0965e 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
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Enwau Cymraeg
Welsh Names

Looking at Welsh Place Names
Contents page (Page 3 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)
This page

Place-names Dictionary - Welsh place names and place-name elements explained 0817e

11 the definite article and a feminine noun (y bont = the bridge)
12 the definite article, a feminine noun and an adjective (y bont fawr = the big bridge)
13 adjectives with feminine forms (gwn = white; y bont wen = the white bridge)
14 'noun-adjectives' (y bont faen = the stone bridge)
15 the plural of Welsh nouns (y caerau)
16 adjectives with special plural forms (y coed duon = the black trees)
17 Welsh personal names
18 Adjectives after personal names - Ifan Ddu
19 Showing connection or ownership with people's names - Cae Caradog
20 Showing connection or ownership with a definite noun - Pen-y-brn
21 Numerals
22 Preposition 'ar'
23 the nasal mutation
24 the spirant mutation
25 llan = enclosure; church
26 chapels


11 the definite article and a feminine noun (y bont = the bridge)
If we put the definite article (y = the)
before a feminine word beginning with certain consonants (written
c p t g b d m) that consonant changes to another consonant
It is as if in English we had to say 'the vridge' instead of 'the bridge', or 'the gliff' instead of 'the cliff'.
This is our first look at the soft mutation

(Remember - there are three mutation systems in Welsh - the soft mutation, the nasal mutation and the spirant mutation, but these last two are fairly restricted. The soft mutation is EVERYWHERE!)

In the soft mutation system, the following changes occur in the spelling:
c becomes g
becomes b
becomes d
becomes ZERO (in early Welsh gh, but in modern Welsh this sound has disappeared)
b becomes f (always pronounced as 'v'!)
d becomes dd (pronounced as 'th' in English 'this, that and the other')
m becomes f (always pronounced as 'v'!)
ll becomes l
becomes r

The other consonants are not 'mutable' - for example, ff or s cannot change. And there is no change to words beginning with a vowel (a e i o u w y / ).




y garreg

= stone, the stone


y bont

= bridge, the bridge


y dre

= town, the town


y *waun

= the moor; the moorland pasture (at one time it would have been "y ghwaun")


y fan

= peak, the peak


y dderwen

= oak tree, the oak tree


y felin

= mill, the mill


In this particular case (that is, the definite article before a feminine noun), there is no mutation of ll and rh. So we have


y rhd

= ford, the ford (not y rd)


y llan

= parish church, the parish church (not y lan)

Consonants not in the above list do not change, of course


y siop

= shop, the shop


y ffynnon

= well, the well

And before vowels there is no change


yr afon

= river, the river

Irish too has mutation (although the changes don't correspond exactly to the
Welsh system). There is though a similar change of (c/g), (p/b), (t/d) after the preposition 'i' which means 'in'. However, the original initial consonant is kept, but the mutated consonant is put before it.
Tr L, i dTr L (in
Corcaigh, i gCorcaigh (in
Port Lirge, i bPort Lirge (in
There is no such helpful guide in the Welsh spelling to tell us that a form is mutated. (The Irish system applied to Welsh would give us 'y gcarreg', 'y bpont', y dtre', etc)

What is the original form of these words without the definite article? (some have soft mutation, others dont - we have not marked the soft mutations)

(they are all feminine)
1 yr yns = (a) the island (in the sea, a lake or a river); (b) meadow (a riverside meadow isolated in times of flooding) [-nis]
2 y ffos = the ditch [foos]
3 y ddl = the meadow [dhool]
4 y gaer = the fort
5 yr ardd = the garden
6 y fron = the (round) hill [vron]
7 yr erw = the acre, the field [e-ru]
8 yr onnen = the ash tree [o-nen]
9 yr hendre = the farmstead
10 y weirglodd = the hay meadow [weir-glodh]
11 y groes = the cross [grois]
12 y foel = bare hill [voil]

ANSWERS: 1 yns 2 ffos 3 dl 4 caer 5 gardd 6 bron 7 erw 8 onnen 9 hendre 10 gweirglodd 11 croes 12 moel

Note that f- (always pronounced 'v') can be a mutation of either b- or m-
y fron (bron) - the hill, the breast
y foel (moel) - the (bare) hill

more feminine nouns:
gwaun [gwain] - moor, moorland meadow
croes [krois] - cross
heol [he ol] - street. Colloquially it is "hewl" [heul]
dl [dool] - riveside meadow
bron [bron] - woman's breast; round hill
ffos [foos] - ditch
caer [kair] - stronghold - usually Roman, sometimes a British hillfort
erw [e ru] - acre
nant [nant] - stream
gweirglodd [gweir glodh] - hay meadow
rhos [hroos] = high ground; (by sea) headland, (inland) hill, moor
craig [kraig] rock, crag
eglws [e-gluis] church
ln [loon] lane
heol [heul] street, road
llain [hlain] strip of land
hafod [ha-vod] summer pasture farmhouse
ffridd or ffrith [friidh, friith] upland pasture
carn [karn] pile of stones (indicating the site of a grave or serving as a landmark or waymarker)
copa [ko pa] hilltop

Usually, if it is a natural feature, the definite article is included in the name
Y Fan = the mountain peak, the hill top
Y Graig = the rock

If it is a habitative name, the article is dropped on maps and signs
Fan = (the) mountain peak, hill top, (the) hill top
Graig = (the) rock

But in practice there are exceptions

habitative names (villages, and a town)
Waun SH 8504 1km NE of Comins-coch
Waun SH 2319 1km E of Llansanffrid ym Mechain
Y Waun SJ 2937town 8km north of Croesoswallt / Oswestry. English name: Chirk
Rhd SH 6341 3km NW of Maentwrog
Rhos SJ 1261 4km NW of Rhuthun
Rhos SN 3735 7km SW of Llandysul
Rhos SN 7303 2km SE of Pontardawe
Rhos SJ 2735 2km NE of Selatn
Y Rhws ST 0006 5km W of Barri (the English living in this area pronunced this as [roos]. Around 1500, long 'o' in English changed to long 'u' - as in the words moon, pool, etc. The English form was now [ruus]. The English form of the name was Cymricised as Y Rhws, even though it is in fact a Welsh name)
Y Fan ST 1686 in Caerffili
Y Fan SN 9587 5km N of Llanidloes
Y Groes SJ 0064 hamlet near Dinbch
Y Ffrith SJ 2855 hamlet in Sir y Fflint
Y Garn (village, Sir Benfro)
Y Gopa (Llandeilo Tal-y-bont)
Garreg (village, Llanfrothen)
Fron (village by Brymbo)
Y Rhiw (Aberdaron)
Graig SJ 0872 hamlet in Sir y Fflint; hamlet in Gwynedd

As we have seen with the masculine nouns, in the case of street names, the article is usually included. Examples are Yr Allt (= the wood) in Llantrisant, Y Berllan (= the orchard, < perllan) in Llangyfelach and in Castell-nedd, in Abertawe and in Ystradgynlais, Yr Efail (= the smithy, the forge, < gefail) in Tregolwin, Y Garn (= the cairn, < crn) in Pengam, Y Gefnen (= the little ridge, < cefnen) in Abertawe, Y Gilfach (= the recess, < cilfach) in Ystalyfera, Y Gilwern (= secluded marsh, < cilwern) in Ystalyfera, Y Goedlan (= the avenue, the plantation, < coedlan) in Cwmllynfell, Y Goedwig (= the wood, < coedwig) in Caer-ddd, Y Gorlan (= the sheepfold, < corlan) in Abertawe, Y Groes (= the cross, < croes) in Brn-coch and in Caer-ddd, Yr Hafan (= the haven) in Pontycymer, Yr Hafod (= the summer pasture, the cabin on the summer pasture) in Llangyfelach, Yr Hendre (= the winter home) in Pont-t-pridd, Y Lan (= the slope) in Pen-coed, Y Llest(= the hut (on a summer pasture) - a south-eastern form of the more usual "lluest") in Pen-y-bont ar Ogwr, Y Waun (= the hill pasture, < gwaun) in Yns-y-bwl, Y Wern (= the alder marsh, < gwern) in Y Betws and in Llangyfelach, Yr Yns (= the river meadow) in Y Pil

A couple of words have different genders in different areas.
For example, lln = lake is generally masculine in the standard language and in the north; in the south it is feminine. Tafarn [ta varn]= tavern is generally feminine in the standard language and the north; in the south it is masculine.

