0966e 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 l’fr ar enwau lleoedd Cymraeg yr oeddwn yn ei lunio. Mae'n deb’g na chaiff y nodiadau h’n mo'u cynnw’s yn y ll’fr, fell’ dyma fi'n eu rhoi yn ein gwefan.


0001z Yr Hafan / Home Page

1864e Y Fynedfa yn  Gatalaneg / English Gateway

0010e Y Gwegynllun / Siteplan

1447e Enwau Cymru (tudalen cyfeiriol) / Welsh Names (Orientation Page)

0442e Enwau Lleoedd Cymru (tudalen cyfeiriol) / Welsh Place Names (Orientation Page)


...............................................2487e 'Enwau Lleoedd Cymraeg' (llyfr) / 'Welsh-language Place names' (book)

...........................................................y tudalen hwn / aquesta pągina  




Gwefan Cymru-Catalonia
La Web de Gal
·les i Catalunya
The Wales-Catalonia Website
Looking at Welsh Place Names
Contents page (Page 4 out of 4)

Adolygiad Diweddaraf / Latest Update: 2005-03-21



  1100 (ddim ar gael) Y tudalen hwn yn Gymraeg

 xxxxx (no disponible) Aquesta pągina en catalą.

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

27 uchaf / isaf
28 hen = old
29 compound words
30 gwled’dd, cantrefi, cymydau
31 some Latin words in Welsh
32 colloquial pronunciations - Wales as a whole
33 colloquial pronunciations - North Wales
34 colloquial pronunciations - South Wales
35 shifting accent - Tre-y-clawdd > Trefyclo
35a 'y' at the beginning of some Welsh words
36 dropped sounds - Caradog > C'radog
37 standard forms or local forms: Machynllaith / Machynlleth
37a local forms: shortenings (Pontarddulais > Y Bont; Ffestiniog > 'Stiniog)

37b local forms: dropping of the linking definite article - Glan-y-mōr > Glan-mōr
38 local forms: various distortions
39 Llanfairpwllgwyng’llgogerychw’rndrobwllllantysiliogogoch
40 field names
41 house names
42 street names
43 restoring the correct orthography
44 British names in the lost lands of the Britons
45 Modern Welsh names for places in the island of Britain
46 Welsh names overseas (USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand)
46a Welsh names overseas; Y Wladfa - Wales in Patagonia
46b Miscellany
(taulology - Br’n Hill, etc)
(English words in Welsh which are used in place names)

(tags replacing the full name : Llangadwaladr Trefesgob > Trefesgob)
(soft mutation where it shouldn't be)
(French names in Wales)
(combination names - Cwm-bach Llechr’d)
47 mutations - summary page
48 Bibliography
49 list of place name elements

27 uchaf / isaf
There are often groups of farms which have originated from a single settlement
One way of differentiating them is to use
mawr (= big, great) and bach (= little). And if there is a third one in the group, canol (= middle) .

This is from Latin "canal-" (as in English canal, channel) which meant pipe, grrove, channel. Since the channel in a river is always the middle section, it came to mean 'middle' in Welsh. In the South-east it is 'cenol', and this is often the pronunciation even if the name is spelt in the standard form 'canol'.

Br’n-gw’n Mawr = Great Br’n-gw’n (also in English - greater,
Br’n-gw’n Canol = Middle Br’n-gw’n
Br’n-gw’n Bach = Little Br’n-gw’n (also in English - lesser)

But more often we see the mutated forms -

The reason is possibly that, with unmutated forms, the underlying word is 'house' which is masculine; with the mutated form it is 'tre' or 'fferm', which are feminine

uchel / uwch / uchaf [
u-khel, iukh, u-khav] high, higher, highest
isel / is / isaf [
i-sel, iis, i-sav] high, higher, highest


These are seen in other names too.
The Welsh name for the
Netherlands ('the lower lands') is Yr Iseldiroedd ('the low lands').
The Highlands of Scotland are the 'Ucheldiroedd' (the same as in English - 'high lands')

Although 'uchaf' is literally 'highest', the English equivalent would be 'high', 'higher' / 'upper', and although 'isaf' is 'lowest' this is 'low', 'lower', or 'nether'

In colloquial Welsh the final 'f' disappears in words of more than one syllable - and this has been characteristic of the language for many centuries. The standard language maintains it. In place names, the rule is usually to use standard forms, but the use of the forms without 'f' is common.

