Changing Planet

“Giorraíonn Beirt Bóthar —Two shorten the road”


Southwestern County Donegal (Dún Na nGall), National Geographic’s map of Ireland (Éire)


Depending on the type of map (whether physical or political), National Geographic maps use conventional (English) spellings, native spellings, or a combination of both (where scale permits). For example, when a commonly recognized form of a well-known place-name, such as Bombay, differs from the official national form—Mumbai—the conventional form is labeled in parentheses: Mumbai (Bombay).

Although we have tried to devise a system that addresses many variant naming conventions, as with all things, there are exceptions. In instances where governments recognize more than one official name, our maps generally list official place-names first, followed by their secondary name or names in parentheses.

Take Ireland for example. According to the Republic of Ireland’s constitution, the Irish and English languages share official status. In the Gaeltacht, or predominantly Irish-speaking regions, only Irish place-names have official status. Districts found within the counties of Cork, Donegal, Galway, Kerry, Mayo, Meath, and Waterford follow this policy. In the non-Gaeltacht areas, you will find that English is the official language. Simply put, just about every single place-name in Ireland has a dual name: Gaelic (English) in the Gaeltacht regions or English (Gaelic) in the non-Gaeltacht regions. That equates to nearly 1,000 place-names displayed on our most current and comprehensive Classic and Executive edition maps of Ireland.

You could say that per the old Irish proverb, “Giorraíonn Beirt Bóthar —Two shorten the road,” our maps of Ireland will help you get to where you want to go in the Emerald Isle: be it a short road or long.

Juan José Valdés
The Geographer
Director of Editorial and Research
National Geographic Maps


Juan José Valdés is The Geographer and National Geographic Maps' Director of Editorial and Research. He guides and assists the Map Policy Committee in setting border representations, disputed territories, and naming conventions for National Geographic. As NG Map's Director of Editorial and Research, he is responsible for ensuring the accuracy and consistency of its maps and map products.
  • Paul Hyland

    I am no lover of the Irish language having struggled ineptly at the hands of the Irish education system.
    Despite this I try hard to understand the “gaelige facists” and their desire for dual representation and respect.
    They will earn my respect when the Meath Gaelteacht shows the road signs in both Gaelic and English.
    Throughout the the rest of Meath the County Council shows both languages but in the Gaelteacht only one!
    Go figure…

  • Juan Valdes


    Like borders, place-name conventions can be quite contentious. As our maps usually adhere to national naming policies, we rarely hear how such policies affect the lives of local people. Thank you for letting us know how such policies have impacted you.

    Juan José Valdés

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