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There are a number of common words that apply to a hill in Ireland: Knock or Cnoc, Slieve or Sliabh, Ben or Binn, Crook or Cruach etc. Here’s one that I haven’t come across before – it’s Furmna or Formna in Irish and is/was used to mean a shoulder or upper back and apparently used in the landscape to mean a ridge, top or surface.

There are a few example on William Bald’s map of Mayo surveyed 1809-16. The two pictured here are Furm-na-More and Furm-na-Ree. Furm-na-More or Formna Mór is recorded for the summit area of the Maumtrasna plateau, where the trig pillar and multiple small locháns are. It simply means the ‘great ridge’ or ‘great top’. Which is apt when looking up from below.

Furm-na-Ree or Formna Rí is the slightly higher area about a kilometre to the south west of Formna Mór. It’s tempting to think of the word ‘rí’ for a chieftain or king. But I think more likely connected to the meaning of ‘rí’ for a limb like an arm or leg. The adjacent Binn Buí or Benbuiy as shown here is formed of a very distinctive narrow spur jutting out like an arm towards Glenacally to the west. So the name could be interpreted as the ‘ridge of the jutting shoulder/ arm’.

#eastwestmapping #irishplacenames #outdoorsireland