Éire (Irish: [ˈeːɾʲə] ( listen)) is Irish for
"Ireland", the name of an island and a sovereign state. The English
pronunciation is /ˈɛərə/ (AIR-ə).
1.1 Difference between
Éire and Erin
2 As a state name
3 Spelling Eire rather than Éire
4 Other uses
Further information: Ériu, Erin, Hibernia, and Iverni
The modern Irish
Éire evolved from the
Old Irish word Ériu, which
was the name of a Gaelic goddess.
Ériu is generally believed to have
been the matron goddess of Ireland, a goddess of sovereignty, or
simply a goddess of the land. The origin of
Ériu has been traced to
Proto-Celtic reconstruction *Φīwerjon- (nominative singular
Φīwerjū < Pre-
Proto-Celtic -jō). This suggests a descent
from the Proto-Indo-European reconstruction *piHwerjon-, likely
related to the adjectival stem *piHwer- (cf.
Sanskrit pīvan, pīvarī
and pīvara meaning "fat, full, abounding"). This would suggest a
meaning of "abundant land".
Proto-Celtic form became Īweriū or Īveriū in
Proto-Goidelic. It is highly likely that explorers borrowed and
modified this term. During his exploration of northwest Europe (circa
Pytheas of Massilia
Pytheas of Massilia called the island Ierne (written
Ἰέρνη). In his book Geographia (circa 150 AD), Claudius
Ptolemaeus called the island Iouernia (written Ἰουερνία).
Based on these historical accounts, the Roman Empire called the island
The evolution of the word would follow as such:
Proto-Celtic *Φīwerjon- (nominative singular *Φīwerjū)
Proto-Goidelic *Īweriū or *Īveriū
Old Irish Ériu
Modern Irish Éire
A 19th century proposal, which does not follow modern standards of
etymology, derives the name from Scottish Gaelic:
ì (island) + thairr (west) + fónn (land), which together give
ì-iar-fhónn, or "westland isle"
This is similar in meaning to the Norse name for Irish people, "west
men", which subsequently gave its name to the Icelandic island of
Éire and Erin
Éire is simply the name for the island of
Ireland in the Irish
language, and sometimes used in English,
Erin is a common poetic name
for Ireland, as in
Erin go bragh. The distinction between the two is
one of the difference between cases of nouns in Irish.
Éire is the
nominative case, the case that (in the modern Gaelic languages) is
used for nouns that are the subject of a sentence, i.e., the noun that
is doing something as well as the direct object of a sentence. Erin
derives from Éirinn, the Irish dative case of Éire, which has
replaced the nominative case in Déise Irish and some non-standard
sub-dialects elsewhere, in
Scottish Gaelic (where the usual word for
Ireland is Èirinn) and Manx (a form of Gaelic), where the word is
spelled "Nerin," with the initial n- probably representing a
fossilisation of the preposition in/an "in" (cf. Irish in Éirinn,
Scottish an Èirinn/ann an Èirinn "in Ireland"). The genitive case,
Éireann, is used in the Gaelic forms of the titles of companies and
Iarnród Éireann (Irish Rail), Dáil
Éireann (Irish Parliament), Poblacht na hÉireann (The Republic of
Ireland) or Tuaisceart Éireann (Northern Ireland)
As a state name
Éire as the country name on both its postage stamps and
Main article: Names of the Irish state
Article 4 of the Irish constitution adopted in 1937 by the government
Éamon de Valera
Éamon de Valera states that
Éire is the name of the state, or
in the English language, Ireland. The Constitution's
English-language preamble also described the population as "We, the
people of Éire". Despite the fact that Article 8 designated Irish as
the "national" and "first official" language,
Éire has to some extent
passed out of everyday conversation and literature, and the state is
referred to as
Ireland or its equivalent in all other languages. The
name "Éire" has been used on Irish postage stamps since 1922; on
Irish coinage (including Irish euro coins); and together with
"Ireland" on passports and other official state documents issued since
1937. "Éire" is used on the Seal of the President of Ireland.
