McGough and McGeough are derived from the Gaelic name Mac Eochaidh or Mag Eochadha. The stem of that name is thought to be eoch or each, Irish words for "horse." The different forms of Eochaidh and Eochadha, and many surnames with origins closer to the origins of McGough, are discussed in my page: Origin of the Surname McGough. This page collects additional material on Irish words for "horse," and names derived therefrom.
Table of Contents
Hugh O'Connor of
"But the mention above of the inclusion of cú or
con, eoch or each, bó and collach in personal
names brings me to another trend. After the arrival of the Fir Bolg we start to
get names such as Eochaidh, which is one of those names with eoch (horse) in
it. One distinguishing trait of the Celts as shown in the archaeological record
is that they introduced ironworking and horsemanship to
Hugh O'Connor is managing editor of the Pipe Smoker's Digest where he has published another essay that strikes the same theme:
"It is not surprising, therefore, that there are so many names with `horse’ in them - Eochaidh is one of the earliest recorded, and it literally means horseman. It is pronounced yok-ey - guess where jockey comes from? Muireach is a sailor, literally, a steed of the sea. After the Milesian incursion, a battle is recorded against Eocha Echcheann, king of the Fomorians - literally, Horsehead the Jock! This Milesian invasion brought with it significantly different names as recorded in the Annals, names which do not seem to have Celtic derivations. These people are stated to be Spanish, and their king Milesius to be married to the daughter of Pharaoh. As Celts, they should have been speaking the same language and have the same sort of names; indeed, their art and artifacts remain the same in the archaeological record. If, as I argue elsewhere, these Milesians were Goideals who had lived for some generations in Miletus, an Ionian trading city on the coast of Asia Minor, where they adopted some of the culture and arts of this post-Minoan world, the connection with the daughter of the Pharoh becomes at least geographically reasonable, and the quite different personal names also. In time, their names become more Celtic. For example Raitheachtaigh - one of the many guys who kills the king to get the job, only to find his own career and retirement plans curtailed by just such youthful ambition in another - translates either as horse racer or as knight of the rath (fort)." Irish and Celtic Names Explained.
"From the ancient legends of the dark ages many Irish and Scottish kings are called Eochaid and, like the name of the Epidii, it is a name which is connected to the word 'horse'. It derives probably from a phrase which means a 'descendant of the horse' ie Eoch-aidh - In Scottish gaelic the word Eachdraidh means history, this may also derive from Each [a form of Eoch] tro (a)idh - since each means horse and tro through then the aidh (or idh) may mean some form of genealogical connection eg a reference to origins. When applied to an individual Eochaid probably indicates that the subject was from the family of the 'Horse'—in genealogical terms, a descendant of the horse. Therefore the ceremony that Giraldus witnessed was probably symbolic of a King's 'rebirth' from the horse, representing the right of the king to rule as a descendant of the Horse Goddess. Other names of early kings also include Eochy ('horse') and Eachdach ('of the people of the horse') which would confirm that the ancient Celtic kings would have to have been viewed as descendants of the horse goddess, in order to be given their rule. This reference to the horse must surely indicate that the tribe of the Epidi (the 'family of the horse 'perhaps) mentioned by Ptolemy is indeed the first evidence that Irish/Scots settlement can be dated to a period before the end of the 2nd century AD."
Saint Eachaidh. Peadar
Livingstone says that a Saint Eachaidh had a church in the townland of Drumard
near Clones in
"He is remembered in the name of
Achaius is a Latin form of Eochaidh. Celtic Male Names of Scotland translates Achaius as "friend of horses." The same dictionary translates the surname Ahearn (Aherin, Hearn) as "lord of the horses."
The Irish female first name Eachna
(AK-na) is from the Old Irish ech—"horse." "Early legend
anglicized as Echtigern and meaning "lord of the horses," is said to
be the origin of the surname O'Hearn and Ahern.
- only Irish name spelled with the first letter of the alphabet. Originally Ó
hEachtighearna, meaning 'lord of the horse.' Also, Aheron, and changed in the
18th C. by emigrants to
"G. Eachann, MG. Eachuinn, Eachduinn, gen. (1467 MS.). The Irish is Eachdonn (year 1092), from prehistoric Eqo-donno-s, 'horse lord' like Eachthighearna (Maceachern), with different termination. The phonetics are against Macvurich's spelling Eachdhuin which is for Each-duine, 'horse-man,' as explanation (Macbain). Achyne mac Nele attested the bounds of the Grange of Kirewynni and the lands of Culwen, 1289 (Holm Cultram, p. 88), and Aychyn Carlichsoun witnessed an obligation by Alexander of the Isles, 1439 (Cawdor, p. 16). Echdoun Mac Gille eoin is witness to a contract and mutual bond in 1560 (HP., IV, p. 216). Eachann is generally Englished 'Hector' although there is no connection between the names beyond a slight similarity in sound in the first syllable of each. Echine c. 1695." Septs of Clan MacLean: MacEachan/ Clanachan.
Echluath is listed in Irish Names by Kate Monk (now removed from the internet) as an old Irish byname meaning "fast-horse." (In her surname section, under Mc she lists McGeogh and McGeough, but not McGough. Under G, she lists Gough, Goffe, Goff, and McGough, and says they all stem from O'Cuaghain.)