In the North, the [i] sound in 'ucha' becomes [ų], resulting in the pronunciation 'ycha' [
ų-kha], though it is never written as such in place names
Br’n-gw’n Uchaf / Ucha / Ycha

South Wales, an 's' before or after an 'i' tends to become 'sh'.
mis = month,
South Wales : mish [miish]
So 'Isaf' is 'Isha' and sometimes is written as such in place names.
Br’n-gw’n Isaf / Isa / Isha

They're also used in village names - usually a translation of the English administrative practice of calling a village 'Upper' and 'Lower'. Since the language of municipal administration has been English until the more liberal language laws of the sixties and nineties which have permitted the use of Welsh, it is not surprising to find patterns of naming in Welsh which seem to be imported from beyond Clawdd Offa / Offa's Dyke

Cwm-twrch Uchaf, Cwm-twrch Isaf (Upper Cwm-twrch / Lower Cwm-twrch)
Machen Uchaf, Machen Isaf

When uchaf / canol / isaf are not used to distinguish different farm names or village names they are run together with the element they qualify
(uchaf = top, canol = middle, centre, isaf = bottom)

T’uchaf = upper house, top house
T’canol = middle house, halfway house
T’isaf / T’isha = lower house, bottom house

28 hen
Like other adjectives, hen [heen] can come after the noun it describes.

Examples are:
y goetref hen = the old farm by the wood
yr heol hen = the old road

Goetre-hen is 6km north of Pen-y-bont ar Ogwr (on English maps as Coytrahen, representing the south-eastern pronunciation coetra instead of coetre, and apparently a form without a preceding definite article to give the soft mutation c > g). Heol Hen is a street in (Blaendulais)

Usually, though, it goes before the noun. And in this position it causes the soft mutation.

Hen Golw’n = Old Colw’n, (the) old (part of ) Colw’n


Examples with the definite article:
yr hen gapel = the old chapel (< capel)
yr hen ysgold’ = the old schoolhouse
yr hen felin = the old mill (< melin)
yr hen domen = the old mound, the old castle mound (< tomen)
yr hen gastell = the old castle (< castell)
yr hen gwrt = the old court (< cwrt)

In place names of this type the article is generally lost. In street names too it is generally omitted - Hen Gwrt, a manor in Llandeilo Gresynni in the county of Mynw’, south-east Wales; Hen Felin, (yr hen felin = the old mill) a street in Ystradgynlais; but Yr Hen Lawnt (the old lawn), a street in Tonypandy

In some words and often in place names it is used as a prefix, and has a short vowel.

Some words with this prefix are to be found in modern Welsh:
(1) hengerdd. The earliest Welsh poetry, from around 500-1000, is called 'Yr hengerdd' (cerdd = poetry) in Welsh, the 'old poetry', a term first recorded in the 1300's. These early poets are the 'henfeirdd', (beirdd = bards, poets) the old poets.
(2) henoed. Old people are the 'henoed' (oed = age).
(3) henlo. In North-west Wales, cinders are 'henlo' (glo = coal).

But it is far more common in place names:
'Hend’' (hen + t’) is literally 'old house', but developed the sense of 'mansion'. Part of Llanelli is known as Yr Hend’.
The word 't’' was also 'monastery', as in T’ddewi (St. David's, the monastery of Dewi). In Sir Gaerfyrddin / Carmarthenshire, we find Hend’-gw’n ar Daf. ('Whitland' in English) ("old monastery on the river Taf")

Hendref. Another very common name is 'hendref', the farmstead, the main farmhouse, the winter farm, the place in a valley to which a family would return in the winter months after grazing the cattle all the summer in the highlands. (Often a hendre has a corresponding 'hafod' - a summer dwelling). For centuries the final 'f' [v] in a word of more than one syllable has been lost in colloquial Welsh - 'hendre'. It makes a reappearance in the plural 'hendrefi', and in the standard language the form with 'f' is considered to be the correct form. In place names, the 'f'-less form is the usual one. (See....)
Note that in
South-east Wales and in the North-west a final -e is pronounced as -a. So even if a name is not written as 'Hendra', this is likely to be the pronunciation.

Henllw’n. Although in modern Welsh there is a mutation of ll > l after 'hen', in place names generally the 'll' is unmutated (Actually, this is a simplified explanation of the real but more complicated explanation, but as a rule of thumb
llw’n = wood, henllw’n = old wood

01 old ford: hen + rh’d =
02 old field: hen + maes =
03 old wood: hen + coed =
04 old court: hen + cwrt =
05: old graves: hen + beddau =
06: old road: hen + ffordd =
07: old castle: hen + castell =
08: old church: hen + llan =
09: old court: hen + ll’s =
10: old mansion: hen + plas =

