0815e Gwefan Cymru-Catalonia - some notes from a book on Welsh Place Names I wrote but which probably won't make it to the final version. So I've put them on our website instead. Nodiadau o lfr ar enwau lleoedd Cymraeg yr oeddwn yn ei lunio. Mae'n debg na chaiff y nodiadau hn mo'u cynnws yn y llfr, fell dyma fi'n eu rhoi yn ein gwefan.


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Gwefan Cymru-Catalonia
La Web de Gal
les i Catalunya
The Wales-Catalonia Website

Enwau Cymraeg
Welsh Names

Looking at Welsh Place Names
Contents page (Page 2 out of 4)

Adolygiad Diweddaraf / Latest Update: 01 11 2000 2005-03-21

These are notes for a book on place names which was accepted for publication but will now probably appear in another format. Some sections are complete, others are very incomplete. But we'll get round to tidying it up eventually.

SECTION ONE 0964e Previous Page (Index)

8b Place names made up of the definite article and a masculine noun (Y Brn = the hill)
Some place names are simply the definite article with a noun, as in English names such as The Grove, The Pool, etc
On maps, the definite article is usually omitted.
Y Pant > Pant
Y Brn > Brn
In speaking Welsh, it reappears -
'Yn y Brn mae e'n bw nawr' -
He lives in (the village of / the house called) Brn now.

This is the rule, at least. As with all good rules, there are exceptions.

In 1883, the Ordnance Survey produced a slim handbook (in English) for the use of its 'field examiners' who collected the place names to be used on the maps - "Instructions to Field Examiners on the Orthography of Welsh Names with Rules for Compounding, Initialing and Accenting under Various Conditions."

The two authors were Thomas Rowland (the Vicar of Rhuddlan), and Lieutenant-Colonel Robert Owen Jones of the Royal Engineers.
Why should it be there in some names, and not in others?

"It has been decided to omit the article (y or yr) at the beginning of place-names on the Ordnance Survey plans; but although not written it is understood as preceding certain names... The definite article should however be inserted where there is no name beyond the descriptive name, when applied to the feature described by such name, thus:-
Y Lln, when applied to the lake, but not when applied to a house. "

Here are some place names of this simple type:

Pant (SJ 2722) - (= hollow) a village in a formerly Welsh-speaking part of Shropshire, England, 7km south of Croesoswallt / Oswestry
Dyffrn (ST 0971) - (= broad valley) a village 2km north of Maes-teg in south-east Wales
Pand (SO 3322) - (= fulling mill) a village in south-east Wales, near Y Fenni
Pand (SJ 1935) - 7km south of Llangollen
Pand (SH 6203) - 5km north-east of Tywn
Pand (SH 8729) - Llanuwchln
Pand (SH 9004) - 1km north of Llan-brn-mair
Brn (SN 5400) - (= hill) a village east of Llanelli in south-west Wales
Cymer (ST 0290) (= confluence)Rhondda
Cymer (SS 8696) (= confluence) Glyncorrwg
Pwll (SN 4801) - (= pool) a village east of Llanelli, on the road to Pen-bre
Cwm (SJ 0677) - (= valley) a hamlet 5km south of Prestatn in north-east Wales
Cwrt (SH 6800) (= court) 6km west of Machynlleth
Parc (SH 8733) (= field??) 6km west of Bala
Y Bala (SH 9236) (= outlet from a lake)

What do these words mean -
1 y cae [ KAI]
2 y myndd [ M-nidh]
3 y t [ TII]
4 y maen [ MAIN]
5 y castell [ KA-stelh]

1 y cae [ KAI] = the field (more specifically, an enclosed field, one with a hedge or wall around it);
2 y myndd [ M-nidh] = the mountain (though it also means a long hill with a valley on either side; or common land on a hill)
3 y t [ TII] = the house. The circumflex was introduce to indicate that this 'y' is to be pronounced as a long 'ii'. This is to distinguish it from another word - also present in place names - 'ty' (pronounced with a schwa, that is, the indistinct vowel [t], as in English 'tonight', 'together', 'tobacco'.
4 y maen [
MAIN] = the stone
5 y castell [ KA-stelh] = the castle

In the case of street names, the article is usually included. Examples are Y Cilgant (= the crescent) in Caerffili, Y Cilgant (= the close, the farmyard) in Cwmllynfell, Y Garth (= the hill) in Aber-dr, Y Gln (= the valley) one in Maesycwmer, another in Abertawe, Y Parc (= the field) in Llantrisant.