The name of Eremon (Irish Kings #1), the first
Milesian king of
Ghearrain means the month of the horse.
or Kaighin, a Manx name, "contracted from Mac Eachain, 'Eachan's son.' The
name Eachan means horseman or 'knight.' 'Don of Eachan.' The surname Kaighan
may possibly be the same name originally, as Keigeen, as a contraction
of Mac Taidhgin or Mac Aedhagain (see Keigeen), or even from Mac Cahain (see
Cain). It is remarkable that Kaighan is confined to the north of the
"Malachi comes from maol eachai, the bald horseman. My mother was born Fox, which was Englished from Sionnach, and is believed to originate only as late as in the 12th century; but the family name could actually come from earlier Celtic days - as Seaneach, meaning old horse . . . " Swim-Two-Birds Essay—Irish and Celtic Names Explained.
Margh (Mahr) is the Cornish word for "horse", and the name of the King of Cornwall in the tale of Tristan and Isolde.
Markam is an anglicized form of the Irish O'Marcachain, meaning a rider or horseman.
Marrek (Mahr-ek) is the Cornish word for "horseman."
Philip came into Irish as Pilib or Filib, but in some places (in
"Strachan (Scots): habitation name from a place
in the parish of Banchory, near Kincardine, which is first recorded in 1153 in
the form Strateyhan, and perhaps gets its name from Gael. srath valley + eachain,
gen. case of eachan for (dim. of each horse; cf. Keogh). Vars: Strahan;
Straughan (Northumb.); Strain (
"Strawn is a variation of the Scottish place name Strachan, derived from the place so-named in the parish of Banchory, near Kincardine, which was first recorded as Strateyhan in 1153. It is comprised of the Gaelic elements srath=valley + each=foal, where 'each' is a diminutive form of the Gaelic 'eachain'=horse. . . . " Research Notes on the Strawn Surname under the heading "Origins of the Strawn Surname."
A Rite of Bealtainne, created by Ian Corrigan, includes an offering to "Eochaid the Stallion" as a "king under the hill" of the Sidhe clans, the underground people.
Edward MacLysaght has this to say about the surname McGovern:
"The MacGoverns are better known in history as
Magauran. Both forms are phonetic approximations of the Irish Mag Shamhradhain,
since MH is pronounced V in some places and W in others. The G of Govern thus
comes from the last letter of the prefix Mag, which is used before vowels and
aspirates instead of the usual Mac. The eponymous ancestor was Samhradhan, who
lived circa 1100 at the time surnames came into being. This man was descended
from Eocgadh (fl. eighth century) whence the territory of the MacGoverns or
Magaurans was called Teallach Eochaidh - now Tullyhaw - in north-west Cavan.
There is a village called Ballymagauran in that area. The leading families of
the sept were allied by marriage to the Maguires, O'Rourkes and other powerful
families of that part of
The Mag Samhradains, Magaurans or McGoverns are said by the authorities to be descended from the stock of Eochaidh Muighmheadoin, Irish Kings #124; namely from Brian, the oldest of Eochaid's five sons. See The Adventures of the Sons of Eochaid in The McGoverns by James E. McGovern, page 77, on Clan McGovern Network.
Go to Eolas NA hEireann, click on Irish Names, and look for McGovern under M to find this family history:
"MacGovern is the
phonetic anglicisation of Mag Shamhradhain, from a diminutive of samhradh,
'summer'. The name is closely linked with the original homeland where it first
arose; in the traditional genealogies, Shamhradhan, the eleventh-century
individual from whom the surname comes, was himself descended from Eochaidh,
one of the O'Rourkes, who lived in the eighth century. His name was given to
the area of Co Cavan where the MacGoverns held sway, the barony of Tullyhaw
(Teallach Eochaidh), in the northwest of the County. The particular centres of
their power were Bawnaboy, Lissanover, and Ballymagauran. This last includes an
earlier anglicisation of Mag Shamhradhain, 'Magauran' or 'MacGowran', now much
less common than MacGovern. From Cavan, the name has now spread throughout
Book of Magauran, in 14th century
vellum, is mainly a collection of poems by different authors addressed to the
rulers of the Sept Mac Samhradhan (McGovern), and is the earliest example of
such Irish family books now in existence. See pages 20 to 22 of The McGoverns by James E.
McGovern on Clan McGovern
Network. Aedan Mac Gabhran, who ruled the Dal Riada in
In The Monaghan Story, Peadar Livingstone says at page 26 and 27:
"St. Eachaidh's church was in
the townland of Drumard, near Clones. He is remembered in the name of
The Surnames of Scotland: Their Origin, Meaning, and History, by George F. Black, Ph.D., tells us:
"Eachan. G. Eachann, MG. Eachuinn, Eachduinn, gen. (1467 MS.). The Irish is Eachdonn (year 1092), from prehistoric Eqo-donno-s, 'horse lord' like Eachthighearna (Maceachern), with different termination. The phonetics are against Macvurich's spelling Eachdhuin which is for Each-duine, 'horse-man,' as explanation (Macbain)." Quoted on The Clan MacLean Genealogy Data Base.
