This Irish version (one of many) of the French name Catherine has been borne by thousands of historical personages since the 12th century. The best-known mythical or folkloric bearer of the name is Caitlín Ní hUallacháin [Ir., the proud], a family name known under many spellings from Kilkenny to Clare. As a personification of Ireland Caitlín Ní hUallacháin is fairly recent and has been much influenced by W. B. Yeats's play Cathleen ni Houlihan (1902), in which the tall, beautiful, and imposing Maude Gonne played the role. Within the play, however, Cathleen describes herself as the Poor Old Woman; see also SEAN-BHEAN BHOCHT; CAILLEACH BHÉIRRE; CERIDWEN. The name may also be transcribed Kathleen O'Hoolihan, etc.
The name Caitlín has also been applied to the buck-toothed wife of Balor of the Evil Eye in some texts, even though he could have no associations with the Christian Catherine; she wounds the Dagda at the battle of Mag Tuired; see CATH MAIGE TUIRED. See also Rosalind Elizabeth Clark, Great Queens: Irish Goddesses from the Morrígan to Cathleen Ní Houlihan (Gerrards Cross and Savage, Md., 1990).