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Keenaght, County Derry


Ir. Caonach "mossy place"


As with Granny, our sources present us with a rather confused picture of the history of this name.  The current form of the name is clearly suggestive of the Irish tribal name Cianachta which is preserved in the name of the neighbouring barony of Keenaght, and at least some of the historical spellings appear to support this derivation.  The spelling on Phillips' map, for example, shows a simple finalt which we might take to represent the reduction of the consonant group cht to t which is a feature of some East Ulster dialects, but the fact that these maps are closely related to the earlier Valuation of 1613 suggests that it is merely a mistake for h.  Moreover, the majority of our early forms show no trace of the finalt, and where it does occur, it may be erroneous. 

The forms in the Civil Survey seem to demonstrate the nature of the error.  One spelling shows a final -ght, the other just -gh.  The former is actually a reference to "Keanaught foord", but there can be little doubt that the ford derives its name from the townland.  The fact that two different spellings are offered for the same place in a single source should alert us to the possibility of a scribal error and I would suggest that the former spelling has fallen under the influence of the barony name, Keenaght, which would have been well known to those plotting the boundaries of the parishes.  Indeed, it seems very likely that the modern form of the townland name has been reformed by analogy with that of the barony.  There is some evidence of a parasitic t after ch in other names such as Tonaght in Ballynascreen (Irish Tonnach "enclosure/mound"), but the precise nature of this process is unclear and uncertain.

Joyce discusses the word caonach "moss" and states that it is applied in its anglicized form, Keenagh, to a number of places in Leinster, Connaught and Ulster (Joyce ii 337).  He draws our attention to the village of Keenagh, five miles north-west of Ballymahon in Longford, the adjacent demesne of which is called Mosstown, clearly an attempt to translate the Irish (ibid.). 

There seems to be no reason to depart from this interpretation in substance, although we might more reasonably suggest in the context a name derived from the synonym caonna (DIL sv. cáenna) + the adjectival suffixach giving a meaning "mossy place".


Toner (1996, 126-127)

Additional Information

Historical name form

Old FormRef. DateReference
Cynagh1609Esch. Co. Map 14
Cynagh1613Charter of Londonderry 391
Keenah1613Lond. Comp. Valuation 309
Keenat1622Phillips MSS (Maps) Plate 28
Keanaugh1654Civ. Surv. iii 174
Keanaught foord1654Civ. Surv. iii 174
Cinagh1657Bishop. Der. i 265
Cynagh, the small proportion of1657Bishop. Der. i 277
Cyneigh, the small proportion of1657Bishop. Der. i 265
Keanagh1661BSDc 61
Keenaght1767Par. Tithe Bk (OSNB) No. 9
(?)Kenaghs (James Fergusson)1810Reg. Deeds abstracts iii 251 $400
(?)Kenaghts1810Reg. Deeds abstracts iii 251 $400
(?)Kennaughs1810Reg. Deeds abstracts iii 251 $400
Keenagh1813Sampson's Map
~Canaigh ""the pool of water, or caonach, mossy""1821MacCloskey's Stat. Report 61
+Kee-naught1834cOSNB Pron. No. 9
~Caonach ""moss""1834cJ O'D (OSNB) No. 9
~Cianachta ""race of Cian""1834cJ O'D (OSNB) No. 11
~Cianachta ""The territory of the race of Cian""1925Munn's Notes 185
Parish in 1851
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