"Much controversy has centred round the origin and meaning of the name "Ifearnan", and at present there are several irreconcilable theories in the matter. The first, the oldest, and that most generally held, is that "Ifearnan" is a later Irish pronunciation and phonetic spelling of the old Gaelic "Eichthighearnan" (pronounced "Eachcheernan") which, in its turn, is "Eichthighearn", with honorific suffix (suffix of endearment) "an" added. Now "Eichthighern" (Eachcheern) is ordinarily anglicised "Ahearn", a name which is still very common in Cork and other parts of Southern Ireland, and if this theory is correct "Heffernan" is simply an honorific form of "Ahearn ", the anglicised form of" Eichthighern ", meaning, literally," horse-lord" ("eich", a horse, "thighearna", lord). . . .
"Furthermore, the name persisted in the west of
"At this stage, one naturally enquires who or what were those chieronaces or Gaelic 'horselords'? Were they professional horse-breeders, horse-tamers, horse-breakers, roughriders; or horse-thieves, whom the ancient Irish, in their grand eloquence, glorified with the name of 'horse-lords'? Or were they Gaelic mounted knights, equites or caballeros? De Blacam has pointed out that names of this character were common in Old Irish, and that the relation of the great Gaelic lords with the 'horse-taming Acheans' of Homer, the fair-haired race of Celtic invaders from the head of the Adriatic: the 'Master-race' of Greece who conquered the Pelagians or old Greeks, as the Gaels did the Danaan, Cruitime and Muscraighe in Ireland, is manifest in the stress that is laid on horse mastership and the like in early Irish names. . . . " The Name "O'Hiffernan".
"The tribal name [McEachain]
is still represented in the ancient
"My guess on MacEachern is a slightly Anglicized version of Mac Eachain, a Scottish Patronymic name from the Gaelic given name Eachan, which means 'each horse.'"
McEachern—"The Scottish surname is of patronymic origin, being one of those names derived from the father. In this case, the name is an anglicized form of the Gaelic name "MacEach-thighearna" denoting a "son of Each-tighearna". The literal meaning of this Gaelic personal name is "horse-lord". The name goes back to Old Irish, where it appears as "Ech-tigern". This custom of naming appears to have commenced in the Middle Ages when it became the practice for the son to take their surnames from the Christian names of their fathers."
The Caffertys web site tells us:
"The name [Cafferty] is of
ancient Irish origin. It stems from the Gaelic MacEachmharcaigh or
MacEacmarcais, each, meaning a steed or horse, and marcach,
meaning a rider. MacCafferty means son of the horse rider. It is a surname of
Co. Donegal and Co.
Before the name of Aghnamullen was
bestowed upon the civil parish in
"The horse. We have several Irish words for a
horse, the most common of which are each and capall. Each
[agh] is found in several families of languages; the old Irish form is ech;
and it is the same word as the Sansc. acva, Gr. hippos (Eol. ikkos),
Lat. equus, and old Saxon ehu. Each is very often found in
the beginning of names, contrary to the usual Irish order, and in this case it
generally takes the modern form of augh. At A.D. 598, the Four Masters
mention Aughris Head in the north of Sligo, west of Sligo Bay, as the scene of
a battle, and they call it Each-ros, the ros or peninsula of
horses; there is another place of the same name, west of Ballymote, same
County; and a little promontory north-west from Clifden in Galway is called
Aughrus, which is the same name. Aughinish and Aughnish are the names of
several places in different parts of the country, and are anglicized from Each-inis
(Four Mast.), horse island. They must have been so called because they were
favourite horse pastures, like 'The Squince,' and
"In the end of names it commonly forms the postfix -agh; as in Russagh in Westmeath, which the Four Masters write Ros-each, the wood of horses; Bellananagh in Cavan, Bel-atha-na-neach, the ford-mouth of the horses; Cloonagh and Clonagh, horse meadow. Sometime it is the genitive singular, as in Kinneigh near Iniskeen in Cork, ceann-ech (Four Mast.), the head or hill of the horse; the same name as Kineigh in Kerry, Kineagh near Kilcullen in Kildare, and Kinnea in Cavan and Donegal.
Some Irish place names are based on another Gaelic work for horse, capall. For example, the origin of the name of Drummanagapple, a townland in Fermanagh, is "Dromainn na gCapall," or "little ridge of the horses." Place Names in the Exhibition from County Fermanagh on the web site of the Ulster Place-Names Society. I have made no effort to collect place names based on capall, but for a few more examples, see the section below on Other Gaelic Words for Horse.
Between 1150 and 1200, a group of Mhigh Eothachs or Mag
Eochys (McGoughs/McGeoughs) moved from the territory of the Mughdhorna area
in what is now
"This townland [Aughrim] derives from Irish Eachdhroin, a compound of each 'horse' and droim 'ridge', with reference to the topographical feature now know as Aughrim Hill. It may be translated 'horse-shaped ridge' or, as seems more likely, 'ridge of the horses'. The -dh- is omitted in modern Irish orthography and it is now silent." (page 20).