ANSWERS: 01 Henr’d [hen rid]. Name of a village (SH 7774) 3km south of Conw’. 2
Henfaes [hen vais] 03 Yr Hengoed [hen goid]. Name of a village (ST 1595) in south-east Wales 04 Hengwrt [hen gurt]. 05 Henfeddau [hen ve dhe]. (SN 2431). District in Sir Benfro
06 The Welsh name for the English town of
Hereford on the Afon Gw’ / River Wye.
In Welsh it is called Henffordd, a name which is recorded in the 1200s. It seems though to be an adaption of the English name to give it sense in Welsh. (The real etymology is Old English "her-" = army, as in modern German 'Heer' = army, and "ford" = ford, crossing-place at river. ??Erfurt in Germany is the same name) 07 Yr Hengastell [hen gas telh] (SO 2116) a district of Pen-y-bont ar Ogwr 08 Henllan [hen lhan] - (SJ 0268) - a village in Sir Ddinb’ch, and another (SN 3540) in Ceredigion 09 Henll’s [hen lhis] - name of a mansion in Sir Benfro (SN 1039) 10 Yr Henblas [hen blas] - name of a mansion in Llangristiolus, Mōn (Anglesey) (SH 4272) and another in Llanderfel, Sir Meirion’dd (SH 9837)

29 compound words

In Common Celtic, the use of the adjective before the noun was the usual, rather like in the German languages today (English, German, Dutch, Swedish, Norwegian, Danish, etc). The names of Celtic towns across Europe show this pattern
Noviodunon (nov- + dun-) new fort
In the same way, a noun could be placed first
Camulodunon (Kamulos = A Celtic war god, + dun-)

Modern Welsh, and the other modern Celtic languages, now have a system like the Latin languages. New combinations in natural spoken Welsh would generally use first the noun followed by a qualifying element (but as with every good rule - exceptions abound).
In literary Welsh the older system is still acceptable, and many modern coinings use it.

There are many place names of this type, and since it has not been the normal pattern for over one thousand five hundred years we can assume that such names are either (1) recent poetic names, or (2) old compounds preserved either as common nouns, and later applied to places, or names that have remained in situ since British times.

There is soft mutation of the second element
Glas - Glasfr’n, Glasgoed, Glasl’n, Glasgwm,
Du - Dugoed, Dulün, Dulas, Dulais, Dugwm
Gw’n - Gwynfr’n, Gwynlais
Llw’d - Llw’tgoed, Llw’diarth
hir - Hirnant, Hirwaun, Hirgoed,
Moel - moelfre, moelfr’n,
Golau (prefix form goleu-) - goleugoed

There is no mutation with n + ll (but see our remark after 'henllw’n' above)
onllw’n - ash wood, henll’s -old court, gwinllan - vineyard

30 gwled’dd, cantrefi, cymydau

These are the 'gwled’dd' (lands or territories) of which Wales was made up before 1282 and the English conquest; though some survived longer (in general, it was the most Welsh areas, the ones which had resisted English incursions most, which were broken up by the English crown after the military occupation of Wales)

Brycheiniog territory of Brychan
territory of Ceredig
(from a British tribal name Demet-)
Gw’nedd Is Conw’
(the) (part of) Gw’nedd below / east of (the river) Conw’
Gw’nedd Uwch Conw’
(the) (part of) Gw’nedd above / west of (the river) Conw’
= the territory of Morgan
Pow’s Fadog
= (the) (part of) Pow’s (belonging to) Madog
Pow’s Wenwynw’n
= (the) (part of) Pow’s (belonging to) Gwenwynw’n
Rhwng Gw’ a Hafren
= (the land) between (the river) Gw’ ("Wye") and (the river) Hafren ("Severn")
Ystrad Tywi
= (the) valley (of) (the river) Tywi

There were some forty-eight cantrefi (each territory was split in to a number of smaller administrative units called cantrefi, from cantref - one hundred 'trźvs' or farm places)
















Cantref Bychan


Cantref Mawr (Brycheiniog)


Cantref Mawr (Ystrad Tywi)


Cantref Sel’f






Cemais (Dyfed)


Cemais (Gwynedd)




Dyffr’n Clw’d


















Is Aeron


Is Coed
























Rhos (Dyfed)


Rhos (Gwynedd)








Sw’dd y Waun






Uwch Aeron


Uwch Coed

The cantrefi were subdivided into cymydau (singalur: cwmwd). This word is Englished as commote (though "kumud" might be a better form in English) .
It derives from a combination of CYM- = together, BOD = dwelling







Uwch Coed



(river name)



Amgoed Cantref





Annhun + -iog =

territory of Annhun (Antonius)

Uwch Aeron











hill (of) Buga, a personal name, possibly related to "bugail" = shepherd, originally cowherd (bu- = cow)

Is Coed












Cantref Mawr




Is Aeron





Gw’nedd Uwch Conw’




Ystrad Tywi


cein (= cefn) + meirch

ridge of horses


Gw’nedd Is Conw’



Cantref Mawr







coed + ty

wooden house





 Dyffr’n Clw’d

 Gw’nedd Is Conw’





