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The Iverni ("Iwernoi" above) are one of the population groups mentioned in Ptolemy's Geography.

The Iverni (Ἰούερνοι, Iouernoi) were a people of early Ireland first mentioned in Ptolemy's 2nd century Geography as living in the extreme south-west of the island.[1] He also locates a "city" called Ivernis (Ἰουερνίς, Iouernis) in their territory, and observes that this settlement has the same name as the island as a whole, Ivernia (Ἰουερνία, Iouernia).[2] It was probably once the name given to all the peoples of Ireland, but by Ptolemy's time had a more restricted usage applicable to the inhabitants of the south-west. These Iverni can be identified linguistically with the Érainn (Éraind, Érnai, Érna),[3] a people attested in Munster and elsewhere in the early Middle Ages.

The prehistoric Érainn royal dynasties are sometimes referred to as the Dáirine.[4][5]


The name Iverni has been derived from Archaic Irish *Īwernī meaning "folk of *Īweriū " (the island of Ireland). This is in turn derived from Proto-Celtic *Φīwerjon- and further from Proto-Indo-European *piHwerjon- (the fertile land), which is cognate with the Ancient Greek píeira and Sanskrit pīvarī, which refer to fertile land. John T. Koch writes it was probably once the name given to all the peoples of Ireland, but by Ptolemy's time had a more restricted usage applicable to the inhabitants of the south-west.[6]

Historical septs[edit]

In early Irish genealogical tracts the Érainn are regarded as an ethnic group, distinct from the Laigin and Cruthin. Population groups in Munster classed as Érainn include the Corcu Loígde in southwest County Cork, the Múscraige in Counties Cork and Tipperary, the Corcu Duibne in County Kerry, and the Corcu Baiscinn in west County Clare. The Dál Riata and Dál Fiatach (or Ulaid) in Ulster are also considered Érainn. The Érainn appear to have been a powerful group in the proto-historic period, but in early historical times were largely reduced to politically marginal status, with the notable exception of the enigmatic Osraige. The most important of the Munster Érainn, the Corcu Loígde, retained some measure of prestige even after they had become marginalised by the Eóganachta in the 7th or 8th century.[7] It is likely that the sometimes powerful Uí Liatháin and their close kin the Uí Fidgenti originally belonged to the Érainn/Dáirine as well, but were later counted among the Eóganachta for political reasons.[8][9] Another prominent Érainn people of early Munster are believed to have been the Mairtine, who by the early historical period have completely vanished from the Irish landscape, although they may be in part ancestral to the later Déisi Tuisceart and Dál gCais.[10] The Déisi Muman may also have had Érainn origins, but this has long been disputed.

Dáire: Darini, Dáirine[edit]

It seems likely the Iverni were related to the Darini of eastern Ulster.[11] The name "Darini" implies descent from an ancestor called Dáire, (*Dārios)[3] as claimed by several historical peoples identified as Érainn, including the Dál Riata and Dál Fiatach in eastern Ulster[12] as well as the Érainn of Munster. An early name for Dundrum, County Down, is recorded as Dún Droma Dáirine, and the name Dáirine was applied to the Corcu Loígde, further suggesting a relationship between the Darini and the Iverni.[3]

Érainn: Clanna Dedad[edit]

The genealogies trace the descent of the Érainn from two separate eponymous ancestors, Ailill Érann and Íar mac Dedad. Legendary relatives of the latter include the Cland Dedad (offspring of Deda mac Sin), a Munster people who appear in the Ulster Cycle, led by Cú Roí, son of Dáire mac Dedad, and the legendary High King Conaire Mór, grandson of Iar and ancestor of the Síl Conairi. The historical sept of the Uí Maicc Iair ("grandsons of the son of Iar") and the MAQI IARI of ogham inscriptions also appear to be related.[13] The personal name Iar is simply another variant of the root present in Iverni and Érainn.[14] Finally, the name Íth, given in the genealogies as the ultimate ancestor of the Corcu Loígde (Dáirine) and offering some confusion about their parentage and relation to the Iverni, in fact preserves the same Indo-European root *peiH- ("to be fat, swell"),[15] thus in effect completing a basic picture of the Iverni/Érainn and their kindred in later historical Ireland.