The same book, at page 104, interprets the townland name of
Ardaghy as Ard Eachadha, "Eochaid's height." The alternative,
Ard Achaidh "height of the field" was considered and rejected.
Ardaghy is in the parish of Kilcoo,
The origin of the name of Duneight, a townland in
The origin of the name of Donaghanie, a townland in
The territory of the Ui Echdach of the Airthir in
The Tynan river flows along the easter edge of Tynan
Abbey (H759 423 on sheet 28B of the 000 map
of the Discovery Series of the Ordnance Survey
"West of Drumconwell an extensive area went by the name of Toaghy, possibly from Tuath Echdach (Glancy 1954, 98). The Ui Echdach were a ruling sept of Airthir (and after the 11th century a tribe in their own right).
A larger quotation from this article will be found on my
page Colla da Chrioch, First
King of Oriel. The excerpt of the article on the web contains a map showing
the relative positions of Drumconwell, Armagh, and Navan. The Drumconwell Ogham
Stone stood in the town-land of Drumconwell, 3 miles south of
In Territories People, and Place Names in County Armagh, which is chapter 10 of Armagh: History & Society, edited by A. J. Hughes and William Nolan (Geography Publications, 2001), Kay Muhr, at pages 209 and 210, gives this background on the geographical name Tuaghy:
"The family of Breasal's brother, Eochaid or Eochu was the Armagh family of Ui Ech[d]ach, one branch of whom produced the Clann Sinaigh, 'Sinach's children', hereditary abbots of Armagh in the eleventh and early twelfth centuries. The family of Ui Eachach are mentioned in the last Ulster Cycle story called the 'Battle of Aenach Macha'. More importantly, the now obsolete district name Tuaghy, Tuath Eachach 'Eochu's people', for what was mainly the archbishop's territory south of Armagh, seems to have been derived from this Eochu of Airthir. [A footnote cites map 30 of Armagh in the 1609 Barony maps of the Escheated Counties of Ulster (alias The Irish Historical Atlas of Bodley Survey) published by Henry James, OS southampton 1860, and refers to an entry in Annals of Ulster for 933 A.D. to Conmal Ri Tuath Achaidh.*]
"In the 'Battle of Aenach Macha' the river Blackwater is called Sruth Sein-Echach 'Old Eochu's stream'. Of course the river flows into Ulster's inland sea, Lough Neagh, which was Loch nEchach 'Eochu's lake'. According to the Irish origin-legend, Lough Neagh was named from an Eochu who was an ancient king of all Ulster, and who forgot to send back immediately a magic horse he had borrowed. In return he was drowned by the first eruption of the waters, though he continued to exist beneath the lake. The events recounted are clearly mythological, and significantly the name Eochu contains the word ech 'horse'. However, this does not mean the story is irrelevant to Ui Echach ancestry. The name Eochu was important in several Ulster genealogies, and the status of of the name Eochu can probably be linked with the earlier myths. It was born by the Dagdae, the chief god of the Irish pagan pantheon whose name means 'the good god' (< dag + dia). Horses are significant not only in the origin legend of Lough Neagh, but also in Geraldus Cambrensis' story of the inauguration ritual of an Ulster king. Another Ui Eachach family in Co. Down gave rise to the barony name Iveagh, from the dative Uibh Eachach."
"U933.1. Fergal son of Domnall son of Aed and Sicfrith son of Uathmarán, i.e. the son of Domnall's daughter, inflicted a rout on Muirchertach son of Niall and on Conaing in Mag Uatha, where fell Maelgarb, king of Derlas, and Conmal, king of Tuath Achaidh, and two hundred others."
Lough Neagh in county Antrim, the largest lake in Ireland, derives its name from Loch nEathac, "Eochaid's Lake," as described in the preceding section. Eochaid (Eochaidh) was a legendary king of Munster who was said to have drowned in the lough when it suddenly flooded in the 1st century AD. A Dictionary of Irish Place Names by Adrian Room (rev. ed. 1994), page 96. The Meaning of Ulster Place Names published in Martin Sloan's Aspects of Ulster says that Lough Neagh = Loch nEathach = Eochaid's lake. Place Names in Tochmarc Etaine (The Wooing of Etain) compiled by R. T. Gault refers to "Loch n-Echach, now Lake Neagh," citing (in note 18) Joyce, Irish Names of Places, p. 176–77. The lake is referred to in the Annals of the Four Master (M895.8, M943.7) as Loch Eathach.
"Neagh, Lough, Ulster.
Name on Map: Loch nEchach. Source: Book of Leinster. Modern Irish Name: Loch
nEathach. Type: Lough. Meaning: "loch 'lake' of Eochaid". In legend
he was a king of
"In the year 90 a sacred spring which had been sacrilegiously neglected overflowed its bounds and formed the great water of Lough Neagh. Eochaid and all his family were overwhelmed and drowned, except his two sons, Conang and Curman, and his daughter Liban." Encyclopedia of the Celts under Liban.
In MacLysaght's commentary on the name MacKeogh, he mentions the place names Ballymackeogh in county Tipperary and Keoghville in the parish of Taghmaconnell in county Roscommon. See MacEochadha also Became McKeogh.
