Éire (pronounced|ˈeːrʲə pronunciation|Eire.ogg) is the Irish name for the island of Ireland and of the state of the same name.


Éire is the nominative form in modern Irish of the name for the goddess called Ériu in Old Irish, a mythical figure who helped the Gaels conquer Ireland as described in the Book of Invasions. Comparison with ancient transcriptions of the name of the island of Ireland, and forms known from other Celtic languages, yields the Common Celtic reconstruction *φīwerjō, stem *φīwerjon-.Fact|date=March 2008 The Celtic form implies Proto-Indo-European *piHwerjon-, likely related to the adjectival stem *piHwer- "fat" (cf. Sanskrit pīvan, f. pīvarī and by-form pīvara, "fat, full, abounding") hence meaning "fat land" or "land of abundance".

From the later Q-Celtic form *īwerjon-, in which the original "p" of the stem had been dropped (cf. *pater > athair "father"), was borrowed the Welsh Iwerddon "Ireland". From a similar or somewhat later form were also borrowed Greek polytonic|Ἰέρνη "I [w] ernē" and polytonic|Ἰουερνία "Iouernia"; the latter form was converted into Latin "Hibernia". Old Irish Ériu is directly descended from *φīwerjō > Q-Celtic *īweriū. [Mallory, J.P. and D.Q. Adams, ed. "Encyclopedia of Indo-European Culture." London: Fitzroy Dearborn Pub., 1997, p. 194] From it was borrowed Old English "Íras" "men of Ireland", whence "Íraland" "land of the Íras, Ireland".

Older explanations for the etymology of "Éire", no longer considered linguistically plausible, are:
* Derived from a root word "Ara" (also spelt "Arya", "Aire" or "Aera") meaning noble, as in 'Aryan'. Among the very many poetic names for the island of Ireland was "Mág Ealga" meaning "plain of the nobles".
*"Ar" or "Ir" in the Irish language also meant "land", and according to old manuscriptsFact|date=October 2007 was the name given to the lands of the mythological Celtic tribe of Gael Glas who travelled from Scythia across Greece and eventually to Ireland.

The dative form "Éirinn" is anglicised as "Erin", which is occasionally used as a poetic name for Ireland in English, and has also become a common feminine name in English.

Difference between "Éire" and "Erin"

While "Éire" is simply the name for Ireland in the Irish language, and sometimes used in the English, "Erin" is a common poetic name for Ireland in English. The distinction between the two is one of the difference between cases of nouns in Irish. "Éire" is the nominative case, the case that is used for nouns that are the subject of a sentence i.e. the noun that is "doing" something. "Erin" is a Hiberno-English derivative of "Éirinn", the Irish dative case of "Éire" i.e. a noun to which something is given, as in the phrase "Éirinn Go Brách" ("(To) Ireland for Ever"). It is very common to also see "Éireann" used in the titles of companies and institutions in Ireland e.g. "Iarnród Éireann" ("Irish Rail"), "Dáil Éireann" ("Irish Parliament") or "Poblacht na hÉireann" ("The Republic of Ireland"). This is "Éire" in its genitive case, when it marks possession of another noun or being the most important noun in a multi-noun combination.

Éire as a state name

Article 4 of the Irish constitution adopted in 1937 provides that: "The name of the state is Éire, or, in the English language, "Ireland"." [" [http://www.taoiseach.gov.ie/attached_files/html%20files/Constitution%20of%20Ireland%20(Eng)Nov2004.htm Bunreacht Na Éireann] ". Office of the Houses of the Oireachtas. Retrieved on 14 March, 2007] The Constitution's English-language preamble also described the population as "We, the people of Éire". The "Republic of Ireland Act" enacted in 1948 makes clear that the "Republic of Ireland" is a description and not a name of the state. Ireland (in English) and Éire (in Irish) remain its two official names. Article 8 states that both Irish and English are the official languages of the state with Irish designated as the "national" and "first official" language. From the 1948 Act it passed out of everyday conversation and literature; a late example being "The Government of Eire" in the 1951 "Dublin Historical Record". [Dublin Historical Record vol.XII no.4, November 1951, p.129.]

The name "Éire" has been used on Irish postage stamps since 1922; on all 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 Official Seal of the President of Ireland. Before the 1937 Constitution, "Saorstát Éireann" (the Irish translation of Irish Free State), was generally used.

From 1938 to 1962 the international plate on Irish cars was marked "EIR", short for Éire.Fact|date=May 2008 In 1922-1938 it was "SE", and from 1962 "IRL" has been adopted.Fact|date=May 2008 Irish politician, Bernard Commons TD suggested to the Dáil in 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". [http://historical-debates.oireachtas.ie/D/0119/D.0119.195003220018.html] The amendment was effected under the Road Traffic Act 1961.Fact|date=September 2008

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.

Confusion for non-Irish speakers

The name "Éire" should normally be used only when speaking the Irish language, as it is simply the translation of "Ireland" into Irish.Vague|date=September 2008Or|date=September 2008
* It is rarely used by the state's citizens and other residents when speaking or writing in English.Or|date=September 2008
* Conversely, the flexibility of colloquial English is such that "Éire" can be misused by English-speakers who are intending to be polite and exact.Or|date=September 2008 They see it on signs and public documents and assume that, in a country where Irish is a compulsory subject in school, and where Irish is described as the "first official language" in the Irish constitution, "Éire" must be the preferred version.Or|date=September 2008
* In some European countries, however, for example Italy, it is also common to refer to the Republic of Ireland as «EIRE», to distinguish it from Northern Ireland. It can be found as Eire on Italian atlases.Fact|date=September 2008

Other uses

Éire has also been incorporated into the names of Irish commercial and social entities, such as "eircom plc" (formerly "Telecom Éireann") [ [http://www.eircom.ie/cgi-bin/bvsm/bveircom/mainPage.jsp eircom homepage] ] and the pop group ScaryÉire. [ [http://www.mongrel.ie/april07pp12.php Comment on ScaryÉire] ] 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. [ [http://www.nra.ie/News/PressReleases/htmltext,8987,en.html National Roads Authority statement 2007] ] According to the Dublin Companies Registration Office in 2008, over 500 company names incorporate the word Éire in some form. [ [http://www.cro.ie/search/ CRO search page] ]


Bibliography and sources

* Noel Browne, "Against the Tide"
* "Bunreacht na hÉireann" (1937 Irish Constitution)
* Stephen Collins, "The Cosgrave Legacy"
* Tim Pat Coogan, "De Valera" (Hutchinson, 1993)
* Brian Farrell, "De Valera's Constitution and Ours"
* F.S.L. Lyons, "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 1901362175
* Alan J. Ward, "The Irish Constitutional Tradition: Responsible Government and Modern Ireland 1782–1992" (Irish Academic Press, 1994) ISBN 07165252283

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