>Land of winter


Hibernia, the classical Latin name for Ireland, can be loosely translated as the Land of Winter. More poetically, it has been rendered as the island of the eternal winter. And anyone who has stood in a face of a driving Atlantic storm in the far west of the island will understand that description.
Hibernia is a geographical term that is today consigned to the descriptive or poetic. The island of Ireland is rarely referred to by its Latin name and the term is now used in the same way that ‘Anglo’ describes something that is English (e.g. Hiberno-English, Hibernophile).
Greek geographer had labelled it Iouernia (written Ἰουερνία), adapting the old Celtic name Īweriū. The Romans took this root, and noticed its useful similarity to the Latin word hibernus (wintry). Possessing a cooler and wetter climate than that enjoyed to the south, and being a murky, misty and unconquered island the name obviously chimed with the Romans and stuck as Ireland’s Latin name.

And, although sounding entirely dissimilar, this etymology shows the shared roots with the present Irish name for the island – Éire (via the old Irish Ériu). And, far from meaning wintry, this proto-Celtic word is likely to mean the abundant land. One man’s winter is another’s feast.