Placenamesni.orgthe history behind our place-names

Glenavy, County Antrim


Ir. Lann Abhaigh [lan awee] ‘church of the dwarf’.


Village is 3 km S of Crumlin

bar: Massereene Upper

The townland of Glenavy lies along the southern bank of the Glenavy River, with the village of Glenavy at the mid-point. It bears the same name as the parish.  Glenavy has its origin in the early tradition that St Patrick built a church here and left it in the charge of his disciple Daniel, who was nicknamed ‘dwarf’ because of his diminutive stature. (The word is usually abhac but abhach is also attested). The place-name is not actually quoted in the Life of Patrick, which refers to the place as Lathrach Pátraic ‘St Patrick’s site’, but enough information is given to identify it (Trip. Life Stokes i 163-5).  The Annals of the Four Masters in 927 recorded the obit of Maolpatraicc ‘devotee of Patrick’ (AFM) who was ‘erenagh of Glenavy and vice-abbot of Bangor’ (Gt Bk Gens ii 370 $515.17).  The link attested here between the monastic churches of Bangor and Glenavy was maintained until the seventeenth century.  Glenavy church was mentioned ‘with a chapel’ in 1306 (EA 47), and this chapel seems to be the early church with the round tower on Ram’s Island.  The substitution of the element Glen ‘valley’ for lann ‘church’ began in the seventeenth century, as part of the anglicisation of the name, helped no doubt by the existence of a glen (Cleonagh al. Lynawy, CPR Jas I 146b, 1609).  Lewis still listed it as GLENAVY, orLYNAVY in 1837 (Lewis’ Top. Dict. i 658).  The townland name was distinguished by the prefix Bally, though misreading of thel, n and v caused confusion in spelling (for example, Ballinkeana, Ballinleanagh, Ballyglanaey, Ballylenany in1605, 1609, 1625, and 1661).  The original church site at Glenavy, in the townland of the same name, appears to be the graveyard of the present Church of Ireland church to the north of Glenavy village, since a black stone bullaun or ‘holy water stoup’ was found there (O’Laverty ii 304). Sadly, it has disappeared recently.  The Ordnance Survey Memoir in the 1830s commented that the village was ‘pleasantly situated on the river of the same name’, but criticised the ‘straggling and irregular street’, then ‘containing 86 cabins and cottages and 15 two-storey houses’ (OSM xxi 77).  (from LNP 29)


McKay, P. (2007): A Dictionary of Ulster Place-Names, p. 74; Pat McKay/ Kay Muhr

Additional Information

Historical name form

Sorry your query did not return any results.
Massereene Upper
Parish in 1851
Place name ID
Place name type