Dublin, The City Of Two Names

Aerial view of the River Liffey to Coast- Failte Ireland
Aerial view of the River Liffey to Coast- Failte Ireland

The Irish name for Dublin is Baile Atha Cliath. Dublin translates to Irish as Dubh linn meaning “black pool”, and yet the official Irish name for Dublin is Baile Atha Cliath, which means “town of the ford hurdles”.
Dublin is the city of two names.

The name Dublin is thought to have originated prior to Viking settlement. Dublin, meaning black pool, relates to a large pool which was part of the course of the historic River Poddle. The black pool once existed at the location on the grounds of Dublin Castle. The River Poddle, served as a moat for the castle after the castles stone reinvention post 1204.
The Poddle River is now culverted under Dublin City and it joins the Liffey through a grating visible at Wellington Quay.

Dublin Castle
Dublin Castle Grounds- Failte Ireland

Some reports suggest that the Vikings may have adopted a variant of the name Dublin and their settlement on the banks of the Liffey was known as Dyflinn.

One theory is that this settlement was at the site of the original confluence of the Liffey and the Poddle.

Many rivers including the Liffey itself at it’s mouth and lower course have undergone significant change from their original free flowing paths, which has led to the layout and design of present day Dublin.

The River Poddle was locally known as the River Sallach, meaning dirty, and is featured in the children’s nursery rhyme Weile Waile, later made famous by Irish folk band the Dubliners.

Baile Atha Cliath, the town of the ford hurdles, came from an important crossing point between both sides of the River Liffey. Before the many bridges of today crossing the Liffey, a ford, a point of crossing at low tide, was deemed to exist across the river. Its exact location is difficult to determine.
Some believe that the crossing point was at the current site of Father Matthew Bridge, and that Ath Cliath was perhaps a native a settlement before the Vikings, but this is not proven.

A view of Dublins Four court from Father Mathew Bridge; Dublin city
A view of Dublins Four court from Father Mathew Bridge; Dublin city

The Liffey’s changed so much since the 9th Century. The lowest point of passage at low tide in the 9th century would not be visible today. This is perhaps owing to the great feats of engineering and reclamation which took place most notably from the 1600’s onwards.

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