Cahir takes its name from the castle, though not in a very direct manner. In Ireland the Gaelic word 'dun' generally means 'fort' or fortified place. At the time the word was commonly used a fort would have been constructed of piled up mounds of earth and dug out fortifications. The word Iascaigh means 'abounding in fish', a place where fish were in plentiful supply.
The early name for Cahir was Dun Iascaigh which literally meant 'the place of the earthen fort abounding in fish'. When the earthen for was replaced by a stone fort, called a 'Cathair', the name changed to 'Cathair Dun Iascaigh' or 'the stone fort of the earthen fort abounding in fish' or more simply 'the stone fort of the earthen fort of the fish.
The castle replaced the stone fort in the 13th century, was enlarged and refurbished during the 15th to 17th centuries and then abandoned in the late 18th century. It fell into ruins but was partly restored by the Butler family in the 1840s.
On the death of the last owner it passed to the state and after more extensive restoration it was opened to the public. The castle is maintained by the Office of Public Works.
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