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Ballybuttle, County Down


Ir. Baile Bhuitléara ‘Butler’s townland’; or Ir. baile 'townland' + ME bothel 'dwelling / house'


The second element of this name may be derived from the Anglo-Norman surname Butler.  Reaney (1958, 55), lists a number of variant forms of this name including Buteiller 1055 AD, le Butiller 1174-84 AD, and le Boteller 1260 AD.  In Old French, bouteillier was applied to the servant in charge of the wine cellar, who was also usually the head servant.  Reaney also informs us that some of the early attestations of the word indicate that the term could also be applied to an officer of high rank responsible for the supply and importation of wine. 

Alternatively, the second element may be Middle Eng. bothel (a development of OE bōþl) meaning 'dwelling, house'.  In English place-names this element can appear as bootle or bottle, cf. Bootle in Cumberland, Harbottle in Northumberland (Ekwall 1960, 54).  Given the strong Norman-era connections in this part of the Ards with the NW of England (cf. Ballycopeland, Grey Abbey) and the presence of two instances of Bootown nearby in the parishes of Newtownards and Grey Abbey, which appear to be NW English forms of Bothelton, it would not be surprising to find a coinage in which Ir. baile has been prefixed to an existing name in Middle Eng. bothel.  For a similar formation, see Bolton in par. Loughgilly, Co. Armagh, which is attested as Ballybotten (Ir. baile + Eng. bothelton) in 1609.  For this interpretation to be correct, the three earliest forms showing Ballybutler (Inq. Ult. 1636, c.1650; Montgomery MSS c. 1650) would necessarily involve either a mistranscription or re-interpretation.  However, given that the form Ballybuttle has prevailed and given the absence of evidence for a prominent Butler family in the area, this scenario is very plausible.


Hannan R. J. (1992): Place-Names of Northern Ireland vol. 2 p. 180; revised PT, 2012.

Additional Information

Historical name form

Old FormRef. DateReference
Ballybutler1636Inq. Ult. (Down) $75 Car. I
Ballybutler1650cInq. Ult. (Down) $109 Car. I
Ballybutler1650cMontgomery MSS 54 n.34
Ballybutle1659cCensus 1659 93
Ballebuttle1661BSD 88
Ballybuttle1663Sub. Roll Down 281
Ballybuttle1810Wm. Map (OSNB) E 167, E 24
Ballybuttle1830cBnd. Sur. (OSNB) E 167, E 24
Ballybuttle1833High Const. Applot. (OSNB) E 167, E 24
Buttle is an English family name1834cJ O'D (OSNB) E 167, E 24
Ards Lower
Parish in 1851
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