"Strachan (Scots): habitation name from a place in the parish of Banchory, near Kincardine, which is first recorded in 1153 in the form Strateyhan, and perhaps gets its name from Gael. srath valley + eachain, gen. case of eachan for (dim. of each horse; cf. Keogh). Vars: Strahan; Straughan (Northumb.); Strain (N Ireland) . . .
Eachleim (Aghleam) on the
"EACHLÉIM (AGHLEAM) From the gaelic Each (horse) and Léim (jump), folklore has it that a horse leapt from the western end of the townland to the east, and the land between was thus named. Ten miles south west of Belmullet, close to the unspoilt beaches of Mullagh Rua and Elly, this vibrant Gaeltacht area is steeped in tradition and culture."
The names of the civil parish of Aghnamullen, and the Catholic parishes of Aughnamullen East and West in county Monaghan, are generally said to come from Achadh na Muileann, and mean "field of the mills." For example, in an article on Parish Names and Boundaries that was published in Landscapes of South Ulster—A Parish Atlas of the Diocese of Clogher by Patrick J. Duffy, Joseph Duffy, Bishop of Clogher, says:
"Aughnamullen (Achadh na Muillean) as a parish appears for the first time in 1530. The division into east and west took place toward the end of the 18th century and the dividing line was the old coach road between Carrickmacross and Clones." (page 4).
Evelyn P. Shirley, at page 346 of his The History of County Monaghan, says that Aghnamullen was anciently written as Aghywollen and Achnemollend. Could the Aghy in Aghywollen be a form of the Gaelic word for horse, or of the name Eachaidh? A Gaelic Dictionary is no help with wollen. The letter W, and the letters J, K, Q, V, X, Y,and Z, are not found in Gaelic. Aghywollen may have been Aghymollen. Could this by Aghymullan, the small hills or high ground of the horses? In the 1659 census of county Monaghan, which is appendix III of Shirley's book, the name of the parish is spelled Aghanamullan. (page 557–8). In the List of Popish Recusants Convicted at the General Sessions Held in Monaghan in 1657, which is appendix II to Shirley's book (page 550), the name is spelled Aghemullen. If we pick and choose from these permutations, we can get Augh-na-mullan—the hillocks of the horses.
Shirley, in his History of County Monaghan, says that Aghnamullen comes from ath na muillean, which he translates as ford of the mills. (Page 488). Shirley had a propensity for translating Agh as Ath, a ford. For example, the townland of Aghnamallah is on the northern boundary of the parish of Kilmore and Drumsnat, about 6 kilometers west by northwest of the town of Monaghan, on highway N54. Evelyn P. Shirley, at page 647 of his History of County Monaghan, published a table (page 467) that places the townland of Aghnamullah in the parish of Drumsnat and gives the townland the Irish name of ath na mallac, which is translated as "Ford of the Curses." (The Gaelic word for a curse is mallachd according to MacBain's Gaelic Dictionary. The northern form is mollachd.)
Could the origin of Aghymollen, the corrected version of the ancient spelling Aghywollen, be something other than achadh na muilean, something closer to the ancient spelling given by the Gaelic dictionary, like eachros mullean, then aughy mullean, where mullan is the Gaelic word for a small hill or summit? MacFarlane's Dictionary - Section 9 defines: "mullach nm. g.v. -aich; pl. -aichean, top, summit, upper end." Multiple summits would be mullaichean. The Gaelic Dictionary—Faclair tells us that mullach, -aich, -ean means the top or summit. The plural form is given as mullean. Could Aghymollen, mean something like high ground of the horses?
The name Eochaidh is sometimes written as Aghy or Ahagh. For example, the Annals of the Four Masters, M547.2, report that the King of Ulidia, Eochaidh, son of Connla, son of Caelbhadh, son of Crunn Badhrai, died. John O'Donovan notes that the Annals of Ulster more correctly place this death in 552. and quotes the Annals of Clonmacnois: "A.D. 550. Ahagh Mac Conlay, King of Ulster, of whom Ivehagh is called." Eochaidh becomes Ahagh. A grant of land to Aghy MacMahon is treated as a grant of land to Eochaidh MacMahon by Peadar Livingstone, but as a grant of land to Ardgal MacMahon by Evelyn Phillips Shirley. See Which Eochaidh—A MacMahon Connection under Origins of the Surname McGough. The names Aghy and Achaius are forms of Eochaidh according to the web site Irish/Irish Gaelic Male Names. One web site interprets Aghy as "friend of horses."
Agh or Augh are
forms of each, a Gaelic word for horse. In Irish place names, the
Gaelic each (horse) has often become augh. A look at the
"Index Locurum" to O'Donovan's annotated version of the Annals of the
Four Masters gives some examples: Eachros, the "Headland or
Promontory of the Horses," now Aughris, a townland in the north of the
parish of Templeboy, barony of Tireragh, county of Sligo. (O'Donovan's note to
year 598). Eachdhruim is now Aughrim, a village in county Galway.
