Whence the nams "Eire" and "Hibernia"?

So “Ireland” is derived from “Eire” … but what does “Eire” mean? (like “England” derives from “land of the Angles”, a tribe that settled there, and “America” is named after a mapmaker)

And what about the Latin “Hibernia”?

If this page is correct, the answer is “we don’t know.”


Here’s some reading on the subject:




erm, “names”

Another explanation is that “Eire” derives from Eria, the name of an ancient Celtic goddess of fertility.

Er… this theory of ‘hebrews’ migrating up the west coast of Europe must be counted as a ‘fringe’ theory, eh?

I was taught the Romans came up with ‘Hibernia’, meaning - basically - Winterland. Y’know: as in ‘hibernate’ or the french ‘hiver’. Basically the Romans thought it was freezing here. Maybe 'Hibernicus will have a more informed opinion on the matter.

The whole ‘Hebrew => Iberia => Hibernia’ thing sounds - um - overly imaginative, though that 1911 encyclopaedia that was quoted gives a similar reasoning (including some wonderful OCR screwups) under its ‘Hibernia’ entry: 1911encyclopedia.org
Having said that, I prefer etymological references to be a little less than 92 years old as a rule. :slight_smile:

The Milesian legends, which suggest a migration from roughly the Caucasus to the Iberian Peninsula and then to Ireland, have gotten a lot of bad press, but may well represent dim memories of an original migration of some sort. The Hebrew stuff is the Irish variation on the local traditions almost everywhere in what used to be called Christendom that tie the local gentry back to Biblical characters – the princes of Powys in Wales, for example, claimed to be descended from the Virgin Mary’s brother; the Dalriadan Scots link to King Arthur’s Aunt Ana and thence back through a goofball link to a variety of Hebrew lines. It isn’t limited to Christians, either: Queen Elizabeth’s ancestors in the Wessex line link back to Odin; the Norse monarchs (and the Normans) connect to Freyr via early kings of Sweden.

For some reason, followers of the Goddess theories of achaeologist Marija Gambutas think that the connection is Eire = Aryan, but I can’t tell what makes them think this.



Gimbutas was a serious scholar, but she’s been dead for almost a decade and has amassed a strange following outside of scholarly circles.

The etymology of Eire < Aryan seems obvious at first glance. After all, Iran and Ireland sit next to each other at the United Nations, don’t they? But it is not so. Also, the association of Hibernia with the Latin word for winter is what’s called a “folk etymology,” folks. The Romans added the H- in front because they thought that was the explanation. Also false. The original etymology for Ireland, Eire, and Hibernia is the ancient Celtic name Iveriu, according to the American Heritage Dictionary, 1st ed. My trusty old standby for etymology.

The Old Icelandic form of this name was Irar, from Old Irish Eriu. Interesting note: The Barnhart Dictionary of Etymology says: “There is also evidence of some influence of Old French irais, irois angry and Irais, Irois Irish.” Sure, connect Ireland with ire and irate. The “Fighting Irish” will “get their Irish up” and have a “donnybrook” if they catch ye sayin’ that about them.

The name Scot originally meant ‘Irish’. (Scotland didn’t get the name Scotland until Irish people moved to Caledonia from Ireland. It was called Scotland because of the Irish, i.e. “Scot” origin of the people.) Seaumus MacManus, in Story of the Irish Race, tells the ancient legend of the wanderings of the Milesians. How for a time they sojourned in ancient Egypt, getting into drunken brawls, until the Egyptians kicked them out. While there, their leader married Pharaoh’s daughter. Her name was Scota and so her descendants were called the Scots.

Now, my philological research has uncovered a possible nugget of truth in this hoary legend. As you know, the Ancient Egyptian written language recorded only consonants and left the vowels undefined. There was an Egyptian goddess, one of the principal deities in fact, named Sekhet. (In Egyptian, the -t is a feminine gender ending.) Actually, her name was recorded as SKhT. We don’t know what vowels her name had, and conventionally the e’s are inserted to make it pronounceable. The consonantal outline of Sekhet is practically identical with that in Scota. I’m not claiming this is a proof-positive identification, but it does make the Irish-Egyptian connection look a bit more plausible.

Remember, you read it here first.

Jomo “Half Irish” Mojo

I presume it’s the mojo half that’s Irish;).

Firbolgs - Ui Failge, Ui Bairrche, Ui Enachglais, etc. -
The Euerni and later called Erainn (also known as Menapii, Bolgi, Belgae and Firbolgs) by annalists and historians, arrived after ??? BC. They called their new home Eueriio, which would later evolve through the old Irish Eriu to Eire, and from Eire to Ireland.
The early annalists tell us that Firbolg people survived as distinct tribes well into early historical times. In Leinster, they were the Ui Failge, Ui Bairrche and Ui Enechglaiss to mention but a few.

Source: http://www.thecore.com/let-ros/plavin/lavin.html

Of course, this claim is really daft if one knows the least bit about the Irish language. The proposed suffix “-yann” isn’t Gaelic. “Irish Person” is “eirinnach”, not “eiri-yann”, and the “-nnach” is rather distinctly pronounced, with the second of the three syllables given no stress at all.

Yes, of course the claim is daft. What I don’t understand is why Goddess believers should be advocating this. I don’t think it comes from Gimbutas herself.