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Thursday, 14 January 2016 21:24

Gaelic terminologies that survive in Scottish place names

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Fàilte gu Alba! - Gaelic terms in Scottish place names FĂ ilte gu Alba! - Gaelic terms in Scottish place names

Below are some familiar words usually found within place names in Scotland. The list will help you understand how these came to being. The majority of these place names are derived from Scots Gaelic words for geological features in conjunction with river names. Hard to explain but with the examples below I am sure you will understand this much better.

When you tour Scotland and you leave the central belt, especially when you tour the Scottish Highlands you will notice the road signs have both the Gaelic and English place and directions. A typical example would be the welcome sign for Inverness near Loch Ness. It reads first ‘Failte gu Inbhir Nis’ and below it will say Welcome to Inverness. I am assuming you can guess what Failte gu Alba means. We will make another blog about some common Gaelic phrases and words also often encountered.


Mor - Big
For example Rannoch Mor. In other words Big Rannoch. These words are usually associated with mountains, hills or passes

Ben - tip of or top (not mountain)
Usually tip or top of a mountain like Ben Nevis, Ben Lomond etc

Inver - Mouth of the river
You can see this quite often. Inverclyde, Inverary etc

Dal - Meadow
Dalriada, Dalry

Ard - a height, overlook or promontory
Ardnamurchan, Ardmore

Drum - ridge
Drumnadrochit or Drumchapel

Aber - The place that is drained by the river
Aberdeen for example is the place that the Deen river drains. Slightly different from ‘Inver’ which means the ‘Mouth of’

Coal - Kyle
Narrow see or channel

Loch - Lake
These can be land locked, fresh water like Loch Lomond and Loch Ness, the most famous or a sea loch like Loch Long or Loch Fyne.

Inch - Island
Inchmahome, Inchcolm etc

Kin - a head
Kinloss, Kinlochleven

Firth - Large sea bay or inlet. Usually at the mouth of a large river
Firth of Clyde or the Firth of Forth (Edinburgh)

Strath - Wide valley
Strathclyde

Auch - Field
Auchentoshan, Auchtermuchty (wear the fox hat?)

Glen - A narrow, usually U shaped valley with a river or burn running through it
Glencoe

Dun or sometimes Dum - Fort or fortification
Dundee, Dumbarton
Dunrobin etc

Bal - Town
Balloch

Kil - Churchyard
Kilmacolm, Kilmarnock

On your Scottish Tour (hopefully with us) you will encounter these all over the place. The Gaelic language is beautiful, ancient and very lyrical and has left its mark on modern Scotland even though it was under extreme pressure after the collapse of the Jacobite uprising and the Highland clearances.

Last modified on Saturday, 23 January 2016 13:33