Some words have changed gender in modern Welsh:
In earlier Welsh, lls [lhiis] = court was feminine (and in place names this is generally the case). In modern Welsh, it is masculine.

Some have gone in the other direction:
Dinas = hillfort is masculine in place names; in modern Welsh, the word has come to mean 'city', and is feminine, probably in imitation of tref / tre 'town' which is feminine.

Nant = stream is nowadays feminine; in place names it is often masculine (originally it meant 'valley, ravine')

12 the definite article, a feminine noun and an adjective (y bont fawr = the big bridge)
We have seen that with masculine nouns it is sufficient to add an adjective after the noun -
y cwm du = the black valley
With a feminine noun we must mutate the initial consonant after the definite article 'y'
melin > y felin
If we add an adjective after a feminine noun, we must mutate the first consonant. This happens to all nine consonants in the system (c p t g b d m ll rh)
It is as if in English we had to say 'the reen voor' instead of 'the green moor', or 'the vlack gliff' instead of 'the black cliff'.
And here are some adjectives along with the soft mutated form
c: coch / goch [kookh / gookh] red
p: poeth / boeth [poith / boith] hot; (in place names: burnt)
t: tew / dew [teu / deu] fat; thick
g: glas / las [glaas / laas] blue; (vegetation) green
b: bach / fach [baakh, vaakh] small
d: du / ddu [dii / dhii] black
m: mawr / fawr [maur / vaur] big
ll: llwd / lwd [hluid / luid] grey
rh: rhudd / rudd [hriidh / riidh] red; rusty red, tawny, brown

Other consonants are not mutable
hir = long, sch = dry, etc

01 y + gwaun + glas  (the green moorfield)
02 y + croes + gwen (the white cross)
03 yr + afon + du    (the black river)
04 y + rhd + coch     (the red ford)
05 y + llain + coch    (the red strip of land)
06 yr + heol + glas   (the green road)
07 y + dl + coch   (the red meadow)
08 yr + onnen + bach   (the little ash tree)
09 y + gwaun + bach   (the little moorfield)
10 y + bron + coch  (the red hill)

01 y waun las  
02 y groes wen    
03 yr afon ddu    
04 y rhd goch    
05 y llain goch    
06 yr heol las  
07 y ddl goch  
08 yr onnen fach   
09 y waun fach  
10 y fron goch 

What do these names mean?
1 y bont goch
2 yr heol fawr
3 yr eglws lwd
4 y graig ddu
5 y waun rudd
6 y ln las
7 yr eglws fach
8 y felin fach
9 y fron goch
10 yr afon lwd

1 the red bridge
2 the big road / the highway / the high street (in the South, at least, the main road in a village is 'heol fawr')
3 the grey church
4 the black crag / rock
5 the red bog
6 the green lane
7 the little church (Note that in the north-west, 'bach' is generally unmutated after feminine nouns:
yr eglws fach > yr eglws bach = the little church
y lein fach > y lein bach = the little (railway) line, the narrow-gauge railway)
8 the little mill
9 the red hill
10 the grey river


As we have seen with the masculine nouns, on maps names with the form (definite article + noun + adjective) are generally written without the definite article.

Bontnewdd = y bont newdd (pont + newdd), the new bridge, Dre-fach = y dref fach (tref + bach), the little trv or farm, Waun-fawr = y waun fawr (gwaun + mawr), the big upland pasture.

This is the case too with street names of this type -
Hafod-las = yr hafod las, the green summer pasture (in Pen-coed); Waun-fach = y waun fach (gwaun + bach), the little upland pasture, in Caer-ddd; Fron-deg= y fron deg (bron + deg), the fair hill (in Tredegar).

13 adjectives with feminine forms (gwn = white; y bont wen = the white bridge)
Some adjectives have feminine forms.

1) The vowel '' becomes 'e'
gwn (masculine): gwen (feminine) / wen (soft-mutated form) [gwin, gwen, wen] = white,
meln : melen / felen [me-lin, me-len, ve-len] = yellow
gwrdd: gwerdd / werdd [gwirdh, gwerdh, werdh] = green
bychan : bechan / fechan [b-khan, be-khan, ve-khan] = small

2) The vowel 'w' becomes 'o'
crwn : cron / gron [krun, kron, gron] = round,
dwfn : dofn / ddofn [du-vun, do-von, dho-von] = deep
(in the north, 'dyfn' [dvn] is used colloquially instead of dwfn)
llwm : llom / lom [hlum, hlom, lom] = bleak, exposed

3) An unusual pair is
brith : braith / fraith [briith, braith, vraith] = speckled

In the modern spoken language these feminine forms are no longer used spontaneously (bord wn = a white table) but they survive in fixed expressions (torth wen = white loaf).
In place names, the commonest of these are 'wen' and 'fechan', followed by 'fraith' and 'felen'. The others are found only very occasionally

01 yr hafod lom
02 y groes wen    
03 yr afon fechan
04 yr eglws gron
05 y ffynnon ddofn
06 yr hafod wen  
07 y graig wen
08 y rhd felen    
09 y lln fraith
10 y felin wen  
11 yr yns werdd

01 yr hafod lom = the bleak summer dwelling
02 y groes wen = the white (whitewashed) cross    
03 yr afon fechan = the little stream
04 yr eglws gron = the round church
05 y ffynnon wen = the deep well
06 yr hafod wen = the white (whitewashed) summer dwelling
07 y graig wen = the white crag
08 y rhd felen = the yellow ford   
09 y lln fraith = the speckled river-pool
10 y felin wen = the white (whitewashed) mill
11 the green island. Yr Yns Werdd is a name sometimes used for
Ireland, rather like 'The Emerald Isle' in English.
Why use 'gwrdd / gwerdd' if vegetation in Welsh and the other Celtic languages is usually 'glas'? Probably the influence of the word for
Ireland which is 'Iwerddon' (no connection with 'werdd').

01 y felin wen   02 y bont fawr    03 y felin fach   04 y ddl wen     05 y rhd felen    06 yr hafod goch   07 y bont ddu    08 yr afon lwd   09 y ddl fach  10 y waun fawr

01 the white mill 2 the big bridge 3 the little mill 4 the whire meadow 5 the yellow ford 6 the red summer-house 7 the black bridge 8 the grey river 9 the little meadow 10 the big moorfield

14 'noun-adjectives' (y bont faen = the stone bridge)
Nouns can be used as 'noun-adjectives', as in English.
'Stone' can be used to describe a bridge 'stone bridge'.

