áth fordbéal opening, approach, mouth
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The anglicised place-name Ballyforan in Roscommon is first attested in Irish in the Annals of Connacht as ‘i mBeol Atha Feorainne’ (see here; see also) dated at 1236. The standard Irish form Béal Átha Feorainne “approach to the ford of (at) the grassy riverside” (see dil.ie feórann), has been the official Irish form of the name since the passing of a place-names order in 1975. This Béal Átha Feorainne is based on this particular attested Irish form and other historical evidence for the place-name. Many anglicised examples of the name such as ‘Balleforin’ from 1597 could be understood to reflected an initial baile “town(land)”, but in light of the fact that béal is often realised as bally in the anglicisation of Irish place-names, and the fact that this place-name is actually attested in béal, there can be no doubt about an underlying initial béal here. Indeed, Béal is also occasionally clearly refected in historical anglicised forms of the name such as ‘Bealaforen’ (c. 1610), which serve to confirm the Irish precursor. The later Irish form ‘Baile Áth Feórainn’ is also attested, but this is clearly based on a misunderstanding of an initial baile which, as reflected by the evidence, is not the case in the original. Indeed, in the Ordnance Survey Letters from 1837 it is called ‘Ath Fearainn or Beal-Ath-Fearainn’ (see here) which also reflects Béal Átha Feorainne – the loss of the final vowel as seen in ‘Fearainn’ is not uncommon in spoken forms. Indeed, this word, feorainn, originally an Old Irish ā stem (see dil.ie feórann) has a regular genitive singular form feorainne, but it actually also developed an alternative genitive singular feorann in Modern Irish (see teanglann.ie feorainn).
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