Cwmwd Deuddwr (Cwmteuddwr)



Rhwng Gw’ a Hafren 

Cwmwd Isaf

lower 'commote'


Gw’nedd Uwch Conw’

Cwmwd Uchaf

upper 'commote'


Gw’nedd Uwch Conw’

Cwns’llt (Coleshill)



Gw’nedd Is Conw’

Cym’d Maen

The commote of the stone - referring to a large stone know as Y Maen Mel’n (the yellow stone)


 Gw’nedd Uwch Conw’







 Sw’dd y Waun

 Pow’s Fadog










dau + Cleddau,

the two rivers called Cleddau





Cantref Gwarthaf



two rivers


 Pow’s Wenwynw’n 








 Gw’nedd Uwch Conw’




Gw’nedd Uwch Conw’ 




 Pow’s Fadog



 Dyffr’n Clw’d

 Gw’nedd Is Conw’












 Pow’s Fadog



Is Coed

 Gw’nedd Uwch Conw’



Cantref Gwarthaf

 Pow’s Wenwynw’n



 Cantref Gwarthaf




Uwch Coed










Genau'r Gl’n

(the) mouth (of) the valley



Gl’n Ogwr

(the) valley (of) (the river) Ogwr


 Gw’nedd Uwch Conw’


(the) valley (of) (the river) Rhondda


 Gw’nedd Uwch Conw’




 Pow’s Wenwynw’n



 Cantref Mawr




 Is Aeron










yr Hob

English name - [hoop] Hope = valley














Pow’s Fadog 

Is Aled

below / east of (the river) Artro


Gw’nedd Is Conw’ 

Is Artro

below / south of (the river) Artro


 Gw’nedd Uwch Conw’

Is Cennen


 Cantref Bychan

Ystrad Tywi 

Is Coed

below / north of (the) wood


 Pow’s Wenwynw’n

Is Coed

below / south of (the) wood


Ystrad Tywi 

Is Coed


 Is Aeron


Is Cuch

below / west of (the river) Cuch



Is Dulas

below / east of (the river) Dulas


 Gw’nedd Is Conw’

Is Gw’rfai

below / north-east of (the river) Gw’rfai


Gw’nedd Uwch Conw’ 

Is Myn’dd

below / south of (the) upland


 Rhwng Gw’ a Hafren

Is Nyfer

below / north of (the river) Nyfer



Is Rhaeadr

below / east of (the river) Rhaeadr


Pow’s Wenwynw’n 

Is Trywer’n

below / east of (the river) Trywer’n


 Pow’s Fadog










woodland glade

 Dyffr’n Clw’d

 Gw’nedd Is Conw’

Llannerch Hudol

(the) glade (of) (the) magician


 Pow’s Wenwynw’n 



Is Coed  





 Gw’nedd Uwch Conw’ 




Rhwng Gw’ a Hafren 











 Cantref Mawr




 Cantref Mawr


Maelor Gymrįeg

Welsh 'Maelor'


 Pow’s Fadog 

Maelor Saesneg

English 'Maelor'


 Pow’s Fadog



 Cantref Mawr




 Cantref Mawr





 Gw’nedd Uwch Conw’


(river name)


Pow’s Wenwynw’n



Is Aeron







(name of a strait)


Gw’nedd Uwch Conw’











Sw’dd y Waun

Pow’s Fadog


(the) valley (of) the (river) Conw’


Gw’nedd Uwch Conw’


(the river) Nedd












hill top (pen = summit, garth / gardd = hill)

Uwch Aeron 




 Cantref Gwarthaf




 Cantref Bychan

 Ystrad Tywi






territory of Peulin (Paulinus)

Cantref Gwarthaf 





 Gw’nedd Is Conw’


red slope (rhudd = red, glan = slope)


 Gw’nedd Is Conw’











 Cantref Gwarthaf





 Gw’nedd Uwch Conw’

Tal y Bont

(place) facing the bridge


 Gw’nedd Uwch Conw’

Tal y Fan

(place) facing the peak




= three trźvs

 Uwch Coed


Tir Iarll

(the) land (of) the earl

 Uwch Coed


Tir Ralff

(the) land (of) Ralff

 Cantref Mawr







(the) town (on) (the river) Mynw’

Monmouth - which is a translation of an older Welsh name, Abermynw’ (confluence of the Mynw’)

 Uwch Coed


Tre Grug


 Is Coed




Is Coed 





 Gw’nedd Uwch Conw’









Uwch Aled

above / west of (the river) Artro


Gw’nedd Is Conw’

Uwch Artro

above / north of (the river) Artro


Gw’nedd Uwch Conw’

Uwch Cuch

above / east of (the river) Cuch



Uwch Coed

abovev / south of (the) wood


Pow’s Wenwynw’n

Uwch Coed

above / north of (the) wood


 Ystrad Tywi

Uwch Dulas

above / west of (the river) Dulas


Gw’nedd Is Conw’

