Athy (Irish: Baile Átha Í) is a market town at the meeting of the River Barrow and the Grand Canal in south-west County Kildare, Ireland, 72 kilometres southwest of Dublin.
Athy or Baile Átha Í is named after a 2nd century Celtic chieftain, Ae, who is said to have been killed on the river crossing, thus giving the town its name "the town of Ae's ford".
According to Elizabethan historian William Camden, Ptolemy's map of Ireland circa 150 AD names the Rheban district along the River Barrow as Ῥαίβα. Modern cartography, however, dismisses the claim by using triangulation and flocking algorithms. This method establishes that Ptolemy's Ῥαίβα was actually located at Rathcroghan, the traditional capital of the Connachta. A castle existed at Rheban from the Norman period onward. Athy Priory, a Dominican monastery, was founded in 1253. The town at Athy developed from a 12th-century Anglo-Norman settlement to an important stronghold on the local estates of the FitzGerald earls of Kildare, who built and owned the town for centuries.
Athy has evolved as a centre for Hiberno-English, the mix of the Irish and English language traditions. A dialect starting with old Irish beginnings, evolved through Norman and English influences, dominated by a church whose first language was Latin and educated through Irish. Athy in particular was a mixing pot of languages that led to modern Hiberno-English. Positioned at the edge of the Pale, sandwiched between the Irish and English speaking partitions, Athy traded language between the landed gentry, the middle class merchants, the English working class garrison soldiers and the local peasantry. Many locals words borrow from the Irish tradition, such as "bokety", "fooster" or "sleeveen", while words like "kip", "cop-on" or even "grinds" have their origins in Old or Middle English.
On 2 July 1903, the Gordon Bennett Cup race routed through Athy. It was the first international motor race to be held in Britain or Ireland. The Automobile Club of Great Britain and Ireland wanted the race to be hosted in the British Isles, and Ireland was suggested as the venue because racing was illegal on British public roads. After some lobbying and changes to local laws, County Kildare was chosen, partly because the straightness of the roads would be a safety benefit. As a compliment to Ireland the British team chose to race in Shamrock green which thus became known as British racing green.