Origins of Ireland’s Capital City, Dublin

Stair na hÉireann/History of Ireland

Ireland’s capital city gives us an interesting example of an Irish place name where the commonly used English form and the native Irish form bear no relationship to each other.

Unlike many Irish place names, Dublin is not transliterated from or related to the Gaelic name for the area: Baile Átha Cliath and each name describes different things.

In fact, if the original Irish form was correctly transliterated, Ireland’s capital would be called something like Ballyaclee.

As a settlement Dublin is said to have been first occupied by Viking traders c.988AD. Sailing their longships up the River Liffey (originally called An Ruirthech or the ‘stampeding-one’) they came upon a dark tidal-pool at the site where the River Poddle and the River Liffey met and which they appropriately named Dyflin, meaning ‘black-pool’, which later took the Irish form Dubh Linn.

Meanwhile, the native Irish referred to this place as Baile Átha…

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