Uwch Gw’rfai

above / south-west of (the river) Gw’rfai


 Gw’nedd Uwch Conw’ 

Uwch Myn’dd

above / north of (the) upland


 Rhwng Gw’ a Hafren

Uwch Nyfer

above / south of (the river) Nyfer



Uwch Rhaeadr

above / west of (the river) Rhaeadr


 Pow’s Wenwynw’n

Uwch Trywer’n

above / west of (the river) Trywer’n


Pow’s Fadog











Cantref Gwarthaf


Ystrad Marchell

(the) valley (of) Marchell (= Marcellus)


Pow’s Wenwynw’n

31 some Latin words in Welsh
During the Roman occupation of the island of Britian from the XXXXBC to around 410AD XXXX the British language of the inhabitants survived, unlike the Gaulish language, which was replaced by Latin. Modern Welsh has some 500 Latin words dating from the days of the Roman presence. Many reflect the different life style of the Romans. New words were adopted for the new ideas and the objects for which there was no native term. This was especially so with administration, warfare, the calendar, building.

In addition, many personal names were taken into British from Latin, and some have survived until today. Indeed the symbol of the country - the red dragon - was in origin ___ XXXX

Pontem replaced *briva - maybe because the Roman manner of building bridges was adopted. Similarly there are two words for wall - mur and magwyr. On the other hand, some words ousted native Celtic terms for no discernible reason - such as the words for fish (p’sg), and parts of the body (barf = beard (barca), coes = leg (coxa), and braich = arm (bracchium)

Of course, many of these are also found in a similar form in English - taken from medieval French (canal/channel, castle, cross, finish. fork, font/fountain, martyr, plebian, port, saint, tavern) or Latin ecclesiastical

There are some five hundred words and personal names in use in Welsh today which came directly from Latin - they entered the British language during the four hundred years of Roman occupation of the
island of Britain, before there was any English presence in the island. (They are to be found also in Cornish and Breton). A great proportion are connected with the Christian religion - the official religion of the Roman Empire after the conversion of Constantine There were probably many more loans which are now lost. Some of these lost words are preserved in place names. Others are still in general use

Of these, over a hundred are to be found in place names. The most common of these elements are

cadair        chair    (cathedra = chair)
canol         middle            (canal- = channel)
castell        castle   (castell- = small fort)
coch           red      
croes          cross    (crux = cross)
eglw’s      church           
ffin            boundary, border      
fforch        fork (in a road or river)         
ffos            ditch, fosse      (fossa = ditch)
ffynnon    well, spring     (fontāna = well)
melin         mill      (molina = mill)
merth’r    graveyard (martyrium = martyr's shrien)    
mynwent  graveyard (monument- = monument)        
plw’f        parish  (pleb- = common people)
pont           bridge (pons, pont- = bridge)
porth         port    
porth         town gate; pass between hills           
Sais/Saeson          Englishman/Englishmen      
sant           saint   
tafarn        tavern, public house 

For a full list of Welsh words from Latin, see our page at 0992

32 colloquial pronunciations - Wales as a whole
Welsh is 'phonetic' in the sense that in general one letter or letter combination represents one sound. So it is possible to read a word and repodruce the standard pronunciation. However, spoken forms have diverged greatly from the standrad forms (as in English I don't know > dunno, I would have gone if... > I'd've gone if..., etc)

In the nineteenth century Emr’s ap Iwan called for the spoken forms common to the whole of
Wales to become standard literary forms, but his suggestions were not taken up. Although the standard literary language is archaic in comparision with the current spoken form, it is well established and is considered neutral - it does not favour any particular dialect.
So place names are usually written in their standard forms, but the local pronunciation may be somewhat different
In general, Welsh place names are written in standard Welsh and not according to the local pronunciation, just as for example the capital of
England is London although a local pronunciation is 'Landųn'.

(as in the
USA - Georgia is pronounced by most Americans with an 'r', but people in the state often use the pronunciation without an 'r' - sometimes spelt facitiously 'Jawjuh') Or in England, where Birmingham is locally Brummegam, from which the nickname Brummies' comes)

Some forms are common to most of the country. Others are specific to the north, and others to the south.
(1) pronunciation 'e' in the final syllable
(2) the loss of 'f' [v] at the end of words of more than one syllable

(1) In general, we can say that in a final syllable, ai / ae / au are pronounced as 'e' over most of Wales (see map) (TO BE INSERTED) .
For example, 'pethau' (things, or Welsh culture) is 'pethe'.