Initially after independence the United Kingdom insisted on using only
the name "Eire" and refused to accept the name "Ireland". It adopted
Eire (Confirmation of Agreements) Act 1938
Eire (Confirmation of Agreements) Act 1938 putting in law that
position. At the
1948 Summer Olympics
1948 Summer Olympics the organisers insisted that the
Irish team march under the banner "Eire" notwithstanding that every
other team was marching according to what their name was in
English. The UK Government used what some Irish politicians stated
were "sneering titles such as Eirish". The UK Government would
refer to "Eire Ministers" and the "Eireann Army" and generally avoid
all reference to "Ireland" in connection with the state. The Ireland
Act 1949 changed this to "Republic of Ireland". It was not until after
Good Friday Agreement
Good Friday Agreement that the UK government accepted the
preferred name of simply "Ireland", at the same time as Ireland
dropped its territorial claim over Northern Ireland.
Before the 1937 Constitution, "Saorstát Éireann" (the Irish name of
the Irish Free State) was generally used.
During the Emergency (as
World War II
World War II was known), Irish ships had
"EIRE" (and the Irish tricolour) painted large on their sides and
deck, to identify them as neutrals.
Irish Oak torpedoed mid-Atlantic, oil by Kenneth King, showing "EIRE"
prominently. (National Maritime Museum of Ireland)
In 1922–1938 the international plate on Irish cars was "SE". From
1938 to 1962 it was marked "EIR", short for Éire. In 1961 statutory
instrument no. 269 allowed "IRL", and by 1962 "IRL" had been
adopted. Irish politician Bernard Commons TD suggested to the
1950 that the government examine "the tourist identification plate
bearing the letters EIR ... with a view to the adoption of
identification letters more readily associated with this country by
foreigners". "EIR" is also shown in other legislation such as the
car insurance statutory instrument no. 383 of 1952 and no. 82 of
Under the 1947 Convention Irish-registered aircraft have carried a
registration mark starting "EI" for Éire.
From January 2007, the Irish government nameplates at meetings of the
European Union have borne both
Éire and Ireland, following the
adoption of Irish as a working language of the European Union.
Spelling Eire rather than Éire
When Irish-language texts were printed in Gaelic type, diacritics were
retained on upper-case letters as for lower-case letters. From the
later 1940s, in conjunction with other reforms, printing switched to
the same "Roman type" used for most other
Latin alphabet languages.
There was some uncertainty about whether the síneadh fada (acute
accent) should be written on upper-case letters. While it was
preserved in all-Irish texts, it was often omitted when short
fragments of Irish appeared alone or in English texts. Noel Davern
asked in the
Dáil in 1974 why Irish stamps had EIRE rather than
ÉIRE. The reply from the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs was:
The accent has been omitted on most Irish stamps issued over the past
ten years in the interests of artistic balance and in accordance with
a common practice in the printing of Irish in Roman script for display
purposes. This is a prevailing typographical convention and is common
to several European languages, including French.
The spelling Eire is generally deplored by Irish-speakers as worse
than a misspelling, because eire is a separate word, meaning "a
burden, load or encumbrance". The minister in 1974 stated,
"The word on the stamp ... does not mean 'eire' and it is not
understood to mean 'eire' by anybody except Davern." Stamps later
reverted to a
Gaelic type with the accent preserved.
In 1938 the British government provided in the Eire (Confirmation of
Agreements) Act 1938 that British legislation could henceforth refer
Irish Free State
Irish Free State as "Eire" (but not as "Ireland"). The 1938 Act
was repealed in 1981, and in 1996 a British journalist described Eire
as "now an oddity rarely used, an out-of-date reference".
