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Variations on the name Kinsella: Kincheloe, Kinchelan, Kinshalla, Kinshillah, Kinsela, Kinselagh, Kingsley, Kinsley, Tinsley.

According to ancient Irish manuscripts, the name Cinnsealach (later anglicized to Kinsella) first came into being in the year 365 AD. The occasion was a battle between the King of Tara, Eochaidh Muighmheadhon, and Eanna, King of Leinster.

The battle was fought at a place called Croghan Hill and was decisively won by King Eanna. Near the end of the battle, Eochaidh Muighmheadhon's druid, Ceadnathach, was taken prisoner and brought to Eanna who was standing on the Hill amidst the dissipating battle. Upon seeing Eanna, the druid said, "Thou wouldst never conquer from this hill on which I am, if I were to live." Upon this Eanna transfixed him with his spear; and, as the spear pierced his body, a laugh broke forth from Eanna. "Alas," said the druid, "that is a foul laugh, and it is this that will be given as a name to thy posterity after thee for ever".

Based on this account, Cinnsealach means foul laugh. Other versions exist however:

  • Cinn means head, point, chieftain, commander and selach means unclean, vile. So one version of Cinnsealach is unclean head.
  • Another version, and one you could believe the druid would have uttered, is vile chieftain.
  • One favored by an Irish family in Ireland is crest of a wave as the Gaelic word for sea or salt water is saile.
  • Finally, according to a Gaelic dictionary, Cinnsealach means authoritative.

Eanna Cinnsealach was powerful in his time, as may be seen from the poem composed by Dubhthach son of O Lughair, who was chief ollamh (poet) of Ireland when Patrick came to preach the Gospel. A battle fought by the Leinstermen is the beginning of that poem but I shall here quote only these two stanzas of it, from which it may be inferred that Eanna was powerful in his time:

        The tribute which was given to Eanna,
            From Leath Cuinn of the feasts,
        Was a screaball from each house,
            All of fionndruine

        The tribute which was given to Eanna,
            From Mumha with insults
        Was an ounce of gold from each lios
            In the ensuing year.

The clan composed of Eanna's direct descendants became known as Ui Cinnsealach (Hy Kinsella in modern times). From the 4th century until the Norman invasion in the 12th century they ruled over a large area of south eastern Ireland composed of Co.Wexford, Carlow, and parts of Kildare and Kilkenny.

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