Owain is now generally pronounced and spelt Owen (The form Owain is a twentieth-century revival of the medieval formusually in derefence to Owain Gl’n Dwr, the Welsh fighter for independence at the beginning of the 1400s)


(2) Many words in Welsh historically end in 'f', but since the 1300s there are examples of this final 'f' being dropped. The standard language though maintains it, though by now in the spoken language it has disappeared (except in new words taken from the literary language)
Generally in place names the 'f' is retained, unless it is a derivative of 'tre' = farmstead
Pentref / pentre, hendref / hendre, maerdref / maerdre, cantref / cantre, coetref / coetre, melindref / melindre
In the house name Cartref / Cartre.
In other words it is usually retained, though the local pronunciation would omit it
isaf / uchaf / pellaf

(3) -aw- in the final syllable is reduced to -o-
For example, 'athro' is teacher, but originally was 'athraw' in medieval Welsh. The plural retains the old form - 'athrawon'.
gwair = hay, clawdd = ditch, earth bank; gweirglawdd > gweirglodd = hay meadow
mw’nglawdd retains aw

33 colloquial pronunciations - North Wales
(1) The most notable aspect is that what is pronounced -e- in a final syllable over most of Wales is pronounced as -a- in the North-west (and along a coastal strip estending as far as Sir y Fflint / Flintshire).

Sometimes minor place names indicate the local pronunciation

Gorad (= Gored)
Henwalia (= Henwaliau)

How are these pronounced in North-west Wales?
(1) aber
(2) cadair
(3) Dolgellau

 ANSWERS: (1) abar, (2) cadar, (3) Dolgella

(2) Another noticeable feature is the pronunciation of 'u' and '’' (the two have the same pronunciation, although historically they were different). In the North, a [i] sound is used. In the South, this has been lost, and 'u' and '’' are pronounced the same as 'i'.
Lly^n (a peninsula in Gw’nedd)

34 colloquial pronunciations - South Wales
Around 1900, the typical dialect of Wales was the dialect of the south-east. The bulk of the Welsh population lived here, and most Welsh-speakers lived here. The massive decline in the number of Welsh speakers after 1900 (when the percentage of speakers dropped from over half the population to less than 20% according to the recent State Population Censuses) affected this region of Wales more than any other, and the dialect has all but disappeared. Nowadays Welsh speakers living in these districts tend to be from English-speaking families and have learned a standard form of the language, or if the families are Welsh-speaking they tend to have moved in from the North and south-west. Features of the local dialect though are preserved in the local pronunciation of the place names of this area


(1) In the South, in a final syllable, the [y] sound at the beginning is usually lost
Einion (man's name) > Einon
cochion = red (plural) > cochon [ko khon] cochon
dynion = men > dynon
gwynion = white > gwynnon
bryniau = hills > brynna (for the explanatio of the final -a, see below)

and in the south-east,
another feature was the consonants g b d at the beginning of a final syllable, which became unvoiced - that is, they became k p t.
Ogwr > Ocwr

(2) MONOSYLLABLES: In the South-east long 'a' becomes long 'ä' (sounds like English care, wear, hair, etc)
tān = fire > tään
bach = little > bääch
So the 'dār' in Aber-dār is 'däär'; and this is the pronunciation preserved in the English name Aberdare

(3) MONOSYLLABLES: In the south-west ae [ai] becomes a long 'a' [aa], and in accordance with the above rule in the south-east we have [ää]
cae = field / caa - cää [kaa];
maes = field / maas - määs [maas];
maen = stone / maan - mään [maan];
llaeth = milk / llaath - llääth [lhaath]

Other examples of this sound are in Y Gaer, which in the south becomes Y Gār, and so in the south-east Y Gäär, again rhyming with 'care' .

(4) MONOSYLLABLES: oe [oi] becomes a long 'o' [oo]
coed = wood / co'd [kood];
oer = cold / o'r [oor];
moel = bald / mo'l [mool];
croes = cross / cro's [kroos]

(5) MONOSYLLABLES: au [ai] becomes 'ou' [oi]
cau = hollow / cou [koi] (Yn’s-gou)

IN THE PENULT (the syllable before last)

ei > ii (really a half-long i if followed by a single consonant sound)
meibion = sons > miibon

ei > i (short i if followed by two consonants together)
Meisg’n (place by Llantrisant) = M'isg’n [mi skin]

IN THE PENULT (the syllable before last)
eu [ei] becomes 'ou' [oi] -
Pendeulw’n > Pendoulwn
neuadd = hall / nouadd [noi adh]

IN THE PENULT (the syllable before last)
An echo vowel is placed between two consonants -
ochr > ochor
cefn = back, hill / cefen [ke-ven],
Lloegr =
England / Lloeger [lhoi ger]

Anything pronounced with -e in the final syllable in the south-west is -a
(au / ai / ae / e become a)
panwaun = bog / panwen [pan wen] > panwan (Tai'rbanwan)
tyle = hill > tyla
bylchau / "bylche" = gaps > bwlcha
bryniau / "brynie" = hills > brynna;

final w’ > w
in the spoken language: ofnadw’ = terrible / ofnadw [ov na du].
Place names Ebw’ = river name / Ebw [e bu]

(11) 's' next to 'i' becomes 'sh'
isaf > isa > isha
Y Glais > Y Glaish

(12) In the south-east the 'h' was regularly dropped.

