It’s All in the Name

As some of you may know I’m travelling around the coast of Ireland, North and South, on a trip down memory lane with my husband, Simon who grew up near Belfast.

As we’ve been negotiating the beautiful – no, stunning – landscapes I’ve been struck by some of the wonderful place names they have here. In Southern Ireland, the place name signs are written in Gaelic as well as English, which is even more enchanting. A name gives a sense of what we might expect… or not. For writers, these names can be an important part of the whole story, as places and settings, can be as powerful as characters with their own personality, challenges and romantic notions.

Favourite Famous Fictional Place Names

  • Hogsmeade – features in the Harry Potter tales and is the home to Hogwarts, the school of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
  • Castle Rock – appears in many Stephen King stories, a typical town with dark secrets
  • Middlemarch – the 19th Century fictional town created by George Eliot and features as the title of her novel.
  • Bedrock – a prehistoric city and home to The Flintstones
  • Ambridge – the fictional village which serves as the centre for the long running series ‘The Archers’ on Radio 4
  • Atlantis – a legendary lost continent supposedly sunk in the Atlantic Ocean

Need help with defining some new settings for your story? Here are some Place Name Generators which may do the trick. (Warning! Many of these will generate all kinds of stuff and you could find yourself still playing around hours later…)

Or just take a map for some inspiration. Here are some that I’ve come across on our trip thus far (all Southern as we don’t cross the border for another week…

  • Mohill – the Gaelic is Maothail
  • Knockawaddra – there are a lot of places beginning with Knock, some could be funny, others a little bit more surreal
  • Bunacurry – the Gaelic is Bun an Churraigh, and it used to have a monastery.
  • Inishbofin- a very small island off the coast of County Galway
  • Achill Sound – the Gaelic being Gob an Choire

I’m sure to those familiar with Ireland these names will not be new, but for me having never visited the country (or should I say countries?), or spoken Gaelic before, it will be somewhere I will return for inspiration.

Where do you get your inspiration from for your setting names? Are they based on real places, fictional ones or a mixture of the two?

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