The same happens in Welsh
Pont = bridge, maen = stone, y bont faen = (a) bridge (of) stone, (a) stone bridge
llwn = wood, grove, onn = ash trees, y llwn onn - a wood = (a) wood (of) elm, (an) elm wood
cae = field, gwenith = wheat, y cae gwenith = (a) field (of) wheat, (a) wheat field

Note that if the main noun is masculine, there is no soft mutation -
llwn bedw = grove (of) birches > birch grove
to maen = stone roof, slate roof
t pridd = cob cottage, house made of blocks of clay and chopped straw ('clom' in Welsh)

And if it is feminine, there is soft mutation! - heol gerrig - road (of) stones > stony road

What do these names mean?
1 yr heol gerrig
2 y llwn gwern
3 y bont gerrig
4 y bont frics
5 y llwn derw
6 yr heol don
7 y llwbr mul
8 y wal frics
9 y cae haidd
10 y groes faen


1 the road (of) stones, the stone road 2 the wood (of) alders, the alder wood 3 the bridge (of) stones, the stone bridge 4 the bridge (of) bricks, the brick bridge 5 the wood (of) oaks, the oak wood 6 the road (of ) greensward, green road (a track with a turf surface) 7 the path (of) the mule, the mule path (there is a path of this name on the Wddfa mountain (Snowdon) / the wall (of) bricks / the brick wall 9 the field (of) barley, the barley field 10 the cross (of) stone, the stone cross

15 the plural of Welsh nouns (y caerau)
Plural forms in Welsh.
The formation of the plural of nouns in Welsh is a bit more complicated than in English. Although English had different ways of forming the plural in the past (and some often survive in the irregular plurals like 'mice, geese, teeth, children, men') the plural now of course is generally formed by adding a 'z' sound (-s, -es) (woods, potatoes) or an 's' sound (books).

In Welsh there are some 14 plural endings, and all of them are likely to be found in place names. The most usual one is -au (with the variant -iau). Over most of the country these are pronounced as [e], [ye]. The literary pronunciation - such as a newsreader might use on the radio or television - is [ai] and [yai]. (In the north-western corner of
Wales it is pronounced as -a, -ia)

Dolgellau -
1 general colloquial pronunciation - [dol GE lhe]
2 standard pronunciation - [dol GE lhai]

In fact, in north-west Wales (and in south-east Wales too), the ending -au is pronounced [a] instead of [e].
As Dolgellau is just inside this north-western '-a' zone locally it is [dol GE lha].

(What does Dolgellau name mean? The word 'cell' [kelh], like the English word cell, is from Latin 'cella'. In Latin it is related to the verb 'celre' = to hide, and meant a room or storeroom, or a small apartment. In Church Latin it came to mean a monk's cell in as monastery, or a hermit's cell, a structure in an isolated spot. In modern Welsh it is a storeroom for food (in
South Wales at least - here 'cell' is used to mean a pantry or larder') and a place for a monk, a hermit or a prisoner. It is also used for a branch of Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg - the Welsh Language Society. At one time it also meant a market stall in Welsh. Ifor Williams notes (1) that in the early 1600's there is a reference in some court proceedings which mention "the market town or borough of Dolgelley" and "divers parcels of waste grounds and commons in and adjoining the town." The writer of the document states "One weekly market and three annual fairs have been kept time out of mind for the buying and selling of cattle and other commodities. The king's subjects have had their stalls and standings on the waste grounds paying the crown farmer [= a collector of fees on behalf of the English government] divers sums of money for each site.")
Dl = meadow, cellau with soft mutation (because it is used here as a noun-adjective) = stalls

Others plural endings are:
-ed (merch, merched = girl)
-edd (mign, mignedd = bogs)
-i (saer, seiri = carpenters)
-iaid (usually after people's occupations; bugail, bugeiliaid = shepherds)
-ion (ebol, ebolion = foals)
-oedd (cell, celloedd = cells)
-on (Sais, Saeson = English people, cariadon = lovers))
-od (cath, cathod = cats) (usually after animal and bird names)
-s (begwn, begwns = beacons) (with words from English)
-dd (moel, moeldd = hills)
-s (with words from English) (bocs, bocss = box)

The simple addition of an ending is not the only way to form the plural, though!
There are seven other ways in which a plural formed

1) by an internal vowel change (as in some English words - goose / geese, man / men, mouse / mice)
maen = stone, old plural main = stone; carreg = stone, cerrig = stones

2) by adding an ending, along with a vowel change (as in English Brother, brethren)
cae [kai] = field, caeau [kei-e] fields; lln, llynnoedd or llynnau

3) by dropping a singulative ending - derwen = oak tree, derw = oak trees

4) by dropping a singulative ending, combined with a vowel change; draenen drain

5) by dropping an ending and adding another (as in English bacterium, bacteria)

6) by dropping an ending, adding another; with internal vowel change
maen = stone, meini = stones
cawr = giant, cewri = giants

7) Irregular plural (ty = house, tai = houses; ci = dog, cwn = dogs)

Double plurals
A word might have two (or more!) possible plural forms

1) the two may be interchangeable forms without any observable reason
Dl = meadow / doldd, dolau

2) A plural form might be different in different parts of the country.
Brn = hill; plural bryniau - but in the south-east, it is brynna

3) A plural form may be found in colloquial Welsh different to literary Welsh. For various reasons the literary language uses another
Myndd = mountain, upland: mynyddoedd is a literary form; mynyddau (i.e. mynydde or mynydda) is a spoken form
The uplands of Morgannwg (Glamorgan) were called the Mynydda (the south-eastern pronunciation of mynyddau). In this case, the -au ending is the historical ending. Literary -oedd comes from the influence of other words in -oedd.
Castell = castle. The literary form is cestll; in some place names castellau is found - an innovation, although castelli is the more usual spoken form

4) The plural form in modern Welsh might be different from the form found in place names, which have an obsolete form
maen = stone: main (obsolete form found in place names), meini (modern form, also found in place names)

Plural forms with an 'h'
Some words which had nt in British have an nh in Welsh which reappears in plurals in the syllable before last
ffynnon = well, spring, fountain (from Latin fontana) ffynhonnau = springs
brenin = king > brenhinoedd = kings (also in: brenhines = queen)


Plural forms of feminine words
There is no mutation after 'y' for feminine nouns in the plural:

pont, y bont (bridge, the bridge)
pontdd, y pontdd (bridges, the bridges)

Plurals ending in the diminutive suffix -os are like feminine singular nouns
grugos > y rugos = small clumps of heather

There is a village near Aber-dr which is called Y Rugos (though it was changed to the meaningless 'Rhigos' probably in the 1800s)


The dual plural
And there are survivals of a dual plural, which also has soft mutation.
The best-known example is the name of a triple-peaked mountain by the
village of Trefor in the Lly^n peninsula -

Yr Eifl [r ei-vl] ('the two forks') from geifl, plural of gafl = fork; crotch.
(This name has an English form 'the Rivals' because of the resemblance in pronunciation, and some tale that they challenged 'Yr Wddfa' (height 1085m / 3560ft) for the title of highest mountain (the highest peak of these is 564m / 1849ft)

What is the singular form of these words?
01 caerau
02 creigiau
03 blaenau
04 ffynhonnau
05 rugos
06 cymoedd
07 cymau
08 llynnau
09 doldd
10 derw

ANSWERS: 1 caer (= fort) 2 craig (= crag, rock) 3 blaen (= top) 4 ffynnon (= well) 5 grug (= heather) 6 cwm (= valley) 7 cwm (= valley) 8 lln (= lake) 9 dl (= meadow) 10 derwen (= oak tree)

16 adjectives with special plural forms (y coed duon = the black trees)
Most adjectives have the same form for both the singular and the plural -
t bach [tii baakh] = little house, tai bach [tai baakh] = little houses.