Which explains the comment of a Northerner moving south to work in the mining valleys -
dw'i'n m’nd i'r wlad lle mae'r haul yn m’nd yn oil (see sound change 5)
I'm going to the land where the sun becomes 'oil' (i.e. where the pronuciation of 'haul' is 'oil', but 'oil' is also colloquial Welsh for oil - i.e. lubricant, and so can be understood as 'where the sun turns into oil')


Regional pronunciations:
Generally, place names are spelt according tio the standard form even if locally the name is pronounced differently. Curiously though some names do not abide by this convention and the spelling reflects local pronunciation rather than the standard form. This often involves the reduction of final 'ai' or 'au' to 'e'.

For example, the diphthong 'ai' in an unstressed syllable is usually pronounced 'e' over most of Wales.
Llanybydder (Llanybyddair would be the more 'correct' form) 'church of the deaf people'

(See 37: standard forms or local forms)



35 shifting accent - Tre-y-clawdd > Trefyclo
Ffynnon Fair = Mary's Well, (the) well (of) Mary.
From this came the the name the name Ffynnon-fair

Sometimes the stress in a name shifts, and it is accented on the penult
(name of a mansion in ….)

This is one of the ambiguities which the hyphen in place name spellings is supposed to resolve.

The instruction book for the field examinners recommeded the use of the hyphen to denote a stressed final element:
"When the accent is on the last syllable, this name should be written with a hyphen - e.g. Pen-sarn, Bryn-du
It is only on the ground that it can be ascertained whether a name is pronounced Bryngw’n or Br’n-gw’n; Brynd’ or Br’n-du
The following, amongst many others, belong to this class
Rhiwlas sometimes Rhiw-las
Henblas sometimes Hen-blās
Maesmawr sometimes Maes-mawr
Hafodwen sometimes Hafod-wen
Penrhos sometimes Pen-rhōs
Penbr’n sometimes Pen-br’n
Maengw’n sometimes Maen-gw’n"

This recommendation for using the hyphen has been maintained in by the Bwrdd Gw’bodau Celtaidd. Unfortunately, it was somewhat devalued by allowing exceptions

"Caerdydd instead of Caer-dydd
Maesteg intead of Maes-teg
Abergwaun instead of Aber-gwaun"

More examples of shifted stress:

Br’n-croes > Bryncroes
Br’n-baw > Brymbo
Llan-fair > Llanfair
Llan-bedr > Llanbedr

 Sometimes, curiously, the definite article takes the stress
Llan-y-cil > Llanżcil (in Penll’n, Gw’nedd)
Pen-y-berth > Penżberth (Llanbedrog)
Tref-y-clawdd > Trefżclawdd > Trefżclo pow’s; English name Knighton)
Talżbr’n (Llanef’dd)

And in some instances the definite article y > e
Pen-y-goes > Penżgoes > Penegoes


35a 'y' at the beginning of some Welsh words

Some words in Welsh begin with an 'y' - historically a prosthetic [pros-the-tik] 'y'. These are words historically beginning with s- + consonant.

(Prosthesis [pros-thii-sis] is the addition of a sound to the beginning of a word).

In Old Welsh, people found it difficult to pronunce this initial 's' without putting a helper vowel in front. In Cornish and Breton this development did not take place.

The process is to be ssen today in speakers of certain Latin-derived languages which have added a prosthetic vowel. When such speakers try to pronounced a word beginning with s + consonant in another language, they tend to add the prothestic vowel - the English 'a snob' becomes 'an esnob' [e SNOB]. In Catalan, snob has been taken from English in the form 'esnob'.

In Old Welsh, some were British words:

(i) sgyfarn (ear) became ysgyfarn. The word is obsolete in modern Welsh, and only occurs in the name '(the) (long-) eared (animal) - ysgyfarnog, the hare. Cornish and Breton bothe have skovarn = ear

(ii) stl’s (side) became ystlżs and then żstl’s. In Irish it is slios = side

(iii) strad (flat valley) > ystrįd > żstrad.
Cornish has stras = flat valley, and Breton strad = bottom

Others are Latin words which were taken into British

(English often has the same words of Latin origin taken from French - school, stable)

(iv) Latin: schōla (school): originally Old Welsh 'sgōl', later 'ysgōl', and after żsgol (spelt ysgol in modern Welsh)
(Catalan escola, Castilian escuela, French école (earlier escole).
In Breton and Cornish - Breton skol, Cornish skol

(v) Latin: scāla (ladder): sgawl > ysgįwl > żsgawl > żsgol.
Catalan escala, Castilian escala.
Cornish and Breton both have skeul = ladder

In Welsh, ysgol can be either 'school' or 'ladder'.


