Erin - Encyclopedia

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'ERIN, an ancient name for Ireland. The oldest form of the word is Eriu, of which Erinn is the dative case. Eriu was itself almost certainly a contraction from a still more primitive form Iberiu or Iveriu; for when the name of the island was written in ancient Greek it appeared as Iovcpvia (Ivernia), and in Latin as Iberio, Hiberio or Hibernia, the first syllable of the word Eriu being thus represented in the classical languages by two distinct vowel sounds separated by b or v. Of the Latin variants, Iberio is the form found in the most ancient Irish MSS., such as the Confession of St Patrick, and the same saint's Epistle to Coroticus. Further evidence to the same effect is found in the fact that the ancient Breton and Welsh names for Ireland were Ywerddon or Iverdon. In later Gaelic literature the primitive form Eriu became the dissyllable Eire; hence the Norsemen called the island the land of Eire, i.e. Ireland, the latter word being originally pronounced in three syllables. (See Ireland: Notices of Ireland in Greek and Roman writers.) Nothing is known as to the meaning of the word in any of its forms, and Whitley Stokes's suggestion that it may have been connected with the Sanskrit avara, meaning "western ," is admittedly no more than conjecture. There was, indeed, a native Irish legend, worthless from the standpoint of etymology, to account for the origin of the name. According to this myth there were three kings of the Dedannans reigning in Ireland at the coming of the Milesians, named MacColl, MacKecht and Mac Grena. The wife of the first was Eire, and from her the name of the country was derived. Curiously, Ireland in ancient Erse poetry was often called "Fodla" or "Bauba," and these were the wives of the other two kings in the legend.

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