Dun - Wikipedia

Ruined dun in Loch Steinacleit on Lewis
Walls of Dún Aonghasa, a dun on Inishmore, Ireland
Dunamase, central Ireland (from Irish Dún Másc, "Másc's fort")

A dun is an ancient or medieval fort. In Ireland and Britain it is mainly a kind of hillfort and also a kind of Atlantic roundhouse.


The term comes from Irish dún or Scottish Gaelic dùn (meaning "fort"), and is cognate with Old Welsh din (whence Welsh dinas "city" comes).

In certain instances, place-names containing Dun- or similar in Northern England and Southern Scotland, may be derived from a Brittonic cognate of the Welsh form din.[1] In this region, substitution of the Brittonic form by the Gaelic equivalent may have been widespread in toponyms.[1]

The Dacian dava (hill fort) is probably etymologically cognate.[citation needed]


In some areas duns were built on any suitable crag or hillock, particularly south of the Firth of Clyde and the Firth of Forth. There are many duns on the west coast of Ireland and they feature in Irish mythology. For example, the tale of the Táin Bó Flidhais features Dún Chiortáin and Dún Chaocháin.

Duns seem to have arrived with the Celts in about the 7th century BC. Early duns had near vertical ramparts made of stone and timber. There were two walls, an inner wall and the outside one. Vitrified forts are the remains of duns that have been set on fire and where stones have been partly melted. Use of duns continued in some parts into the Middle Ages.

Duns are similar to brochs, but are smaller and probably would not have been capable of supporting a very tall structure. Good examples of this kind of dun can be found in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland, on artificial islands in small lakes.


The word dun is, along with like-sounding cognate forms, an element frequently found in Celtic toponymy; especially that of Ireland and Scotland. It can include fortifications of all sizes and kinds:



Many settlement and geographical names in Scotland are named with Gaelic dun ("fort"), as well as cognates in Brittonic languages such as Cumbric and Pictish.[1]


Some place-names in England are derived from Brittonic cognates of Welsh din (c.f. Cornish dyn, Cumbric *din),[1] and fewer perhaps from the Gaelic form.[1] Roman-era toponyms ending in -dunum may represent an ancient Brittonic *duno.[1]

London has been etymologised as Brittonic *lin- + dun- ("lake fort").[3] Coates has rejected such an etymology as "incompatible with early forms".[3]



France and Switzerland[edit]

The Proto-Celtic form is *Dūno-,[5] yielding Greek δοῦνον. It is ultimately cognate to English town.[6] The Gaulish term survives in many toponyms in France and Switzerland:


Bulgaria and Serbia[edit]

Elsewhere in the world[edit]

  • Dunedin, New Zealand – from Dùn Èideann, the Gaelic name for Edinburgh.[8]
  • Dunedin, Florida, USA – see Dunedin, New Zealand.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v James, Alan. "The Brittonic Language in the Old North" (PDF). Scottish Place Name Society. Retrieved 28 March 2021.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Simon, Taylor; Markus, Gilbert (2006). The Place-names of Fife (Illustrated ed.). Shaun Tyas. ISBN 9781900289771.
  3. ^ a b Coates, Richard (1998). "A new explanation of the name of London". Transactions of the Philological Society. 96 (2): 203–229. doi:10.1111/1467-968X.00027.
  4. ^ Billing, Joanna (2003). The Hidden Places of Wales. Travel Publishing Ltd. p. 14. ISBN 9781904434078. Retrieved 29 March 2021.
  5. ^ Xavier Delamarre, Dictionnaire de la langue gauloise, ISBN 2-87772-237-6
  6. ^ Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology, ISBN 0-19-861112-9
  7. ^ Simms-Williams, Patrick (24 July 2006). Ancient Celtic Placenames in Europe and Asia Minor, Number 39 (Illustrated ed.). Wiley. ISBN 9781405145701.
  8. ^ Dunedin: Edinburgh of the south Archived 16 August 2017 at the Wayback Machine, The Scotsman, 18 April 2012
  • Scotland Before History - Stuart Piggott, Edinburgh University Press 1982, ISBN 0-85224-348-0
  • Scotland's Hidden History - Ian Armit, Tempus (in association with Historic Scotland) 1998, ISBN 0-7486-6067-4