Place Names of Northern Ireland

The Northern Ireland Place-Name Project, based in the Department of Irish and Celtic Studies at Queen’s University Belfast, has been researching the origins and meanings of local place-names since 1987. Early spellings of the names discussed are abstracted from historical sources, and these provide the evidence necessary to reconstruct the original form of the name and trace its development down to modern times.

Names are dealt with in the traditional civil parish units so that both historical and local context may become clear.
In particular, the value of these volumes to local and family historians is the fact that a very significant proportion of Irish place-names have a personal name element. Thus, they can be a quite unique and ingenious way of trying to identify a family’s link to a particular locality, especially when there is a lack of other documentary evidence to aid the searcher.


The project website presents a searchable database which contains over 30,000 place-names in total (i.e. townland names, settlements and names of physical features, etc). The database contains a gazetteer of these names which was compiled by project researchers from maps and other sources. The gazetteer continues to grow; additions are constantly required as new names are coined in urban landscapes and as traditional names (which have previously been unrecorded) are discovered in the field.

The current research phase (2017–2020) involves providing a suggested origin for every townland name (of whatever linguistic origin) in Northern Ireland, and the preliminary townland analyses are published on the project website. It builds on the significant amount of work on townlands in previous phases of the project, some of which is published in The Place-Names of Northern Ireland series (1992–2004).

Some volumes in the series are still in print and are available on our bookstore

Visit PlaceNamesNI

Joyce: Irish Names of Places

Patrick Weston "P. W." Joyce (1827-1914) was an Irish historian, writer and music collector, known particularly for his research in Irish etymology and local place names of Ireland.

His three volume series, Irish Names of Places, stands as an invaluable resource for those interested in learning more about the origin and development of Irish place names.

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