But some adjectives have plural forms. These are made in the following ways:
1 vowel change
llydan > llydain [lh dan, lh den] wide

2 addition of the termination -ion; the root has a shorter vowel or a vowel change
coch > cochion [kookh, kokh yon] red
And -on where the sound doesn't permit -ion
du > (*duion) > duon [dii, di on] black

Today they are little used in the spoken language, at least not spontaneously in modern spoken Welsh; the singular form is used instead.
t du = black house, tai du = black houses

In the spoken language, they tend to form part of fixed expressions (mwar duon = blackberries).

In formal written Welsh it is usually regarded as more correct to use the plural forms.
They are frequent in place names because the names date from a time when use of the plural form of the adjective was usual.

Here are some more of the commoner ones (they are mainly colour adjectives)
gwn, gwynion [gwin, gwn-yon]
coch, cochion [kookh, kokh-yon]
glas, gleision [glas, glei-shon]
llwd, llwdion [lhuid, lhuid-yon]
hir, hirion [hiir, hir-yon]

The word coed is either 'trees' or 'wood'.
Thus we find the town of
Coed-duon near Caerffili (translated into English as Blackwood).
South Wales, this 'i' at the beginning of a final syllable disappears in the traditional dialects, which explains why a name written as Coed Cochion is pronounced Coed Cochon.

What do these names mean?
01 Caeau Duon
92 Perthigwynion
03 Cerrig Llwdion
04 Perthigleision
05 Bryniau Gwynion
06 Coed Llwdion
07 Cerrig Gleision
08 Coed-duon

ANSWERS: 01 black fields 02 white hedges 03 grey stones 04 green hedges 05 white hills (limestone hills) 06 grey trees 07 blue stones 08 black trees / black wood (the name of a town in South-east Wales, Blackwood in English. The name has a hyphen because if it were written Coedduon the double 'd' would be taken to be the letter 'dd' (Y Ddl, etc)

17 Welsh personal names
In general, they derive from four main sources
1) Common Celtic on the continent, or British on the island
2) Latin - either the Latin of Roman Britain (via British and into Welsh), or the Latin of the Roman Church (into early Welsh)
3) English - Old English, Middle English or modern English
4) Norman (Anglo-French)

1) Celtic
Many British names have had a continued existence until the present day. Some are fossilised in place names, and are no longer used. Others have been readopted from place names, after being unused as forenames for centuries.
Among names which have survived are
Iorwerth (south-east Iorath)
(Others of Common Celtic or British origin have been reintroduced since the 1800s -
Rhydderch, Morfudd, Gwladus, Cynog, Tudur, etc)

2) Latin
Latin of Roman Britain (via British and into Welsh)
Church names
Ieuan / Ifan

3) English names

4) Norman
Mallt (f)

18 Adjectives after personal names - Ifan Ddu
Descriptive words after personal names take the soft mutation. Although this no longer happens in modern Welsh, traces of this old pattern remain in Welsh surnames and place names
hir [hiir] - 1 long 2 (of a person) tall
bychan [b-khan] 1 small 2 (person) small, or junior, younger
du [dii] 1 black 2 black-haired
coch [kookh] 1 red 2 red-haired
llwd [lhuid] 1 grey 2 brown-haired
gwn [gwin] 1 white 2 fair-haired
cethin [ke-thin] 1 dark 2 swarthy, having dark features
moel [moil] bald
pengrch [pen-grikh] curly-haired
cam [kam] cross-eyed; hunchbacked
[gwilht] wild

These epithets were in some cases anglicised and used as permanent surnames
Dafdd Hir > David Heere
Dafdd Bach > David Baugh
Dafdd Gwn > David Gwynne
Dafdd *Fychan > David Vaughan
Dafdd *Ddu > David Dee
Dafdd *Goch > David Gough
Dafdd *Wn > David Wynne
Dafdd *Gethin > David Gethin
Dafdd *Gam > David Gam / Games
Dafdd *Lwd > David Lloyd
Dafdd *Wllt > David Gwilt
Dafdd *Foel > David Voyle
Dafdd *Bengrch > David Bengry
(some epithets were used unmutated where we would have expected a mutation - reulting in Gwilt, Lloyd, Gwynne)

In modern Welsh, in general there is no longer a mutation (though in some areas or with some words it may still be used)
Twm Bach
Ianto Mawr

What do these names mean?
1 Einion Ddu 2 Hywel Fychan 3 Morgan Gam 4 Caradog Wn 5 Iago Goch

1 black-(haired) Einion 2 Hywel the younger 3 Crosseyed / hunchbacked Morgan 4 fair-haired Caradog 5 red-haired Iago (= James)

In south-east
Wales there is a village called Melin-ifan-ddu - The Mill of Ifan Ddu ('black-haired John'). The name was shortened colloquially to Melin-ddu, and whoever first replaced the original name with an English name was not aware of this - in English it is 'Blackmill'

19 Showing connection or ownership with people's names - Cae Caradog
As we have seen, ownership or connection is indicated by the pattern
object owned + name of owner

In other words, the name is simply placed after the noun
Morgan's house > T Morgan

In older Welsh, after a feminine noun there would be soft mutation of the initial of a proper name (person's name, river name, etc) after it
llan + Tudno > Llandudno (the) church (of) Tudno
hendre + Morgan > Hendreforgan (the) farmstead (of) Morgan
ynys + Morgan > Ynysforgan (the) meadow (of) Morgan
pont Gwilym > pont Wilm (the) bridge (of) Gwilm

This mutation in this context doesn't happen any more in colloquial Welsh.

Recent names of this type either respect the old rule
Patagonia) ("town of Llew", from Lewis Jones, one of the pioneers)
or ignore it
(TRE + CYNON = TRECYNON, instead of TREGYNON) ("housing project of the river Cynon")
(TRE + TELYNOG = TRETELYNOG, instead of TREDELYNOG) ("housing project of the poet Telynog")

There are also examples of river names with mutation - these are survivals from when it was usual to have a mutated form after 'afon'.
Dyfi > Afon Ddyfi, alongside Afon Dyfi;
Conw > Afon Gonw alongside Afon Conw

The mutation remains if it is an adjective - Afon Lwd = (the) grey river, Afon Goch= (the) red river

There used to be a mutation after 'ffordd' and 'heol' meaning 'the road leading to'. Some examples are found here and there -
Ffordd Fangor = the road to
Heol Ferthr = the road to Merthrtudful

In older Welsh, there was a mutation even after a masculine noun. There are some instances of this in place names
TY + DEWI > TYDDEWI ("the monastery of Saint David")
CAE + MADOG > CAE FADOG ("Madog's field")

But in general there is no mutation
Cae + Caradog = Cae Caradog ("Caradog's field")

20 Showing connection or ownership with a definite noun - Pen-y-brn
We have seen that to express connection between an object (a house, a field, etc) in Welsh, and a particular person, we merely place the name after the object.

T Morgan = Morgan's house

This formula is also used to indicate the relationship between two objects

INDEFINITE: a village green is
ton pentre = (a) green (of) (a) village

DEFINITE: the village green is
ton y pentre = (the) green (of) (the) village)

In English there are two definite articles in phrases of this type - the green of the village, the green belonging to the village
In Welsh only one is possible - it would be incorrect to say
*y ton y pentre

This type of place name is extremely frequent.

Here are some examples with 'pen' and 'tn'.