Founded in 1937, the
Eire Society of Boston is an influential
Éire has also been incorporated into the names of Irish commercial
and social entities, such as Eir (formerly Eircom and Telecom
Éireann) and its former mobile phone network, Eircell. In 2006
the Irish electricity network was devolved to EirGrid. The company
"BetEire Flow" (eFlow), named as a pun on "better", is a French
consortium running the electronic tolling system at the West-Link
bridge west of Dublin. According to the Dublin Companies
Registration Office in 2008, over 500 company names incorporate the
Éire in some form.
Sometimes the incorporation is used for humorous or ironic effect,
such as the sub reddit for Irish software developers named
"DevelEire", or Cormac Ó Gráda's "Éirvana" paper in 2007 on the
Celtic Tiger economy.
^ Proto-Celtic—English lexicon
^ Mallory, J.P. and D.Q. Adams, ed. Encyclopedia of Indo-European
Culture. London: Fitzroy Dearborn Pub., 1997, p. 194
^ Forbes, John (1848), The Principles of Gaelic Grammar (2nd ed.),
Edinburgh: Oliver and Boyd, p. 160, The Celtic words ì, inns, an
island, will forma key to the etymology of the names of many insular
and peninsular places in the world; as, Ile, Islay. Jura or Iura,
Jura. Uist, Uist, Inchkeith, isle of Keith. Eireinn, or Eirionn,
ì-iar-fhónn, wetland isle; Ireland.
^ "Constitution of Ireland". Office of the Houses of the Oireachtas.
Retrieved on 14 March 2007
^ Hamilton-Bowen, Roy (2009). Roy Hamilton-Bowen, ed. Hibernian
Handbook and Catalogue of the Postage Stamps of Ireland. Rodgau,
Germany: Rodgau Philatelic Service GmbH.
^ 1948 Olympic team members honoured at Dublin ceremony
Dáil Éireann - Volume 96 - 11 April 1945 -Ceisteanna—Questions
^ SI 269 of 1961:"...the letters EIR are used to indicate the name of
the State but the letters IRL may be substituted therefor."
Dáil Éireann – Volume 119 - 22 March, 1950 –
Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. – Motor Identification
Letters". Historical-debates.oireachtas.ie. 22 March 1950. Retrieved
26 March 2010.
^ "SI 82 of 1958 text". Irishstatutebook.ie. 31 December 1959.
Retrieved 26 March 2010.
^ "SI 383 of 1952". Irishstatutebook.ie. Retrieved 26 March
^ a b c "Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Irish Postage
Dáil debates. 271 (8): 38 cc.1140–1. 28 March 1974.
^ McBain, A. (1982). An Etymological Dictionary of the Gaelic
Language. Edinburgh: Clark Constable. ISBN 0-901771-68-6.
Retrieved 20 August 2011.
^ Wilson, John (1996). Understanding journalism: a guide to issues.
Routledge. p. 269. ISBN 9780415115995. Retrieved 29 May
^ The Eire Society of Boston's history page on-line (seen on 25 August
^ "eir homepage". Eir.ie. 29 November 2006. Retrieved 26 March
^ "National Roads Authority statement 2007". Nra.ie. Retrieved 26
^ "CRO search page". Cro.ie. Retrieved 26 March 2010.
^ "Some recent social changes are not easily linked with the Tiger per
se" (PDF). Retrieved 26 March 2010.
Éire in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.
Noel Browne, Against the Tide
Stephen Collins, The Cosgrave Legacy
Tim Pat Coogan, De Valera (Hutchinson, 1993)
Brian Farrell, De Valera's Constitution and Ours
Ireland since the Famine
David Gwynn Morgan, Constitutional Law of Ireland
Tim Murphy and Patrick Twomey (eds.) Ireland's Evolving Constitution:
1937–1997 Collected Essays (Hart, 1998) ISBN 1-901362-17-5
Alan J. Ward, The Irish Constitutional Tradition: Responsible
Government and Modern
Ireland 1782–1992 (Irish Academic Press, 1994)