(O'Donovan's note to year 737.) Eacharadh-Lobrain became Augher in the
barony of Deece, barony of Meath. (O'Donovan's note to year 1163.) The place
name Aughrim in
The townland of Ballyaghagan in
Acadh (Old Gaelic achad, Old Irish ached) means "field" and muileann (Old Irish mulenn) means "a mill. " (Muillean means "a truss (of hay or straw)".) Achadh na Muillean can reasonably be translated as "field of the mills." But could the origin of the Aughnamullen actually be something like Augh na Mulla/en, where Augh means "horse" and Mulla/en means "small hills" or "hillocks"? Aughnamullen would then mean something like "drumlins of the horses." A drumlin, of course, is a small rounded hill. Almost all articles on county Monaghan discuss the numerous "little hills" or "drumlins." Evelyn Philip Shirley dedicates his monumental work, The History of County Monaghan: "To the noble and gentle men of Monaghan, . . the country of the little hills."
"The whole landscape is dominated by drumlins, long oval mounds that give the lowland corridor a highly complicated drainage pattern." Encyclopaedia Britannica Article on Monaghan.
"The County's [Monaghan's] countryside is covered with small hills called drumlins, which are piles of rock and soil that were carried along and then dropped by glaciers in the Ice Age."
"[Monaghan's] rolling hilly landscape and myriad of lakes indicate that it is part of the drumlin belt in Ireland, a swath of small steep-sided hills that were formed during the Ice Age (1,700,000 - 13,000 years ago). The Irish Ice Age was not a period of continuous ice; there were numerous periods of warming up and cooling down. At times, general ice sheets covered most of the land, and these depressed the land underneath with their weight. Glaciers deposited unsorted debris - boulder clay. Breaks in the ice allowed this material to gather, and it was subsequently moulded into ovoid masses - drumlins - in the direction of the ice flow. These drumlins give rise today to the 'basket of eggs' terrain so evident in Monaghan today. Bones of woolly mammoth, giant Irish deer, spotted hyena, Norwegian lemming, red deer, reindeer, brown bear, arctic fox, mountain hare dating back to the the Drumlin Phase of the Ice Age (34,000 - 26,000 years ago) have been found, suggesting that the country experienced a continental climate at the time." Local Ireland on Monaghan.
There is a townland of Mullagh-Monaghan on the west side of the town of Monaghan that Shirley's table translates as "summit of the little hills." The townland to the west of that, Mullaghadun, is translated as "hill of the fort." In the parish of Ballybay is the townland of Mullan that Shirley's table (under Tullycorbet on page 486) translates as "a little hill." At the Ford of the Birches—The History of Ballybay, it's People and Vicinity, by James H. and Peadar Murnane, shows that the official name in Irish in Liostai Logainmneacha Muineachan, prepared by the Placenames Branch, is An Mullan, which means "the little summit" or a hillock. (Page 26).
A listing of the Origins of Irish Place Names, formerly on the web, lists the only meaning of agh as "field." The same dictionary defines mullagh as a "summit" and mullen as a "hill." Ath is a "ford."
"The horse was highly important in the Celtic world
and was frequently an attribute of deities such as the Celtic, Welsh and Irish
war gods, and especially of the Gaulish Epona, the Divine Horse, introduced
From Epona, the horse goddess,
came the tribal name of the Epidii in Ireland and Scotland. In Ireland, the
horse goddess was also known as Macha. In 297 A.D., Ptolemy identified
the Epidii (horse people) in western
"Epona. Depictions of mounted women or charioteers are
found on Iron Age coins and may also represent horse-related Goddesses, in
addition, representation of women and horses as linked continues in the
vernacular traditions in the stories of Rhiannon and Macha. Epona, whose name
is derived from the Celtic word for horse, is the Goddess of horses and horse
breeding. As mares were often used as working animals on farms, some writers
have speculated that Epona has aspects of fertility of the land and the
domestic cult. Her worship became very widespread -- there are over 300
representations and inscriptions found bearing her name. She was adopted by
cavalry soldiers throughout the Roman world, perhaps because she was a deity
who offered protection both for the soldier and the horse! She was the only
Celtic deity whose festival was celebrated in
"Epona # 628: Queen of Horses and Fruitfulness. Epona in Celtic inscriptions from Gaul, and Rhiannon in Welsh legend. She is the goddess of horses (the name 'Epona' derives from the Celtic word for 'Horse'), and therefore of great power in a horse-based culture such as that of the Celts. In Romano-Celtic images she is associated with corn, fruits and serpents, and as Mare-Goddess she would have been concerned with forces of fertility and nourishment." Encyclopaedia of the Celts.
"The goddess Epona, whose name, meaning 'Divine Horse' or 'Horse Goddess,' epitomizes the religious dimension of this relationship, was a pan-Celtic deity, and her cult was adopted by the Roman cavalry and spread throughout much of Europe, even to Rome itself. She has insular analogues in the Welsh Rhiannon and in the Irish Édaín Echraidhe (echraidhe, 'horse riding') and Macha, who outran the fastest steeds." Encyclopaedia Britannica, Celtic religion, Zoomorphic deities.
Epos: "The label q-Celtic stems from the differences between this early Celtic tongue and the latter formed p-Celtic. The differences between the two Celtic branches are simple in theoretical form. Take for example the word ekvos in Indo-European, meaning horse. In q-Celtic this was rendered as equos while in p-Celtic it became epos, the q sound being replaced with a p sound." The Six Celtic Languages.