'Pen' is literally 'head' but it is also 'end', 'summit or top of a hill or mountain'
Pen-y-bont - (the house at) (the) end (of) the bridge, the house on the riverbank next to the bridge
Pen-y-coed - (the house at) (the) top / end / edge (of) the wood
Pen-y-brn - (the house at) (the) top (of) the hill, hill top

'Tn' is a contraction of 'tyddn' = smallholding.
Tn-y-coed - (the) smallholding (of ) the wood; the smallholding by the wood, next to the wood

Sometimes it is written t'n, but this is considered less correct

The form t'n sometimes explained mistakenly as a contraction of y t yn = the house in...
y t yn y coed - the house in the wood (as a smallholding, it is probably not 'in the wood')

though in modern house names it may be used deliberatley for 'the house in'
T'n-y-coed - the house in the wood!

1 Tn-y-cae
2 Pen-y-graig
3 Pen-yr-heol
4 Tn-y-rhos
5 Tnyllechwedd
6 Penyfynwent
7 Pen-y-ln
8 Tn-y-maes
9 Tn-y-wern
10 Penymyndd

ANSWERS: 1 Tn-y-cae = smallholding by the field 2 Pen-y-graig = (house) on the crag 3
Pen-yr-heol road end (at the edge of a village, or where a road forks) 4 Tn-y-rhos - moorland smallholding 5 Tnyllechwedd (the) smallholding (of) the slope 6 Penyfynwent = (the) end / edge (of) the cemetery 7 Pen-y-ln = lane end 8 Tn-y-maes (the) smallholding (of) the field 9 Tn-y-wern (the (smallholding) (of) the marsh 10 Penymyndd = mountain top; (the) end / edge (of) the highland pasture

The disappearing article
What's the difference between Y Brn and Brn?
Earlier we saw that on signs and maps the definite article can disappear at the beginning of a name, which can be confusing because some names require the article and some don't.
In general, in such names the article is in use, but it is not written as part of the place name except in a few instances Y Bala, Y Fenni, etc.

The disappearing article - this time in the middle of a name
What's the difference in meaning between Glan-y-mr and Glan-mr?
None. One has retained the linking definite article, and the other has lost it. It is more a characteristic of place names, but even in spontaneous speech in some areas in colloquial Welsh (notably the north-west) dropping the article in compound forms is not an unusual phenomenon. We can perhaps compare it with English 'Made in USA' where we know that if we read the label aloud we must say 'Made in the USA' - we have to put in the 'the'. In Welsh, though, it's gone altogether - but we know it's still there somewhere!

This happens with the definite article in all its permtations - y, yr, 'r.
pen y brn (the top of the hill, or hill top) > pen brn
glan yr afon (the bank of the river, or river bank) > glan afon
t'r nant (the house of the brook, or brook house) > t nant

We know it's still there though lurking behind the scenes because if the defining element is a feminine noun it has the mutation

gwern = alder marsh
lls y wern (the court of the alder marsh, marsh court) > lls wern

melin = mill
maes y felin (the field of the mill, mill field) > maes felin

We have already mentioned that 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 authors were Thomas Rowland, the Vicar of Rhuddlan, and Lieutenant-Colonel Robert Owen Jones of the Royal Engineers. This is what they said in their handbook:
"The omission of the article in the middle of place-names. "Nant-y-gelli-ddu" or "Nant-gelli-ddu". In words of this description the insertion or omission of the article is equally correct. When the word following the article is not qualified by an adjective, &c., the article had better be inserted.; "Nant-y-gelli" looks and sounds better than "Nant-gelli". When the words following the article are qualified, some naems look ans sound better with the article, others without it: e.g. "Nant-y-gelli-du." Strictly speaking, "Nant-y-gelli-ddu" and "Nant-gelli-ddu" are equally correct".
Generally the form with the article is considered more polished.

(And so the 'y' can find its way to where it shouldn't be in the first place.
The Welsh language school by Pont-t-pridd is called Rhdfelen [hriid ve len](yellow ford), but the village it is situated at Rhdyfelin [hriid ve lin] (the ford of the mill). There is though no history of any mill there. When the area was industrialised the local name (pronounced locally Rdfelan) was misinterpreted as Rhdfelin, and this was made more dignified by putting back the 'y' - which it had never had. When the school was opened in 19?? the correct name of the village was brought back into use)

However, there seems to be a misunderstanding sometimes in the coining of new names that the defining noun is indefinite - and this has given rise to any number of street names and house names where the second element is mutated
Maescollen (Abertawe), alongside Maesygollen (Abertawe) and Maesgollen (Pen-y-waun by Hirwaun)
Heol Cadnawes (Abertawe), where you'd expect Heol y Gadnawes (street of the vixen). The effect is somewhat jarring - it is as if 'Cadnawes' was being used as a given name.

Remove the article
01 Cae'r Ffynnon (well field)
02 Pen-y-dre (top of the town)
03 Glan-y-nant (brook side)
04 T'r-wern (marsh house)
05 Brnyreglws (church hill)
06 Cae'r Eithin (broom field)
07 Cae'r Deln (triangular field, field in the shape of a harp)
08 T'r-brn (hill house)
09 T'r-nant (brook house)

ANSWERS: Cae Ffynnon, Pen-dre, Glan-nant, T-wern, Brneglws, Cae Eithin, Cae Deln, T-brn, T-nant

21 Numerals
1 un
2 dau (masculine), dw (feminine) [dai, dui] (in the South, dau is dou [doi])
3 tri (m), tair (f) [trii, tair]
4 pedwar (m), pedair (f) [ped-war, pe-der]
5 pump [pimp] Before a noun, this is reduced to pum [pim], but colloquially in the South it remains as pump
The other numerals are rarely found in place names:
6 chwech [khweekh] Before a noun, this is reduced to chwe [khwee]
7 saith [saith]
8 wth [uith]
9 naw [nau]
10 deg [deeg]
100 cant [kant] = a hundred Before a noun, this is reduced to can [kan]

The word for two is Welsh is dau before a masculine noun and dw before feminine noun.
The singular form of a word comes after the numerals in modern Welsh. So instead of 'two horses' we have 'two horse'.

After dau and dw there is soft mutation
dau + ceffl = dau geffl (two horses)
dau + march = dau farch (two stallions)
dw + caseg = dw gaseg (two mares)

In place names, dau and dw are used like prefixes. This is more noticeable in the case of dau because it has the form deu- [dei]. In the South, this again is dou- [doi]
traeth [traith] = beach, deudraeth [dei draith] = two beaches
sarn [sarn] = paved causeway, dwsarn [dui sarn] = two causeways

Thre is also a soft mutation after the definite article 'y',
and so we get
y ddau / y ddeu-, y ddw / y ddw-

What do these names mean?
1 Bwlch y Ddeufaen
2 Llanddeusant (llan y ddeusant)
3 Cefnddwsarn (cefn y ddwsarn)
4 Penyddeuglawdd
5 Afon Deunant
6 Aberdaugleddau
7 Cnwc y Ddwros
8 Cefnddwgraig (cefn y ddwgraig)
9 Bwlch y Ddwallt
10 Y Ddwrd (y ddw rd)
11 Bwlch y Ddw Gluder
12 Penrhndeudraeth
13 Dwran
14 Baladeuln

