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a VirtualTourist member from Warsaw asked on Dec 14, 2003

Ireland

Irish names starting with "Kil-"

I've been wondering about the names of places in Ireland that start with "Kil-"... such as Kildare, Kilkenny or Killiney, and perhaps there are more... I assume that the "Kil-" means something since it's so common in Irish names. Any idea? I'd appreciate some clarification - thanks!



13 Answers


answered on 12/14/03 by
a VT member from Dublin

from the irish (gaelic) word "cill" which means church, its pronounced like "kill". kildare is from the irish "cill dara", meaning "church of the oak tree"




answered on 12/14/03 by
a VT member from Warsaw

Thanks, that makes sense and clarifies a lot :-) Am I right in thinking that the "Kil-" names probably date back to the early ages of Christianity in Ireland, given the meaning of the Gaelic "cill"...? What does the name Kilian (or Killian?) mean then? I assume the "-ian" adds something to the meaning... or is it just a word-formation ending that, for example, creates an adjective...? Excuse my being persistent but I find this quite intriguing...




answered on 12/14/03 by
a VT member from Dublin

yes that's right, when english took over as the dominant language the placenames were not translated but simply spelled in an english fashion. i don't know what the name cillian means, but there is no "-ian" ending added to irish words, so cillian is just a word by itself - i dont think it has anything to do with the word "cill" - they just start with the same 4 letters ps. some towns beginning with kil- take their names from the irish "coill" meaning wood or forest, mostly kil- means church though.




answered on 12/14/03 by
a VT member from Warsaw

Thanks again! I'll try and look for Cillian, it helps to know its a word by itself. But I guess "coill" adds to my confusion :-( I'll keep in mind that "Kil-" mostly means "church" though.




answered on 12/15/03 by
a VT member from Dublin

Coill means wood (as in forest) Orla




answered on 12/15/03 by
a VT member from Dublin

I agree. Coill (Kil, Kill) in place names usually means a wood/forest.




answered on 12/15/03 by
a VT member from Warsaw

Thank you both for your reply. So does the "Kil-" MOSTLY mean "church" (as jbmh says)... or does it USUALLY mean "wood/forest" (as you two are saying? :-) I guess there's no way (for a foreigner) to tell whether the "Kil-" or "Kill-" originates from "cill" (church) or "coill" (wood/forest)...? Any ideas for the meaning of Cillian / Killian...?




answered on 12/15/03 by
a VT member from Dublin

This might help. loughman.dna.ie/general/plac... Wood I believe is the more common occurance. In bigger towns church may apply. I'll try for Killian (Cillian) when I get a chance.




answered on 12/15/03 by
a VT member from Warsaw

Thanks, I'll check that link for sure!




answered on 12/15/03 by
a VT member from Dublin

I think we may have something see homepage.tinet.ie/~killiansc... I'm not too sure their meaning is correct. It may have something to do with War.




answered on 12/15/03 by
a VT member from Dublin

This should give you something to work with; The origin of the name "Killeen" Derivation from the Irish "Killeen" is the anglicised version of the Irish Surname "Ó Cillín", (pronounce "O Killeen"), which, in the female version, may be changed to "Uí Chillín" (pronounce "Ee Killeen") for a woman's married name, or "Ní Chillín" (pronounce "Nee Killeen") for an unmarried female. The prefix "Ó" means "From," i.e., "Descended From." "Uí" is the genitive (or possessive) case of "Ó", indicating "(wife) of the descendant of Meaning: "Cill" + "ín" The suffix "ín" (pronounce "een") means "small." "Cill" or "Ceall" originally meant "cell," and then extended in meaning to "church," "church-yard" and "grave-yard," as well as "treasure-box," "nest-egg" and "treasure." In the "grave-yard" context "Cillín" (and its English version "Killeen") came to mean the small "cill" or burial-ground, outside of the consecrated grave-yard, where unbaptised infants were buried. This is often its meaning in placenames. However, as a surname, it may, also, derive from another word "ceall" meaning a row or dispute, to which the diminutive "ín" (pronounce "een") is added, indicating a clan of people given to little disputes. A more likely origin of the surname "Killeen" is as a patronymic meaning "Descendant of Cillín," the name "Cillín" occurring here as a first-name. "Cillín" as a First-name Like most Irish surnames, "Killeen" can, also, occur as a first-name, in which case the anglicised version is usually spelt "Killian." Saint Killian was an Irish Saint who brought Christianity and literacy to Germany in the 5th century. An illuminated manuscript attributed to him in Salsburg Cathedral is reputed to be more beautiful than the Book of Kells. A parent who gave the name "Cillín" to his/her child no doubt intended the "little treasure" meaning, rather than "little disputant."




answered on 12/15/03 by
a VT member from Warsaw

pMcGann, thank you so much for taking the time and effort to clarify this for me, I appreciate it a lot! That's a great variety of meanings, how flexible the language is! I was actually trying to find the meaning (ethymology) of St.Killian's name... So it can be spelled also "Killeen", originally it was "Cillin" - meaning "descendant of Cillin", where Cillin can have this whole variety of meanings! It's interesting though that you point out at this unconsecrated burial place for unbaptised infants... While mothers can mean the "little treasure" when they give the name to their babies, I wonder what was the original meaning in St. Killian's name (i.e. its ethymology)... Probably one connected to church-yard or this unconsecrated grave-yard...? I would imagine the original meaning is somewhat more "ancient"...? Sorry, I'm just thinking out loud, don't mean to continue this discussion forever ;-) Thanks again for the time you took to explain this!




answered on 12/16/03 by
a VT member from Dublin

You are very welcome.





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