 9 y brn mawr : article + masculine noun + adjective
Adjectives after masculine nouns
In Welsh, the adjective generally comes after the noun it describes, unlike English.
Here are some adjectives very commonly found in place names
mawr = big [maur] (au as in English cow, mouth)
= small [baakh]
= new [NEU-idh] (eu as in the 'e' of pet + the 'u' of bull)
= black [dii]
= white [gwin]
= grey [lhuid] (ui as in the 'u' of bull + 'i' of pin)
= red [kookh]
= yellow [ME-lin] (me as in 'men')
= 1 the general meaning is 'blue'; however, if it referes to vegetation, it means 'green'. [glaas]
A place might be described according to its most characteristic feature - its colour, its age, its size. A house might have been noteworthy because it was whitewashed, whereas other houses in the district weren't; or that it was smaller than other houses, or newly built.
The white house in Welsh would be literally 'the house white' - y t gwn.

What would these be in English?
1 y t mawr
2 y cae gwn
3 y brn bach
4 y myndd du
5 y cae mawr
6 y pwll mawr
7 y pwll bach
8 y cae newdd
9 y castell coch
10 y pant bach
1 y t mawr - the big house
2 y cae gwn - the white field
3 y brn bach - the little hill
4 y myndd du - the black mountain
5 y cae mawr - the big field
6 y pwll mawr - the big pool
7 y pwll bach - the little pool
8 y cae newdd - the new field
9 y castell coch - the red catrle
10 y pant bach = the little hollow
10 some spelling rules for place names
So far, we have noted two structures:
definite article + noun - y brn
definite article + noun + adjective - y brn mawr
Both are very common in place names in Wales.
An interesting distinction is made when spelling the names.
Where a name describes a 'habitative' feature (such as a farmhouse, a village or a town) the elements are run together to form a single word.
y bryn melyn > Brynmelyn [brin ME lin]
y ty newydd > Tnewydd [tii NEU idh]

If the adjective in a habitative name has only one syllable,
a hyphen is inserted before it to indicate that it takes the stress.
y cae du > Cae-du [kai DII]
y ty llwyd > T-llwyd [tii LHUID]
y bryn glas > Brn-glas [brin GLAAS]
Note that the adjective is spelt with a small-case letter
Bryn-glas, not Bryn-Glas
If the name is a a topographic name (not a habitative name) elements of which a name is mad up are written as separate words. It might be

- a feature of the landform, such as a hill or a river,
or a field or a wood, a cave, etc

- a man-made feature which is not usually considered as a dwelling, such as a bridge, or a religious building (church, chapel, abbey), or an industrial building (mill, smithy, mine)

- a road or a street
Is the name a habitative feature
or a topographic feature? Write H or T.
1 Brn Du
2 Brn-du
3 Gln Coch
4 Brn Bach
5 Cwm
6 Maen-llwd
7 Myndd-mawr
8 Brn-mawr
9 Castell Coch
10 Castellnewdd
1 Brn Du = name of a hill
2 Brn-du = name of a house or village
3 Brn Coch = name of a hill
4 Brn Bach = name of a hill
5 Cwm = name of a house or village (a valley called this should be Y Cwm) (according to the rules) (if such a valley exists)
6 Maen-llwd = name of a house or village
7 Myndd-mawr = name of a house or village
8 Brn-mawr = name of a house or village
9 Castell Coch = name of a castle
10 Castellnewdd = name of a house or village
Write these names: (S = settlement, N = non-settlement)
1 the red hollow (s)
2 the green field (S)
3 the black stone (N)
4 the black hill (N)
5 the new field (N)
6 the big hollow (S)
7 the yellow hill (N)
8 the big valley (N)
9 the black pool (S)
10 the white stone (S)
These are the rules. Generally on road signs the correct forms are to be found.

In fact, though, the spelling is often a muddle.
Rules exist, but people either are unaware of them, forget them, or disregard them because they don't agree with them.

Some of the recommendations made by the Ordnance Survey in 1883 are no longer valid - but they survive on maps. Some minor details in Welsh orthography were recodified in 1912??. And in 1965?? (dyddiadau i'w hedrch / dates to be checked) some revised recommendations for the spelling of place names were introduced.

On maps names with the form (definite article + noun + adjective) are generally written without the definite article.

Cae-mawr = y cae mawr, the big field; Brn-coch = y brn coch, the red hill; Cwm-bach = y cwm bach, the little valley. This is the case too with street names of this type - Coed-glas = y coed glas, the green wood (in Pen-y-waun, by Aber-dr), Cae-crwn = y cae crwn, the round field (in Abertawe), Maes-gwn= y maes gwn, the white field (in Ton-mawr)

Next Page: 0965  (Number Three out of Four Pages)



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