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Baile Dreáin
genitive: Bhaile Dhreáin
(Irish)
Ballydrane
(English)
Glossary
baile townland, town, homestead
Explanatory note
  • English

    The origin of the specific element of this place-name is unclear. According to MacLysaght (MIF p.19) the surname Ó Dreáin (see 11) was connected with Roscommon and later Ulster, but it does not appear to have had any connection with Wexford. It is probable, therefore, that the qualifying element is a common noun such as doireán “little oak-grove” rather than a proper name.

    In this regard it is interesting to note the development of the toponym DRANAGH (#52508) (par. Kilcormick), whose earliest attestations as ‘Dorranah’ and ‘Daranighe’ indicate derivation from Doireánach, developing further in anglicisation to Dranagh. Compare also the word corrán, which was often anglicised as crane, craan, etc. (see CARRANROE (#52374), par. Monart). These examples suggest that Ballydrane might derive from Baile Doireáin “the town(land) of (the) (oak-)grove”. However, in the absence of any direct evidence indicating that the final element -drane was originally disyllabic, it is necessary to propose Baile Dreáin as the Irish form of the name here. This is a phonetic approximation which also recognises the palatal (slender) dr- implied in ‘Ballydrene’ (8).

    [An attractive suggestion has recently been made (see [details to be added]) that the final element may be from Irish dreann (< OIr. drenn), and furthermore that this Irish word is ‘probably’ derived from the Old Norse word drengr, as found in the English place-name Drointon (Staffordshire) (the standard explanation of which is ‘drengr (Old Norse) A man, a servant [and] tūn (Old English) An enclosure; a farmstead; a village; an estate’: see http://kepn.nottingham.ac.uk/map/place/Staffordshire/Drointon).

    [In the first place the identification of the second element as Ir. dreann is far from certain from the historical forms, the earliest of which in -ane and -aune are better reconciled with an Irish precusor with a long -a- /ɑː/ in the final syllable. (Compare the name Seán in a long -a- /ɑː/, commonly transcribed as Shane in earlier anglicised forms.). The Old Norse origins claimed for dreann are more problematic. OIr. drenn is explained in the 9th century Sanas Cormaic (‘Cormac's Glossary’) as ‘drend .i. debaidh’ (“quarrel, strife”) and the many examples of the noun from early Irish literature given in the Dictionary of the Irish Language support this usage, i.e., “quarrel, combat, encounter, onslaught”; there are also examples of its use as an adjective variously meaning “rude”, “strong, firm”, “bad”, etc. (eDIL s.v. drenn). The noun survived into the later language as dreann “rough encounter, combat, quarrel” (cf. also dreannach “rough, combative, quarrelsome”) (FGB), though it does not appear to have been particularly productive (cf. Corpas na Gaeilge). The place-name evidence for the counties which have been systematically researched to date does not support O’Donovan’s assertion, in a note to the aforementioned entry in Cormac’s Glossary, that ‘Drenn ‘rough’ frequently enters into topographical names’ (Cormac's Glossary (ed. Stokes) 54). One historical example, in the plural, seems to be found amongst a list of place-names in east Ulster and Louth given in ‘The Settling of the Manor of Tara’ in the Yellow Book of Lecan (c.1400) (‘a Drendaib’ .i. “from Drenna (pl.)”, Ériu 4 148). It is also instructive that O’Donovan makes no attempt to derive Ballydrane from dreann in the Ordnance Survey Namebook in 1840.

    [In any case, the reasoning behind the suggestion that the well-attested OIr. drenn, understood in the 9th century to mean “quarrel”, is a loanword from Old Norse drengr “young man” is unclear. De Vendryes does not suggest such a borrowing in Lexique Étymologique de L’Irlandais Ancien (D); Pokorny derives ON drengr (originally “staff, stake” and hence “young man”) from Indo-European *dheregh- but makes no reference to OIr. drenn. It is possible that there is a remote etymological connection between the two words (the same IE root produced the Middle Irish verb dringid “climbs”) but there is no evidence whatsoever to point to a direct borrowing from Old Norse.

    [As the evidence stands, despite its initial promise the proposed alternative derivation from *Baile Dreann does not fit the historical forms. There is nothing to suggest that the Old Irish drenn is itself is a direct loanword from Old Norse.]

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

Irish Grid

T 11047 11841

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