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Baile Heil Beag
genitive: Bhaile Heil Beag
Ballyell Little
baile townland, town, homestead
(also: big)
Explanatory note
  • English

    (the) town(land) of —?

    Like many of the anglicised Irish toponyms in South Wexford the Irish precursor to this place-name is not transparent, despite its early attestation.

    O’Donovan’s proposed ‘Baile Oilill’ (18), containing the personal name Ailill, is not unambiguously supported in any of the evidence above. Few other Irish names can readily be reconciled with the evidence. The rare name OIr. Al, gen. sg. Ail, is found in the Airghialla genealogies (CGH p.507), but the consistent spelling of the ending in -ell rather than -all must weigh against this suggestion. The Old Irish common noun ell “troop, flock” (see DIL ell) is another possible choice, but that word is not well attested (cf. KNOCKNELL (#54027), par. Killinick).

    It is also unlikely that the final element reflects the Anglo-Norman surname Helle (see Colfer, 2002 p.261), as there are so few certain examples of gaelicised Anglo-Norman surnames in South Wexford place-names (see Introduction).

    Given this uncertainty, it is necessary to suggest a phonetic approximation. Baile Heil reflects the -h- found in early examples of the name and the short vowel of the final syllable in the local pronunciation.

    Note that some of the evidence above shows that Ballyell was once subdivided according to the names of the landholders, i.e., Codd’s, Sinnott’s and Pierse’s Ballyell.

    [It has recently been suggested that the final element of this place-name may be from Old Norse hella ‘meaning rocky farm on a hillside’ ([details to be entered]). As ON hella was not borrowed into the Irish lexicon (see Dictionary of the Irish Language), this would necessitate the assumption that an Old Norse simplex place-name *Hella existed here, to which the Irish generic element baile was later added. There is no evidence for such a development. Also problematic is the suggested meaning of ‘rocky farm on a hillside’ (from ON hella “flagstone, flat stone”), which does not appear to suit the topography or the land quality of the area (see]

    [Excerpt from Logainmneacha na hÉireann IV: Townland Names of County Wexford, 2016]

Irish Grid

T 11081 10385

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