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A cillín (from the Irish language, with the literal meaning "little cell", "little churchyard" or "little burial ground"; plural cillíní[1]), was a historical unconsecrated burial place in Ireland for children unbaptised at the time of death.[2] Suicides, shipwrecked sailors, strangers, unrepentant murderers and their victims were also sometimes buried there—they were used for "infants and other ambiguous categories of individual".[3] Some of them are more than a thousand years old. Ancient pagan burial practices were sometimes later co-opted by Christianity.[3]

The word cillín is a common element in Irish place names, often anglicised as Killeen.[4] An alternative meaning of cillín indicates a small church, from the diminutive form of Irish: cill, meaning church. The word is thought to come from the Latin: cella, meaning little church or oratory.[3] Another meaning for the word cillín is "cell" as in prison cell or monastic cell (many placenames are derived from the cell of a local monk/saint).

Sometimes these graveyards were called lisín, a diminutive form of the Irish term lios for a ringfort.[5][6] Also lisín leanbh as a variant form.[7]

List of cillíns[edit]

Cillín near Ballycastle
Cillín (flattened) near Ballycastle, County Mayo
Cillín Phádraig near Maumeen
Cillín Phádraig (Irish: meaning "Patrick's little church") at Maumeen near Maam Cross

County Galway

  • Carrowkeel, County Galway.
  • Corcullen, Moycullen, County Galway

Many others may easily be found marked on Irish Ordnance Survey maps or by using the Historical Environment Viewer.

External links[edit]


  1. ^ The Irish term cillín is the diminutive form of cill. See entry cill, at
  2. ^ Cillín. Placenames Database of Ireland. Retrieved: 2011-01-10.
  3. ^ a b c The origins of the Irish Cillin: the segregation of infant burials within an early medieval enclosure at Carrowkeel, Co. Galway. Brendon Wilkins. Paper presented to the Theoretical Archaeology Group, Columbia University, 2008.
  4. ^ Killeen. Placenames Database of Ireland. Retrieved: 2011-01-10.
  5. ^ lisín,
  6. ^ See entry lios, at
  7. ^ Some graveyards are listed here: Lisín na Leanbh - Lisheennalannov,