1 Bwlch y Ddeufaen = (the) pass (of) the two stones
SH 7171. A pass near Llanfair Fechan
2 Llanddeusant = church of the two saints. There are two villages wit this name - SN 7724 in the South-west, and SH 3485 on the island of Mn
3 Cefnddwsarn = the hill / back (of) (the) two causeways
SH 9638, 5km north-east of Bala
4 Penyddeuglawdd = (the) top / end (of) the two ditches
5 Afon Deunant = SH 9665 A stream in Llansannan which flows into the river Aled
6 Aberdaugleddau = SM 8404 = (the) estuary (of) the two (rivers) (called) Cleddau. In English,
Milford Haven. The word 'cleddau' is a variant of 'cleddf' = sword. The river is so called either because of the way it cuts through the land, or because it glints like a sword in the sunlight
7 Cnwc y Ddwros = (the) hill (of) the two headlands / moors
8 Cefnddwgraig = (the) hill / back (of) (the) two rocks / crags
SH 9233 - a district by Llangywer in Gwnedd
9 Bwlch y Ddwallt (the) pass (of) the two hills
10 Y Ddwrd = the two fords SJ 0443. 4km west of Corwen. No connection with sacred groves - the English name for the place is 'Druid'
11 Bwlch y Ddw Gluder = (the) pass (of) the two (mountains called) Gluder ('cludair' means a stack)
SH 6457. A pass near Llanberis
12 Penrhndeudraeth SH 6139 = (the) headland (of) the two strands. 5km east of Porthmadog.
13 Dwran SH 4465 = (the) two parts (dw + soft mutation + rhan)
14 (the) outlet (at) ??two lakes

Examples with the other numbers are:
Trichrug = (tri + crug) three mounds. There is 'spirant mutation' after tri - c / ch, p / ph, t / th.
This mutation is especially used in spoken Welsh becasue it also occurs after 'ei' meaning 'her' t = house, ei th = her house. But in place names there are comparatively few instances of it.
Llantrisant (llan y tri sant) = (the) church (of) (the) three saints. ST 0483 - a town in south-east
Tair Erw = three acres
Taironnen = three ashes

Pedair Erw = four acres

Pum-heol / Pump-hewl, Llanelli. Pum-heol is the literary form. Pump-hewl is the local form. Called "Five Roads" by the English
Llanpumsaint llan y pum saint = church of the five saints (In Welsh, 'saint' is plural; in Older Welsh, a plural was possible after a numeral)

What do these names mean?
1 Abertrinant
2 Abertridwr
3 Llan-y-tair-mair
4 Penpedairheol (pen y pediar heol)
5 Pedair-hewl
6 Llantrisaint (llan y tri saint)
7 Pumsaint
8 Pedair-ffordd

1 Abertrinant = (the) confluencr (of) the three streams
2 Abertridwr = (the) confluence (of) the three streams
ST 1289 Eglwsilan, south-east
3 Llan-y-tair-mair = (the) church (of) the three Marys
SS 4688. A village in the south-east (English: Knelston)
4 Penpedairheol - (the) end (of) (the) four roads, four roads' end, the crossroad
two villages in south-east Wales
SO 3303 - a village 5km north-west of Brnbuga / Usk
ST 1497 - a village 1km north-east of Gelli-gaer
5 Pedair-hewl
SN 4409. Village by Llangyndern, South-west Wales.
6 Llantrisaint = (the) church (of) (the) three saints. 'Saint' is the plural of 'sant'. In medieval Welsh a plural noun sometimes followed a numeral.
There are two villages with this name - SH 3683 One on the island of Mn, and another at the other end of the country - ST 3996 Llantrisaint Fawr, in Sir Fynw (Monmouthshire)
7 Pumsaint = five saints SN 6540. 11km south-east of Llanbedr Pont Steffan
8 Pedair-ffordd
SJ 1124, near Llanrhaeadr ym Mochnant

22 Preposition 'ar'
A preposition sometimes found in place names is 'ar'. It causes the soft mutation
Usually it means 'on'.

In some names it means 'opposite, facing' (in fact, it is historically a different preposition)
Arfon - (the) (region) opposite (the island of) Mn
Argoed - (the) (area) facing (the) woodland
Arfor - (the) (area) facing (the) sea

It is generally found with river names, with the sense of (bridge) over -
Tawe - pont ar Dawe - Pontardawe bridge over the River Tawe
Dulais - pont ar Ddulais - Pontarddulais
Dyfi - pont ar Ddyfi - Pont ar Ddyfi
Sais - Pont ar Sais - Pont-ar-sais
Cothi - pont ar Gothi - Pontargothi
Mynach - pont ar Fynach - Pontarfynach
Taf- pont ar Daf - Pont ar Daf
Eli - Llanfihangel ar Eli Llanfihangel on (the river) Eli
Ogwr - Pen-y-bont ar Ogwr Pen-y-bont on (the river) Ogwr

Or it is used in the same way as English 'on' or 'upon'
Llanbedr ar Fyndd Llanfihangel on mountain (village in Rhondda Cynon Taf)
Llanfair ar y Brn Llanfair on the hill

In house names, it is used as a prefix with words of one syllable meaning 'hill'
twn Ardwn - on (the) hill

In South Wales it is used instead of 'yn' with many place names (since many of these settlements were bulit on hillsides)
ar Hirwaun
ar y Ton-du
ar Donyrefail

Although the preposition 'i' does not occur in place names, it is frequently seen on signs in the phrase 'Croeso i...' Welcome to. It also causes the soft mutation.

Cymru - Croeso i Gymru
Caerddd - Croeso i Gaerddd
Llandrindod - Croeso i Landrindod

If the name begins with a definite article, it becomes i'r
Y Bala - Croeso i'r Bala

23 the nasal mutation
The nasal mutation system consists of six letters, and so is somewhat more complicated.
The letters involved are C,P,T G,B,D
C becomes NGH
P becomes MH
T becomes NH
G becomes NG
B becomes M
D becomes N

Note the relationship - the first three mutations are the same as the second set, minus the H.
In place names this mutation is seen after the preposition 'in'.

In the soft mutation system, ll, rh and are mutable. Here they are not.
yn Llanelli
yn Rhd-y-bont

Before the other consonants (chw, ff, h, j, ll, s, etc) and before vowels there is no change
yn Ffrainc = in
yn Arfon = in (the district of) Arfon
yn Llandrindod = in (the town of) Llandrindod

Before 'm' the preposition 'yn' becomes 'ym
Machynlleth, ym Machynlleth
Merthrtudful, ym Merthrtudful

What happens with this mutation?
Caerddd y Nghaerddd / yng Nghaerddd
Pwllheli y Mhwllheli / ym Mhwllheli
Trefynwy y Nhrefynwy / yn Nhrefynw
Glanaman y Nglanaman / yng Nglanaman
Bangor y Mangor / ym Mangor
Dinbych y Ninbych / yn Ninbch

The preposition YN is reduced to Y. In the 1800's some writers wrote only 'y' but nowadays it is written as YNG, YM and YN - a spelling practice which became common in the 1700's.

The first letters of the mutation (excluding the H)
are added to Y.
y Ngh- / yng Ngh-
y Ng- / yng Ng-
y Mh- / ym Mh
y M- / ym M
y Nh / yn Nh-
y N / y N-

So, "y Nghaerddd" is written "yng Nghaerddd".
But remember, this is only a spelling convention, and yng is pronounced like y
Y Bala yn y Bala
Sometimes instead of writing the article - in cases where there is confusion -
Brn - ym Mrn, yn y Brn.

spell the preposition YN / YNG /YM
1 y Nhrefynw
2 y Mhontardawe
3 y Nholgellau
4 y Mhlaenauffestiniog
5 y Nglanaman
6 y Nghymru
7 y Mhrestatn
8 y Nghasnewdd
9 y Nghaerffili
10 y Nhddewi


1 yn Nhrefynw
2 ym Mhontardawe
3 yn Nholgellau
4 ym Mhlaenauffestiniog
5 yng Nglanaman
6 yng Nghymru
7 ym Mhrestatn
8 yng Nghasnewdd
9 yng Nghaerffili
10 yn Nhddewi

In spoken Welsh, there seems to be confusion in the use of this mutation after yn = in. (This could be a result of bilingualism - it has been noticed that there is less certainty and more incorrections in the use of the mutations in the Celtic languages when speakers begin to use the second language more and more. But it could equally be the result of a tendency to simplify with in the language itself as we note below)

In some areas people often use the soft mutation instead of the nasal mutation after 'yn' - yng Nghaerdydd becomes yn Gaerdydd. There are examples of this in the south-east going back well over 150 years, so it is apparently a simplification which has taken place within the language, and is not due to the interference of English. The use of the soft mutation after 'yn' (preposition) could be in imitation of the use of this mutation after yn (linking particle) - t = house, mawr = big, mae'r t yn fawr - the house is big.

