Name origin and spelling
A "palmer" in medieval times was a pilgrim who returned from the Holy Land with a palm branch or leaf. Between 1185 and 1188 Ailred the Palmer and his wife took religious vows and founded a priory and monastic hospital of Crutched Friars outside the West Gate of Dublin, on the road to Kilmainham, which they endowed with all their property. In 1188 Pope Clement III confirmed the priory's grants, including the both the parish of Palmerstown west of Kilmainham and the other parish of Palmerstown northwards in Fingal. Gerard Lee notes an association of palmers with leper hospitals, of which there was one dedicated to Saint Laurence in the townland of the same name in Palmerstown.
The spelling "Palmerston" rather than "Palmerstown" was fixed by the Ordnance Survey of Ireland in the 1830s; this remains the legal spelling and is officially recognised by South Dublin County Council. Locals generally use "Palmerstown", and road signs have used both. A plebiscite of residents is required for a legal name change.[n 1] In 2009 a plebiscite to change to "Palmerstown" was narrowly defeated. Supporters of the change argued that the wording of the ballot confused some voters who wanted "Palmerstown" but voted No. They also argue the spelling without W creates confusion with Palmerston Park further east in Rathmines. Opponents argue the cost of changing road signs is prohibitive. Others argue that the name "Palmerston" legally applies only to the civil parish and townland, and that the locality known as "Palmerstown" has a separate identity. In 2014, another plebiscite was held, restricted to the electoral division (ED) of Palmerston Village (bounded by the Liffey, M50, and N4) and excluding the adjoining ED of
Palmerston West. The vote passed and the change to "Palmerstown Village" was approved at the county council meeting in January 2015.
The title Viscount Palmerston created in 1722 in the Peerage of Ireland derives from the place; its spelling also varied, but the form "Lord Palmerston" is now usual for the Victorian prime minister.