Index of Names in Irish Annals: Airiu / Lí Ban

by Mari Elspeth nic Bryan (Kathleen M. O'Brien)

© 2000-2004 by Kathleen M. O'Brien. All rights reserved.
Version 2.3, updated 29 February 2004

Feminine Given Names: Airiu / Lí Ban

NOTE: The only person listed with these names in the annals is a woman who is legendary. By comparing annals entries, it is obvious that Airiu is the same person referred to as Lí Ban. OCM (p. 141 s.n. Muirgen) says this name's

most famous bearer is the half-pagan, half-christian Muirgen, also known as Lí Ban ('Beauty of Women'). According to story, she lived for three hundred years in the waters of Lough Neagh until she was captured by Béoán, St Comgall's fisherman. Comgal baptised her, she told him her adventures, died and went to heaven.

This information gives us no evidence that either name was used by regular people.


What we know as a set of Irish Annals are manuscripts that were each compiled during a particular time period, usually using older material as sources. For example, when the Annals of the Four Masters were written from 1632 to 1636, they covered events that occurred centuries and millenia before (including legendary history). So, when an entry in this set of annals refers to a person who lived in the year 738, the spelling used for that person's name is very likely not using the spelling that would have been used in 738.

Standard forms of these names (based on spelling systems of different periods) would be:

Frequency & Dates:

Number of women found in the annals with this name: 1
Found in Years: 558, 565

Research Notes:

The annals do not agree on the name of this woman/mermaid. The Annals of the Four Masters (entry, vol. 1, M558.2) give her name as Liban:

Is in m-bliadhain-si ro gabhadh an muirgelt .i. Liban inghean Eathach, mic Muiredha, for Tracht Ollarbha, h-i lín Beoain, mic Inli, iascaire Comhgaill Bendchair.

The translation provided at the CELT website gives this entry as:

In this year was taken the Mermaid, i.e. Liban, the daughter of Eochaidh, son of Muireadh, on the strand of Ollarbha, in the net of Beoan, son of Inli, the fisherman of Comhgall of Beannchair.

The Annals of Tigernach (entry T565.5) give her name as Airiu:

Perhaps a mistaken Kl.

K.uii.In hoc anno capta est in muirgelt for Tracht Ollarba i l-lín Beoain maic Indle .i. Airiu ingen Eachach maic Muiredha. Beoan mac Indle .i. iascaire Comgaill Bennchair, ros-gab.


Further information about the name Lí Ban, may be found in:

The Sources page lists the Annals referenced below. Information about secondary sources is included on that page as well.

Raw Data

In the table below, I have separated individuals with a blank line. That is, when there are multiple entries in the annals that refer to a single person, those entries are grouped together.

Within the list of entries refering to a single person, I have sorted the entries primarily by orthography when it is obvious that what I am seeing is the same entry showing up in multiple annals. The entries that tend to use older spellings are listed first.

NOTE: The Annals referenced below under the code letters A, B, C, E, & F tend to use later spellings than the other Annals. In some cases, the spellings listed in these Annals may not be appropriate for the year referenced in the Annal entry.

In some Gaelic scripts, there is a character that looks approximately like a lowercase f, but without the crossbar. This character (represented by an underscored , e, in the entries below) sometimes represents e and sometimes ea depending upon the context of the text.

AnnalsEntryContextCitation (formatting preserved)
TT565.5in muirgelt [unrelated] .i. Airiu ingen Eachach maic Muiredha
AM558.2an muirgelt .i. Liban inghean Eathach, mic Muiredha ["the Mermaid, i.e. Liban, the daughter of Eochaidh, son of Muireadh"]
CSCS565an muirgeilt .i. Lí Ban ingen Echach meic Muiredha

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