O'Rahilly's theory[edit]

Ivernic is a hypothetical language proposed by T. F. O'Rahilly. He suggested that it was an unattested P-Celtic (probably Brittonic) language spoken in Ireland before Old Irish. He suggested this language was spoken by the Iverni, and that they invaded Ireland from Britain, bringing with them the language. O'Rahilly identifies two words recorded in the Sanas Cormaic as coming from Ivernic: ond ("stone") and fern ("anything good").[16]

His theory has been refuted and is not widely accepted by experts.[17][18][19] Furthermore, by the proto-historic period, the Iverni were evidently Goidelic-speaking, as ogham inscriptions in Archaic Irish are most plentiful in southwestern Ireland, the territory of the Iverni.[20]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Ptolemy. Geography. 2.2.6 (ed. K. Müller [Paris 1883–1901])
  2. ^ Ptol. Geog. 2.2.9; 8.3.4
  3. ^ a b c O'Rahilly, T. F. (1946), Early Irish History and Mythology, Dublin: Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies
  4. ^ DIL Letter: D1 (D-Degóir), Columns 35 and 36
  5. ^ O'Rahilly, pp. 7, 189
  6. ^ John T. Koch, Celtic Culture: A Historical Encyclopedia, ABC-CLIO, 2005, p.709
  7. ^ Charles Doherty, "Érainn", in Seán Duffy (ed.), Medieval Ireland: an encyclopedia, 2005, CRC Press, pp. 156–157
  8. ^ John V. Kelleher, "The Rise of the Dál Cais", in Étienne Rynne (ed.), North Munster Studies: Essays in Commemoration of Monsignor Michael Moloney. Limerick: Thomond Archaeological Society. 1967. pp. 230–41.
  9. ^ Gearóid Mac Niocaill, Ireland before the Vikings. Dublin: Gill and Macmillan. 1972.
  10. ^ Dáibhí Ó Cróinín, "Ireland, 400–800", in Dáibhí Ó Cróinín (ed.), A New History of Ireland (Volume 1): Prehistoric and Early Ireland. Oxford University Press. 2005. p. 222
  11. ^ for extensive discussion, see Julius Pokorny. "Beiträge zur ältesten Geschichte Irlands (3. Érainn, Dári(n)ne und die Iverni und Darini des Ptolomäus)", in Zeitschrift für celtische Philologie 12 (1918): 323–57.
  12. ^ Donnchadh Ó Corráin, "Prehistoric and Early Christian Ireland", in R. F. Foster (ed.), The Oxford Illustrated History of Ireland, Oxford University Press, 2001
  13. ^ Eoin MacNeill, "Early Irish Population Groups: their nomenclature, classification and chronology", Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy (C) 29, 1911, pp. 59–114
  14. ^ MacNeill 1911
  15. ^ John T. Koch. "Ériu", in John T. Koch (ed.). Celtic Culture: A Historical Encyclopedia. ABC-CLIO. 2006. pp. 709–18
  16. ^ O'Rahilly, T. F. (1946), Early Irish History and Mythology, Dublin: Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies
  17. ^ Koch, John T. Celtic Culture: A Historical Encyclopedia. ABC-CLIO, 2006. p.750
  18. ^ Martin Ball and James Fife. The Celtic Languages. Psychology Press, 1993. p.75
  19. ^ MacEoin, Gearóid. "What language was spoken in Ireland before Irish?", in The Celtic Languages in Contact. Potsdam University Press, 2007. p.116
  20. ^ John T. Koch, "Ériu, Alba and Letha: When was a Language Ancestral to Gaelic First Spoken in Ireland?", Emania 9, 1991, pp. 17–27