‘Brae’ field names


Distribution of Brae field names in the Cooley Peninsula.

The word brae comes from Old Norse and means a steep slope, a hill-side, or river valley. It is chiefly found in Scotland (OED). The name ‘bray’ or ‘brae’ is found in field names in eight townlands in Louth: Ballygoly, Ballymakellet, Bemagh, Corrakit, Grange Irish, Jenkinstown, Knocknagoran and the Liberties of Carlingford. The Bray is found in Corrakit, Grange Irish and the Liberties of Carlingford, which also has a Bray Field. The Big Bray and the Hanging Bray are in Ballygoly and Ballymakellett respectively. In Benagh and Knocknagoran the name is linked to personal names. Examples include McDermott’s Braes, Kate Tom’s Braes and Rice’s Brae in Benagh, and Mulligan’s Brae in Knocknagoran.

Steep riverbank slopes in Benagh.

Steep riverbank slopes in Benagh.



2 thoughts on “‘Brae’ field names

  1. Is ‘brae’ the same word (in Scots dialect) as ‘brow’ in English? The Irish equivalent is ‘mala’ (plural ‘malaí’), sometimes anglicised as ‘mollies’. It translates as ‘brows’. A great many Irish placenames (and rather fewer English language ones) contain words which compare them to parts of the body (human or animal).

    • Interesting point Brendan! I’m not sure whether brae is used to refer to the human body. A quick perusal of the dictionary of the Scots language tells me that it’s not [http://www.dsl.ac.uk/entry/snd/brae_n1]. It does sounds very similar, so perhaps is cognate? I agree on the comparisons to the body in placenames. The body is used in a lot of vernacular classification schemes (cross culturally). We’re celebrating 1916 this year because we have 10 fingers! There are a few body-names in English too. Bottoms springs to mind. I climbed Carrauntoohil at the weekend and it has a rock outcrop called the Hag’s Tooth. One of the meanings of the mountain itself is Géarán Tuathail, Tuathail’s fang. You can see the body in vernacular directions too, like the foot of the lane or the head of the lane etc.

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