Belfast (t/; Irish: Béal Feirste), is the capital city of Northern Ireland, standing on the banks of the River Lagan on the east coast of Ireland. It is the largest city in Northern Ireland and second-largest on the island of Ireland. It had a population of 333,871 as of 2015.
By the early 1800s Belfast had become a major port. It played a key role in the Industrial Revolution, becoming the biggest linen-producer in the world, earning it the nickname "Linenopolis". By the time it was granted city status in 1888, it was a major centre of Irish linen production, tobacco-processing and rope-making. Shipbuilding was also a key industry; the Harland and Wolff shipyard, which built the RMS Titanic, was the world's biggest shipyard. Belfast as of 2019 has a major aerospace and missiles industry. Industrialisation and the inward migration it brought made Belfast Ireland's biggest city and it became the capital of Northern Ireland following the Partition of Ireland in 1922. Its status as a global industrial centre ended in the decades after the Second World War of 1939-1945.
Belfast suffered greatly in the Troubles: in the 1970s and 1980s was one of the world's most dangerous cities. However, a survey conducted by a finance company and published in 2016 rated the city as one of the safest within the United Kingdom. Throughout the 21st century, the city has seen a sustained period of calm, free from the intense political violence of former years, and has benefitted from substantial economic and commercial growth. Belfast remains a centre for industry, as well as for the arts, higher education, business, and law, and is the economic engine of Northern Ireland. Belfast is still a major port, with commercial and industrial docks, including the Harland and Wolff shipyard, dominating the Belfast Lough shoreline. It is served by two airports: George Best Belfast City Airport and Belfast International Airport 15 miles (24 km) west of the city. The Globalization and World Cities Research Network (GaWC) listed Belfast as a Gamma global city in 2018.
The name Belfast is derived from the Irish Béal Feirsde, which was later spelt Béal Feirste. The word béal means "mouth" or "rivermouth" while feirsde/feirste is the genitive singular of fearsaid and refers to a sandbar or tidal ford across a river's mouth. The name would thus translate literally as "(river) mouth of the sandbar" or "(river) mouth of the ford". This sandbar was formed at the confluence of two rivers at what is now Donegall Quay: the Lagan, which flows into Belfast Lough, and its tributary the Farset. This area was the hub around which the original settlement developed.[self-published source] The Irish name Béal Feirste is shared by a townland in County Mayo, whose name has been anglicised as Belfarsad.
An alternative interpretation of the name is "mouth of [the river] of the sandbar", an allusion to the River Farset, which flows into the Lagan where the sandbar was located. This interpretation was favoured by Edmund Hogan and John O'Donovan. It seems clear, however, that the river itself was named after the tidal crossing.