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What is an Irish female warrior called?

In ancient Irish mythology and folklore, there are many references to fierce female warriors who fought courageously in battles and led troops into warfare. These legendary Irish women were known by various titles that denoted their skills as warriors and leaders.


One of the most common terms for an Irish female warrior is “banfhlaith” (pronounced ban-la). This literally translates to “female ruler” or “woman lord” in the Irish language. The banfhlaith occupied positions of power and authority in ancient Irish society, acting as chieftains or kings in their own right.

Some famous banfhlaith from Irish mythology include:

  • Maeve – The powerful Queen of Connacht who led forces into the famous Táin Bó Cúailnge cattle raid.
  • Medb Lethderg – Ruler of Connacht who led troops against the Ulster hero Cú Chulainn.
  • Gormfhlaith – 10th century Queen of Dublin and wife of the High King of Ireland Brian Boru.

These women commanded the same respect and honor as male rulers. The title banfhlaith exemplified their dual role as both a leader of warriors and a lady of the land.


Another Irish phrase for a female leader or queen is “bandrúi” (ban-droo-ee). This translates to “woman king” or “queen.” The bandrúi governed over provinces or kingdoms in ancient and medieval Ireland.

Famous bandrúi from Irish legend include:

  • Medb – Queen of Connacht who confronted Ulster in the Cattle Raid of Cooley.
  • Mugain – Legendary Queen of Munster from the Cycles of Kings lore.
  • Gráinne Ní Mháille – 16th century Queen of Umaill, chieftain and pirate.

These ruling ladies commanded their realms and armies with the prowess of a king. The title bandrúi celebrated their dual feminine and royal authority.

Iníon Ríog

The Irish phrase “iníon ríog” (IN-yun ree-OHG) means “daughter of a king.” Many female warriors were born as daughters of kings and trained in combat skills from a young age to protect their lands and people.

Some iníon ríog who appear in Irish mythology and history include:

  • Aife – A warrioress who trained the mythic hero Cú Chulainn in combat.
  • Liadan – A battle-skilled daughter of a King of Connacht.
  • Gormlaith – The daughter of a 9th century Irish High King who later ruled as a queen.

As royal daughters, these women were taught to be as fierce in battle as any prince. The title iníon ríog highlighted their dual role as both princess and shieldmaiden.


The Irish word “bancharrthainn” (ban-KAR-hin) means “female champion” or “woman warrior.” Epithets like this were bestowed upon Irish women who proved exceptional courage and skill in battle.

Some bancharrthainn from myth and legend include:

  • Scáthach – A legendary warrior woman who trained the Ulster hero Cú Chulainn.
  • Nessa – Mother of Conchobar mac Nessa, King of Ulster, said to have fought fiercely in wars even while pregnant.
  • Cáit – A woman warrior of the fianna, or ancient Irish militia bands.

As “female champions,” these women were revered for their martial talents and ability to defeat powerful foes. The title bancharrthainn celebrated their prowess in feats of arms.

Mná Fiann

The “mná fiann” (mna fee-ANN) were bands of elite women warriors in Irish mythology and history. Fiann refers to the ancient Irish warriors and hunters who roamed the forests as militia bands.

Legendary mná fiann include:

  • Liath Luachra – A female warrior said to lead a band of fiann women into battle.
  • Sadhbh – Wife of the warrior Fionn mac Cumhaill and leader of a troop of fiann women.
  • Ailbhe – Trained in combat by the female warrior Liath Luachra to join the fiann.

As masters of combat and wilderness survival, the mná fiann were the equal of any male war band. Their title celebrated their membership in an elite sisterhood of women fighters.

Bean Feasa

In Irish lore, the “bean feasa” (ban fassa) were wise women who advised leaders and commanded mystical powers. They often used magic in tandem with warfare to confuse enemies and inspire allies.

Legendary bean feasa from myth and history include:

  • Brigid – A pagan deity and bean feasa who possessed powers over healing, poetry and prophecy.
  • Morrígan – A shapeshifting sorceress who incited fear in enemies during war.
  • Tlachtga – A druidess who commanded forces against invading armies.

As women of deep knowledge and magical gifts, the bean feasa provided spiritual guidance alongside physical protection. They used their mystical arts to defend their people.


In old Irish folk beliefs, the síóg (shee-OHG) were women who possessed supernatural abilities and magic powers. They often used enchantments and shape-shifting in battle to outmaneuver enemies.

Legendary warrior síóg include:

  • Clíodhna – An immortal fairy queen able to enchant and curse enemies in conflict.
  • Aibell – A fairy woman who conjured storms and raised magical mists to conceal warriors.
  • Aoibheal – A shining fairy said to give blessings of power and protection to warriors before battle.

As wielders of supernatural might, the warrior síóg struck fear and awe into the hearts of enemies. With their faerie magic they turned the tide of battles and empowered allies.


The Irish “cailleach” (KY-luck) were women seen as embodiments of sovereignty, magic, and the destructive fury of nature. They often unleashed their elemental powers in warfare.

Famous warrior cailleach from myth include:

  • Cailleach Bheur – A blue-faced hag who brought storms and blizzards down on invading armies.
  • Cailleach Beara – A harvest goddess who caused famine and crop failure to weaken invading forces.
  • Cailleach Na Mara – The “Old Woman of the Sea” who sank ships with storms and rogue waves.

As destructive embodiments of nature’s primal fury, the cailleach unleashed their elemental chaos and fury against Ireland’s foes. They were both feared and revered for their wrath.


In ancient Ireland, the “mallacht” were women who could cast curses, plagues, and maledictions to afflict enemies. They weakened invaders with magic and brought misfortune down upon opposing forces.

Legendary cursing mallacht include:

  • Cailb – A banshee able to inflict madness and despair upon enemies with her wailing cries.
  • Badbh – A war goddess who took the form of a scald-crow to incite panic and dread in opposing troops.
  • Macha – A sovereign whose curse caused the warriors of Ulster to be paralyzed with birth pangs during labor.

As vengeful wielders of baleful magic, the mallacht were both venerated and feared. With dread powers of malediction, they weakened Ireland’s enemies and plagued them with misfortune.

Names From History

While many Irish female warriors dwell in mythology and folklore, some historical women are also recorded to have taken up arms and led forces into battle:

  • Queen Medb – Led armies in the Tain Bo Cuailnge, possibly a real historical queen of Connacht.
  • Queen Molly MacOireachtaigh – Fought to defend her kingdom during the 16th century.
  • Grace O’Malley – A 16th century Irish pirate queen who commanded fleets of ships.
  • Nanno O’Donovan – A clan leader whose forces defeated an English nobleman’s army in the 16th century.

While their stories are often blurred with legend, historical accounts prove some Irish women truly did take up swords, lead warriors, and fight invading armies.


From mystical queens to fierce pirate leaders, Ireland’s history and mythology is rich with tales of female warriors. They were banfhlaith and bandrúi, proud princesses and female champions. As bean feasa and mallacht they tapped mystical powers, cursing foes and sinking ships. Their names ring out through legend and history – Medb, Maeve, Gráinne, and others – pioneering women who led forces into battle and laid claim to thrones. Though dwelling in myth, these iconic Irish women warriors continue to inspire and evoke Celtic Ireland’s brave, bellicose spirit.