 1950c 21

Baile na Fearna

1992PNI 65

Baile na bhFearn "townland of the alders"

1999Cel. Ulst. Tds 24
Ballynefarin (in Shanchall)1609CPR Jas I 394b
Ballinefarin (12 towns, precinct of Shanchall)1611CPR Jas I 190a
Ballynafarrin (in Shanechall)1618Inq. Ult. (Down) $7 Jac. I
Ballynafarney, Arthur Magneisse of1642Wars Co. Down xii 4
Ballinofarny1657cHib. Reg. Up. Iveagh
the halfe towne of Ballyfearn1659cCensus 1659 75
Ballynefarny1661BSD 117
Ballinafarny1672cHib. Del. Down
Ballyfarme1692Rent Roll Down 12
Ballynaferne1810Wm. Map (OSNB) E18.13
Ballynafern1819Tombstone (OSNB) E18.172
Ballynaferin1830Newry Tel. (OSNB) E18.172
Ballynafern1830cBnd. Sur. (OSNB) E18.13
[Bal-ly-na-ferin]1834cOSNB Pron. E18.172
Smith Point & The Ethere (boggy places)1950cMooney 1950c 22
Iveagh Up., Up. Half
Parish in 1851
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