"There has been some speculation that because Macha is connected to horses, that she is instead a solar deity. To get a grasp of this we must start with an rather pan-Celtic overview. A good source for this is the book The Horse In Celtic Culture, which is edited by Sioned Davies and Nerys Ann Jones. The section titled 'The Symbolic Horse in Pagan Europe'. In this section it tells of two expressions of the horse. The first is feminine and has the horse firmly footed on the ground. This would be typical to Epona, Macha and others. The other expression is what this source refers to as the 'celestial warrior', and who is masculine. Artifacts demonstrating this are found all across Celtic and ex-Celtic lands. Coming back again to Gaelic sources, it was common for the horse to act as icons for deities. (13) The Old Irish word for horse is 'ech', which is also the stem from which we get Eochaidh. Eochaidh is a proper name attached to none other than Daghdha (14). Nor is He alone, because many other deities also have names attached to them showing that their icons were horses. Another example being Lugh himself. Perhaps we can see in ancient Welsh law that the besides their gender, the differences between the horse deities was their colors (15). This may even be intimated by the defining of color in regards to Irish mounts, including the Grey Macha who pulled the chariot of Conchobar." Macha by Clannada na Gadelica Academia Gadelica.
The Horse Goddess by Morgan Llywelyn, a novel of Epona, has received good reviews.
Kings in the pedigree of Niall of the Nine Hostages include Eochy Buadach, Eochy "of the Long Hair (Ardrigh)," Eochy II (Ardrigh), and Eochu Mugmedon (King of Tara). Niall was killed at the river Loire in France by an arrow from the bow of another Eochaidh who had been banished as the King of Leinster and had plans to be the High King of Ireland. The story of Eochy, the king with big ears, is worth repeating:
"'Eochy' of the Long Hair" (Ardrigh). Eochy only had his hair cut once a year, and the man who did it was chosen by lot and killed afterwards. The reason for this was that he had big ears, as long as a horses, and he did not want his deformity known. Once though, the lot fell upon the only son of a poor widow who convinced the King not to kill her son. He had to swear upon the Wind and the Sun that he would tell no person. But the secret was so intense upon the man that he became intensely sick and near death. A wise Druid was called to heal the man and he said 'It is the secret that is killing him, and he will never be well until he reveals it.' So the Druid instructed the man to tell the secret to a Willow tree. The man told the tree the secret and felt as a new man. Later a Harpist named Craftiny broke his old harp and he built a new one out of the Willow tree. At a performance at the kings hall, these words came out of the Harp, 'Two horse's ears hath Eochy of the Long Hair'. And with the secret known no man was ever put to death on account of the Kings misery."
The same story is told of Labra the Mariner, or Labhraidh Loingseach, who is Irish Kings #70 on my web page. He was also known as Maon, son of Ailill. Labra married Moriath and reigned over Ireland for ten years. Chapter IV The Early Milesian Kings from Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race by Thomas Rolleston, published as part of the Celtic Folklore web site.
"Of Labra the Mariner, after his accession, a curious tale is told. He was accustomed, it is said, to have his hair cropped but once a year, and the man to do this was chosen by lot, and was immediately afterwards put to death. The reason of this was that, like King Midas in the similar Greek myth, he had long ears like those of a horse, and he would not have this deformity known. Once it fell, however, that the person chosen to crop his hair was the only son of a poor widow, by whose tears and entreaties the king was prevailed upon to let him live, on condition that he swore by the Wind and Sun to tell no man what he might see. The oath was taken, and the young man returned to his mother. But by-and-by the secret so preyed on his mind that he fell into a sore sickness, and was near to death, when a wise Druid was called in to heal him 'It is the secret that is killing him,' said the Druid, 'and he will never be well till he reveals it. Let him therefore go along the high-road till he come to a place where four roads meet. Let him there turn to the right, and the first tree he shall meet on the road, let him tell his secret to that, and he shall be rid of it, and recover.' So the youth did; and the first tree was a willow. He laid his lips close to the bark, whispered his secret to it, and went home, light-hearted as of old. But it chanced that shortly after this the harper Craftiny broke his harp and needed a new one, and as luck would have it the first suitable tree he came to was the willow that had the king's secret. He cut it down, made his harp from it, and performed that night as usual in the king's hall; when, to the amazement of all, as soon as the harper touched the strings the assembled guests heard them chime the words, 'Two horse's ears hath Labra the Mariner.' The king then, seeing that the secret was out, plucked off his hood and showed himself plainly; nor was any man put to death again on account of this mystery. We have seen that the compelling power of Craftiny's music had formerly cured Labra's dumbness. The sense of something magical in music, as though supernatural powers spoke through it, is of constant recurrence in Irish legend."
"Each Uisge (ech-ooshkya) or Aughisky (agh-iski). This, the Highland Water-Horse, is perhaps the fiercest and most dangerous of all water-horses, although the Cabyll Ushtey runs it close. It differs from the Kelpie in haunting the sea and lochs, while the Kelpie belongs to running water. It seems also to transform itself more readily. Its most usual form is that of a sleek and handsome horse, which almost offers itself to be ridden, but if anyone is so rash as to mount it, he is carried at headlong speed into the lake and devoured." (Encyclopedia of the Celts.)