Or none at all. Yng Nghymru > yn Cymru. However, this is definitely substandard, and seems to be a very recent development, by younger bilingual speakers whose grasp of Welsh has been undermined by their familiarity with English. Unconsciously the Welsh structures and patterns are being made to conform to English characteristics. No mutation in English - no mutation in Welsh! In place names the correct traditional mutation is always found.

24 the spirant mutation

The spirant mutation is restricted to three letters
C becomes CH
[k] > [kh]
P becomes PH
[p] > [f]
T becomes TH
[t] > [th]

It is rarely found in place names
1) after the conjunction a (meaning 'and')
For example, Caerddd and Caernarfon is: Caerddd a Chaernarfon
In place names - Eglws Fair a Churig = (the) church (dedicated to) Mary (and) Curig

2) After the numeral tri
crug - Trichrug = three mounds

3) in some isolated cases - for example, after ma (= plain)
ma + Cynllaith - Machynllaith, Machynlleth (plain of Cynllaith)
ma + tafarn - Mathafarn (plain of the tavern, the shop)
ma + Cain - Mechain (plain of the river Cain)

25 llan

CELTIC: The word 'llan' is characteristically Welsh, since it appears in so many place names in every part of
Wales. It comes from Celtic *landa which meant 'flat piece of land, a clearing in a wood'.

ROMANCE: The Gaulish word was taken into Latin, and is found in modern French as 'lande' with the meaning 'moorland, heathland'.

In modern Occitan the Gaulish word has become 'lana', again meaning 'heathland'. 'Les Lanas' is the Occitan name for the flat lands of Gascony, south of Bordu (French: Bordeaux) as far as the Basque Country. (The French name is "Les Landes"). The area is now characterised by pine forests which have been planted on the heathlands.

The original meaing in French, as in Gaulish, was 'woodland glade'. The French word found its way into Middle English (as 'launde'), and this became 'lawn' (= a woodland glade).

Modern English 'lawn' has lost the sense of an open space in a forest and through shifting its meaing to the grass to be found in such an open space is now of course 'a closely-mowed stretch of flat ground'.

The Germanic languages had a related word from Indo-European which is the basis of 'land' in English, German, Frisian, Dutch, and the Scandinavian languages.

Likewise Modern Welsh 'llan' has the same Indo-European origin as English 'land' and 'lawn'. In Welsh the sense of 'llan' passed from 'clearing' to 'enclosed land' to 'building' - but in particular an ecclesiastical buldng. In Irish the word 'lann' is by now archaic, but it had similar senses- land, building, church.

In Cornish 'lann' is 'church' in place names.

In Breton 'lann' is also 'church' in place names, but as a common noun it is 'heathland', which may be due to the influence of French 'lande' = heathland

(1) llan meaning 'glade', 'clearing'.
This meaning is retained in the compound 'llannerch' (llan + erch, = dappled)

(2) llan meaning 'enclosure'.
There are a number of words with 'llan' as a last element - perllan = orchard (pr = pears), gwinllan = vineyard (gwin = vine, wine). (In
North Wales gwinllan in place names ??? means a plantation of trees), ydlan = a rickyard, yard to store corn (d = corn), corlan = sheepfold (from a lost word for sheep, related to the existng word in Irish, caoire), coedlan = plantation; avenue of trees (coed = trees). This is also used in street names as a translation of 'Avenue'. The word 'cynllan' which occurs in Llanharan in south-east Wales is thought to be 'dog place; place where dogs are kept')

(3) llan meaning 'church'.
In modern Welsh, used by itself it means the Anglican Church (and is also the name of the magazine of the Church in Wales), or in expressions such as na llan na chapel - neither the Anglican church nor a non-conformist place of worship (said of an ungodly person)
and in the North, the parish church, and also a village which has a parish church within it

In place names, llan is usually followed by the name of a Celtic 'saint' (which does not mean a canonised saint, as in the Roman Church, but rather 'missionary'). After the Norman invasion of
Wales, some churches were rededicated to Roman saints, or new churches were founded with dedications to the Roman saints. This explains the large number of churches deicated to 'Mair' (the Virgin Mary) (Llanfair, Llan-fair), to Mihangel (Michael of the Archangels) Llanfihangel, and to Pedr (Llanbedr, Llan-bedr), Sanffraid [san fraid] amongst others.

Some of the Celtic names 'fossilised' in the names of these churches have been revived in the 1800's and 1900's and have been once again used as forenames - Cian, Cai, Illtud, Mihangel, Idloes

Late saints' names sometimes are preceded by a word for 'saint' - these are saints of the Latin calendar
Sain Ffagan

Llan is followed by the soft mutation...

(1) POSITION - topography
A church was sometimes defined not by the missionary-saint it was dedicated to, but to a topographical feature (though in some cases they are shortened forms, and the dedication has been dropped from ther name)
Llan-faes = field
Llan-wern = alder marsh
= bog
= moor
, Llangwm = valley
= island
= estuary
= creek, nook
= big wood
= above + lake
(llan y dinan) = hillfort
Llanrhaeadr = waterfall

The topographical reference is sometimes a river
Llan-daf = Taf
= Cefni
= Dw (ystum = bend in a river)
= Llyfni

(2) POSITION - administrative unit
Llanddeuddwr = Cwmwd Deuddwr / Cwmteuddwr
(llan ym Mawddw)
= Mechain (originally Llanarmon ym Mechain)

Llanfor = big
= white
= big

Llanybydder = byddair, deaf people
= mynaich = monks

Llantrisant = three
= three
= two
= five

This is in fact an English word in origin, from bede-hus {beed-huus, bed-hus} "bead hous", prayer house. Although a bead is in English today "a small perforated ball which is threaded with others on a string to form a necklace" but it was originally a bead from a a rosary - "a string of beads used to count prayers as they are being recited". And 'bed' in Old English was the prayer itself - as in modern German: das Gebet [g beet]
It seems to have been a popular word for churches established in the 1100s and the 1200s. The change of -dh- to -t- was a normal change in Welsh.

Age of the saints
The Welsh word 'sant' is from the Latin word 'sanctus'. Although it is translated as 'saint', should not be seen in the present-day definition of 'a person who is formally recognised after death as having gained a special place in heaven and the right to veneration by other Chrotians because of his or her deeds or noteworthy Christian behaviour' and who is entered in the canon of saints - the list of saints officially recognised by the (Roman Catholic) church. Originally it meant 'cleric, educated person, Christian trained in a monastic instituion)

The tradition which the Celtic saints followed seems to have originated in late Roman rule, in the Egyptian desert, and to have spread to the east - to Palestine, Syria and Mesoptoamia, and to the west to Gaul and Iberia. Devotion to God was expressed by organising Christian communties with strict rules, and by solitaries living in isolated caves and cells.

They also worked as missionaries, working alone or with a small group of followers. They would set up a wooden cross and built a small beehive cell. Later, this spot would become a church, keeping the name of the founder, and in time becoming a parish church. The monk or nun would continue to set up places of worship and then retire to a remote spot to devote himself or herself to prayer until death. The tomb would then be regarded as a place where miracles might be effected.

