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Tarbert (Scottish Gaelic: An Tairbeart) is a place name in Scotland and Ireland. Places named Tarbert are characterised by a narrow strip of land, or isthmus. This can be where two lochs nearly meet, or a causeway out to an island.


All placenames that variously show up as tarbert, tarbat or tarbet in their anglicised form derive from either the Irish or Scottish Gaelic an tairbeart, commonly translated as "the isthmus" today.[2]

Both these words derive from two Old Irish elements, tar "across" and a nominalised form of the verb ber "to carry".[3] The /ɾ/ in tar was assimilated to /ɾʲ/ as a result of being next to the historically palatal /bʲ/ in Old Irish, causing the change in spelling from tar to tair-. So the literal translation would be an "across-carrying". The reason for this is that all tarberts are in fact located at or near old portage sites.

In English language spellings the first syllable "tar" has generally remained constant but the second syllable "bert" has variously been spelled as "bart", "bert" "bat", "bad" etc.[4]


Places named Tarbert include:




See also[edit]


  1. ^ Foclóir Póca An Gúm 1992
  2. ^ Dwelly, E. The Illustrated Gaelic-English Dictionary 1901
  3. ^ MacBain, A. (1911) An Etymological Dictionary of the Gaelic Language Stirling. Eneas MacKay. 1982 edition by Gairm ISBN 0-901771-68-6.
  4. ^ "Tarbert History: Who Named it, 'Tarbert'?" Archived 2008-12-20 at the Wayback Machine Tarbert.info. Retrieved 13 September 2008.
  5. ^ "Tarbert, Argyll and Bute". Gazetteer for Scotland. Retrieved 18 May 2021.
  6. ^ "Tarbert". GeoNames. Retrieved 18 May 2021.
  7. ^ "Tarbert, Highland". Gazetteer for Scotland. Retrieved 18 May 2021.