"Capall, the other word for a horse, is the same as Gr. kaballes, Lat. caballus, and Rus. kobyla. It is pretty common in the end of names in the form of capple, or with the article, -nagappul or -nagapple, as in Gortnagappul in Cork and Kerry, the field of the horses; Pollacappul and Poulacappul, the hole of the horse.
"Larach [lawragh] signifies a mare, and it is found pretty often forming a part of names. Cloonlara, the mare's meadow, is the name of a village in Clare, and half a dozen townlands in Connaught and Munster; Gortnalaragh, the field of the mares." (vol. 1, pages 474–5).
Marcach or marchah is a Gaelic word meaning horseman. John O'Hart, in Irish Pedigrees; or, The Origin and Stem of The Irish Nation (Limited American Edition in Two Volumes—1923), Volume I, page 536, says that the Gaelic name O'Marcaigh means son of a horseman (marcah) and is anglicized as Markey, Horseman, Knight, MacKnight, Rider, Riding, Ryding, etc. The Gramadach Lexicon—Section 2 says that 'marcach' is a noun with simple translation: 'rider'. Gender: The plural is marcaigh, the genitive singular is marcaigh, and the genitive plural, marcach. The Faclair Gàidhlig - Beurla Gaelic - English Dictionary defines marchach as a rider or horseman.
"Markham is an English place name from the so-named place in Nottinghamshire derived from Old English mearc = boundary + hám = homestead. Occasionally, it is derived among the Irish as an Anglicized form of Ó Marcacháin, which means "descendant of Marcach " whose name meant 'knight, horseman.'"
Eachmarcach was used as a name for a horse.
March—(MAHRX) is from the Welsh march, "horse." Name of King Mark in the Welsh version of the Tristan saga, in which he is known as March ap Meirchion (Horse, Son of Horses). The horse was a symbol of kingship in Celtic culture. Mark. See Celtic Male Names of Wales.
In her essay on The Society and Culture of the Celts—Focusing on Ireland, Kathryn L. Pierce says:
"The Celts were a people who originated in central Europe from Indo-European stock and became a distinct people in the Iron Age. They are distinct from their predecessor peoples, archaeologically named the Urnfield cultures, principally in their use of iron, their art style, the role of the horse in their lives, and the social stratification of their society. . . .
"Celtic horses were smaller than todays animals and were raised and trained as draft animals, for riding into battle, and as chariot horses. Chariots were an important part of Celtic warfare, a method which was very effective against the Romans. Warrior and driver were a strong team. The driver would bring the chariot to the point of battle, at which the warrior would leap from the chariot and engage the enemy. The driver would then wheel off to one side, ready to come sweeping in to retrieve the warrior when needed."
In Who Were the "Celts" ?, it is said:
"The use of the horse and the wagon or war chariot, for example, are seen as typical manifestations both of "Celtic" culture and of Indo-Europeanism, evinced by the ubiquity of related vocabulary in the recorded languages . . . "
See also The Sacred Celtic Horse.
A worthwhile site, with no direct discussion of
Sioned Davies and Nerys Ann Jones are editors of The Horse in Celtic Culture: Medieval Welsh Perspectives. Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 1997. [I. Festschriften, Proceedings, and Collected Essays; XIV. Folklore, Mythology, and Popular Culture, Wales]. At pages 43 to 63 is an article by Patricia Kelly: "The Earliest Words for 'Horse' in the Celtic Languages." Patricia Kelly has also published The Word-Field 'horse' in Irish. A Study in the Semantics and Etymology of the Irish Lexicon. Innsbrucker Beiträge zur Sprachwissenschaft, 1984. [VI.A. Irish Language]. See also Fragments of Irish Medieval Treatises on Horses by Brian Ó Cuív, Celtica 17 (1985), 113-122. [VI.B. Irish Literature; XII.A. History, Ireland]. See also: Sayers, William. Conventional Descriptions of the Horse in the Ulster Cycle. Études Celtiques 30 (1994), 233-249. [VI.B. Irish Literature].
For a good Irish equestrian web site, go to Irish-Horses.com.
Kelpies are mythical creatures that originated in Scotland. One of three forms they can take, known as Eochaidh, is part man and part horse.
"Kelpies can be good or evil, evasive or mischievous. Kelpies prefer the company of men to their own kind. One reason being that, unlike other shape shifters a Kelpie may only mate with a human. Kelpies find that they are the defenders of the water and have taken a proactive approach to caring for their domain. unfortunately because of this restriction on mating, and their long period of hiding, the Kelpie have dwindled significantly in numbers, they now number less than 200. . . .
"The Kelpie has only three forms, they are not able to do any partial metamorphisms. . . .
Eochaidh (horseman) : Consists of the torso & arms of a man, and the head & legs of a horse. This is the strongest of the forms, but also the most unnerving. It is almost always black in appearance, standing upright. When in combat, they attack using their great strength, attacking with claw, hoof, and teeth."
More Irish Names
Derived from "Horse"
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