26 capel
Capel is a late borrowing, word from Church Latin "cappella" . Most Latin words in Welsh came from the colloquial Latin used during the Roman occupation. If this word had followed this route, it would have become "cabell" during the change from British to Welsh. "Cappella" means "hooded cloak" . It's the same word as in English "cape" (short cloak) from French, which got the word from Occitan, and comes from Latin cappa "hood". And the same as English "cap" which is directly from Latin "cappa".
The "cappella" was the cloak of
Saint Martin, a fourth-century bishop of Tours, in west centtral France on the river Loire. Here it was preserved as a sacred relic, and came to mean the 'a place set apart for worship, with its own altar, in a church or cathedral'; later it was 'a church subordinate to a parish church', and after the rise of Non-Conformism it was, along with 'meeting house', the name applied to the simple churches of Methodists, Baptists and Congregationalists

In place names, depending on how old the name is, 'capel' is either a secondary church in a parish, or a Non-Conformist building.

The Non-Conformist chapel names have become village names in some cases


Babel (SN 8235) (Llanfair ar y Brn) Llanymddyfri

Berea, Hwlffordd

Bethania, (in the English Bible, Bethany)
'House of dates', a village on the eastern slope of the Mount of Olives where the ascension took place
Bethania, Llan-non
Bethania , Blaenau Ffestiniog

Bethel, Y Bala
Bethel, Bodorgan
Bethel, Caernarfon

a pool in
Jerusalem where Jesus healed an invalid man
Bethesda, Narberth
Bethesda-bach Caernarfon

house of bread - birthplace of Jesus, in Judah
Bethlehem, Llandeilo

Beula (in the English Bible, Beulah)

There is also a Welsh spelling Biwla

'married' - allegorical name for Israel - Isiah 62.4
Beulah, Llanwrtud
Beulah, Castellnewdd Emln

a place ein Judah where Saul set up a monument to commemorte his victory ove r the Amalekites
1 Sam 15:12
Carmel, Caernarfon
Carmel, Treffynnon
Carmel, Llannerch-y-medd
Carmel, Llan-rwst


(situation unknown) = stone of help
stone erected by Samuel between Mizpah and Jeshanah to commemorate a victory over the Philistines
1 Samuel

mountain near Schechem, facing
Mount Ebal
described as montain of blessing
DT 11:29

chief town of a district called Gaulanitis, modern Jon
location unknown?
Golan, Garndolbenmaen



mountain of Anti-Lebanon, highest in Syria
Hermon, Glog, Dyfed
Hermon, Bodorgan

a sacred mountain called 'mpuntain of God' Exod 3:1
Moses received his call Exod ...
Horeb, Llandysul

Lbanus (in the English Bible, Lebanon)
'white' - name from snow on the summit - famous for fragrance and beauty
4:11, 15
Hos 14:6f
Isa 35:2 60:13
Lbanus, Aberhonddu

Moreia (in the English Bible, Moriah)
site not identified for certain
Mount Moriah identified with the site of the Temple
2 Chr 3:1

Nasareth (in the English Bible, Nazareth)

angel visits Mary hereJesus brought up here
Nasareth, Caernarfon


High mountain in the
land of Moab east of the Dead Sea
Jordan from Jericho
from which Jesus viewed the Promised Land
and where he died
Nebo, Llan-non, Dyfed
Nebo, Amlwch
Nebo, Caernarfon
Nebo, Llanrwst

Peniel, Caerfyrddin
Peniel, Dinbch

where Jacon wrestled with abgel
Gen32 31
Called Peniel in Gen 32 30
Penuel, Capelbelan, Bedwrog


Pisga (in the English Bible, Pisgah)
a mountain in
Moses viewed the Promised Land and died
separated by a depression from
Mount Nebo

'broad places'
name of a well dug by Isaac
Gen 26 22

Salem, Llandeilo

Sardis, Hwlffordd
Sardis, Milffwrdd
Sardis, Saundersfoot

Soar (in the English Bible, Zoar)
Soar, Llanfyllin, Pows
Soar, Bodorgan
Soar, Talsarnau
Soar y Myndd

Saron, Llandysul
Saron, Dinbch
Saron, Caernarfon

Seion (in the English Bible, Zion)



Tabernacl (in the English Bible, Tabernacle)



chapel names

Chapel names

In the early 1800s it became very popular amongst Welsh non-Conformists to use Biblical names for their chapels and meeting houses.

In the magazine Yr Haul (November 1846), representing the interests of the Church of England, a writer Dyfnwal took a dim view of the new naming practices.

(Translated from Welsh): (after criticising the style of language in non-Conformist sermons, and the quality of the ministry) But there is a fanaticism more foolish than any other to be found in the names given to meeting houses here and there all over the country. Thinking they are being wise, godly, and scriptural, the greatest silliness, ungodliness and lack of scripturality is shown. Before going any further, let me ask - is there any special reason for giving Hebrew names to Welsh chapels? Yet this is the idiotic practice which is in vogue, until Wales has become an earthly Canaan, as regards all its towns, villages, mountains, hills and rivers. We have Jerusalem, Salem, Bethlehem, Bethesda, Bethsaida, Jezreel, Hermon, Horeb, Tabor, Hebron, Pisgah, Nebo, Saron, Zoar, Sardia, Smyrna, Carmel, Sittim, Ainon, Bethel, Sion, Ebenezer, Joppa, and scores of others too numerous to mention here. In the choice of scriptural names for meeting houses, you'd think that some atheist had been busy naming them in order to mock Christianity. Instead of our Horebs, Hermons and Carmels being hills, or on hills, they are often on flat land and in towns. And besides, what rhyme or reason is there for giving a meeting house the name of a mountain, hill, city or river?... One meeting house was called Gosen, because, it is to be supposed, the Children of Israel lived in an area so called in Egypt; and maybe because old Williams Pantyceln wrote that foolish but very popular verse 'Gosod babell yng ngwlad Gosen' (pitch a tent in the land of Gosen). Since Gosen means 'approach', why isn't the meeting house called 'Capel Dyneshad' (approach chapel), in resplendent Welsh, instead of going all the way to Egypt to look for a name? The name Zoar is very popular for a new meeting house built in dissention, war and secession. The name is given by the faction forced to leave the old meeting house, and refers to Lot fleeing from Sodom, and seeking refuge in Zoar. The name is a great compliment to brotherhood in the old chapel, and shows that the saints of the old tabernacle (the worshippers in the old chapel) are viewed as the people of Sodom (ie - the city destroyed by God for its evil ways - Gensesis 19:24)

Many chapel names form part of street names; and some have become village names, among which there are

Ainon, Babel, Bethania, Bethel, Bethesda, Bethlehem, Beulah, Cesarea, Carmel, Golan, Hebron, Hermon, Horeb, Lbanus, Moriah, Nasareth, Nebo, Peniel, Salem, Soar, Saron, Seion, Siloh

Sometimes the names are spelt as in the modern Welsh Bible
Seion / Pisga / Moreia / Soar and at other times as in the English Bible: Zion / Pisgah / Moriah / Zoar Some names in -h are so spelt in some editions of the Welsh Bible (Pisgah, etc)



Ainon (Ioan 3:23)

Aenon (John 3:23)



Berea (Actau 17:10)




















Gosen (Genesis 25:10)
















Peniel (Genesis 32:30)


Penuel (Genesis 32:31)


Rehoboth (Genesis 26:22)




Pisga (Deuteronomium 34:1)










Seion, Sion






Smyrna (Deuteronomium 34:1)









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