Hebrides - Etymology - Inner Hebrides

Inner Hebrides

There are various examples of Inner Hebridean island names that were originally Gaelic but have become completely replaced. For example Adomnán records Sainea, Elena, Ommon and Oideacha in the Inner Hebrides, which names must have passed out of usage in the Norse era and whose locations are not clear. One of the complexities is that an island may have had a Celtic name, that was replaced by a similar sounding Norse name, but then reverted to an essentially Gaelic name with a Norse "øy" or "ey" ending. See for example Rona below.

Island Derivation Language Meaning Munro (1549) Modern Gaelic name Alternative Derivations
Canna Cana Gaelic porpoise island Kannay Eilean Chanaigh Possibly from Old Irish cana, meaning "wolf-whelp" or Norse kneøy - "knee island"
Coll Colosus Pre-Celtic Colla Possibly from Gaelic coll - a hazel
Colonsay Pre-Celtic Colnansay Colbhasa Norse for "Columba's island"
Danna Norse Unknown Danna
Easdale Eisdcalfe Eilean Eisdeal Eas is "waterfall" in Gaelic and dale is the Norse for "valley". However the combination seems inappropriate for this small island. Also known as Ellenabeich - "island of the birches"
Eigg Eag Gaelic a notch Egga Eige Also called Eilean Nimban More - "island of the powerful women" until the 16th century.
Eilean Bàn Gaelic white isle Naban Eilean Bàn
Eilean Donan Gaelic island of Donnán Eilean Donnáin
Eilean Shona Norse sea island Eilean Seòna Adomnán records the pre-Norse Gaelic name of Airthrago - the foreshore isle".
Eriska Norse Erik's island Uruisg !Ùruisg
Erraid Possibly Arthràigh Gaelic foreshore island Erray Eilean Earraid
Gigha Guðey Norse "good island" or "God island" Gigay Giogha Various including the Norse Gjáey - "island of the geo" or "cleft", or "Gydha's isle".
Gometra Goðrmaðrey Norse "The good-man's island", or "God-man's island" Gòmastra "Godmund's island".
Isle of Ewe Eubh Gaelic echo Ellan Ew Eilean Iùbh Old Irish: eo - "yew"
Iona Gaelic Possibly "yew-place" Colmkill I Chaluim Chille !Ì Chaluim Chille Numerous. Adomnán uses Ioua insula which became "Iona" through misreading.
Islay Pre-Celtic Ila Ile !Ìle Various - see above
Jura Dyrøy Norse deer island Duray Diùra Norse: Jurøy - udder island
Kerrera Kjarbarøy Norse Kjarbar's island Cearrara Norse: ciarrøy' '- "brushwood island" or "copse island"
Lismore Gaelic big garden Lismoir Lios Mòr
Luing Gaelic ship island Lunge An t-Eilean Luinn Norse: lyng - heather island or pre-Celtic
Lunga Langrøy Norse longship isle Lungay Lunga Gaelic long is also "ship"
Muck Eilean nam Muc Gaelic isle of pigs Swynes Ile Eilean nam Muc Eilean nam Muc-mhara- "whale island". John of Fordun recorded it as Helantmok - "isle of swine".
Mull Malaios Pre-Celtic Mull Muile Recorded by Ptolemy as Malaios possibly meaning "lofty isle". In Norse times it became Mýl.
Oronsay Norse ebb island Ornansay Orasaigh Norse: "Oran's island"
Raasay Raasøy Norse roe deer island Raarsay Ratharsair Rossøy - "horse island"
Rona Hraunøy or Rònøy Norse or Gaelic/Norse "rough island" or "seal island" Ronay Rònaigh
Rùm Pre-Celtic Ronin Rùm Various including Norse rõm-øy for "wide island" or Gaelic ì-dhruim - "isle of the ridge"
Sanday sandøy Norse sandy island Sandaigh
Scalpay Skalprøy Norse scallop island Scalpay Sgalpaigh Norse: "ship island"
Seil Possibly Sal Probably pre-Celtic "stream" Seill Saoil Gaelic: sealg - "hunting island"
Shuna Unknown Norse Possibly "sea island" Seunay Siuna Gaelic sidhean - "fairy"
Skye Scitis Pre-Celtic? Possibly "winged isle" Skye An t-Eilean Sgitheanach Numerous - see above
Soay So-øy Norse sheep island Soa Urettil Sòdhaigh
Tanera Mòr Hawnarøy Norse island of the haven Hawrarymoir(?) Tannara Mòr Brythonic: Thanaros, the thunder god
Tiree Eth, Ethica Possibly pre-Celtic Unknown Tioridh Norse: Tirvist of unknown meaning and numerous Gaelic versions, some with a possible meaning of "land of corn"
Ulva Ulvøy Norse wolf island Ulbha Ulfr's island

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