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Benbecula (Scottish Gaelic: Beinn nam Fadhla,[6] pronounced [peɲəˈvɤːlˠ̪ə]) is an island of the Outer Hebrides in the Atlantic Ocean off the west coast of Scotland. In the 2001 census it had a usually resident population of 1,249, the majority of which are Roman Catholic. It forms part of the area administered by Comhairle nan Eilean Siar or the Western Isles Council.



Historically this name is assumed to derive from Peighinn nam Fadhla (pronounced [pʰe.ɪɲəmˈfɤːlˠ̪ə]) "pennyland of the fords" as the island is essentially flat.[6] Phonetically being highly similar to the unstressed form of Beinn ([peɲ] "mountain", this appears to have been subject to folk etymology or re-analysis, leading to the modern forms containing Beinn rather than Peighinn. Through a process of language assimilation, the [mˈfɤːlˠ̪ə] sequence has resulted in the modern pronunciation of [vɤːlˠ̪ə]. The spelling variations faola and fadhla are due to phonetic merger of /ɤ/ with /ɯ/ in certain Gaelic dialects. Some of the spelling variants include: Beinn a' Bhaoghla, Beinn na Faoghla, Beinn na bhFadhla, Beinn nam Fadhla, Beinn nam Faola...

The second element is a loan from Norse vaðil(l) "ford" which was borrowed as Gaelic fadhail (genitive fadhla).[7] Through the process of reverse lenition fadhla, with the ethnonymic suffix -ach has led to the formation of Badhlach "a person from Benbecula".

Other interpretations that have been suggested over the years are Beinn Bheag a' bhFaodhla, supposedly meaning the "little mountain of the ford" and Beinn a' Bhuachaille, meaning "the herdsman's mountain".[2]

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