36 dropped sounds - Caradog > C'radog

(1) In a prepenult syllable, between (c or g) and (l or n or r ), a vowel is often squeezed out











caledi > c'ledi (hardship)
calennig > c'lennig (a New Year gift)
Calan Mai [ka lan MAI] > Cala' Mai > Calįmai > C'lame [CLA me] - the first of May

a similar example is thre north-eastern word for a funeral:
cynhebrwng > c'nebrwng (funeral)

In place names:
Llangarannog > Llang'rannog > Llangrannog (
church of Carannog)
caled + dwr > Caletwr > C'letwr > Cletwr (hard - i.e. strong-flowing - stream)
caled + rh’d > Y Galedr’d > G'ledr’d > Y Gledr’d (hard - i.e. strong-flowing - ford, ford with a strong current)
Celynennau (= small holly bushes) > C'lenna > Clenna (place in Eifion’dd)

(2) Apheresis (a-fių-rų-sis) is the loss of one or more letters or sounds at the beginning of a word.

There are some examples in English, often with words which were taken from French. In English, the clipped word has often developed a new meaning.

esquire / squire
estate / state
defence / fence
acute / cute

In Welsh, this process is called 'blaendoriad' - cutting off the front part (blaen = front, front part; torri = to cut).

In spoken Welsh, it is not unusual for a certain types of words to lose the first syllable. The accent in Welsh is usually on the syllable before last. Sometimes the syllable before it is so weak that it drops away.

Some examples of words from modern Welsh with three or more syllables which are often reduced in this way are:

Nadolig [na DO lig]

> 'Dolig [DO lig] (Christmas)

adnabod [ad NA bod]

> 'nabod [NA bod] (know somebody)

hosanau [ho SA ne]

> 'sane [SA ne] (socks)

esgidiau [e SKID ye]

> 'sgidie [SKID ye] / 'sgitshe [SKI che] (shoes)


Some examples found both in colloquial Welsh and in place names:


> 'men’n (butter) [ų-me-nin, me-nin]


> 'stafell [ų-st-velh, sta-velh] = room

eisingrug (Southern form: eishingrug)

> 'shingrug [ei-shin-grig, shin-grig] = mound of chaff


boles = filly


hed’dd = skylark


der’n = bird

hanner erw

nerer = half an acre (in this compound word the w is a consonant; and this drops away)


> sgubor = barn


sgyfarnog (North: sgwarnog) = hare

Disappearing f
In Welsh there is a tendency for the sound 'v' to disappear before a consonant.
Buddugfre > Buddug're > Buddugre
Maesglasfre > Maesglas're > Maesglase (afterwards the 'r' disappeared too)
Rhiwfabon > Rhiw'abon > Rhiwabon
Bodforgan > Bod'organ > Bodorgan
Cefnffordd > Ce'nffordd > Cenffordd

Curiously the same has happened in English
'hevd' > 'hed' (head)
'havz' > 'hav' (have)
'ųv-klok' > 'ų-klok' (o' clock)
'havok' > hauk > hook (hawk); See Welsh 'hebog'

Disappearing dd
A number of words which had dd at the end or within the word have lost it at sometime on the past, and the modern word now has no trace of it

Latin Davidus > British > Welsh Dew’dd > Dew’' > Dewi (David)

Sometimes the change is still taking place.
rhoddi > rhoi = to give
Modern Welsh maintains 'rhoddi' as a standard form. The spoken language uses 'rhoi'

In Sir Benfro (Pembrokeshire), the loss of a final dd in words is a feature of the Welsh spoken here, where it is usual in modern Welsh outside this area and in standard Welsh
myn’dd (high ground) > minidd > mini (the change of y into i before the tonic accent is also noticeable here)
Casnew’dd (Casnew’dd Bach, village name) > Casnew’'

Such words which are found in place names are some place name elements:
tydd’n > ty'’n > t’n

(South Wales) banadl > banaddl > bana'l > banal (broom bushes)

and some names -
Troddi (river name, south-east Wales) > Tro'i > Troi
hardd (fine, beautiful) +llech (rock) > Harddlech > Har'lech > Harlech


Disappearing w

In words such as derw meddw (drunk) and enw (name) in pre-modern Welsh, the 'w' was a consonant, and these were monsyllables. In modern Welsh they are two-syllable words [ME dhu, E un], but in compounds they are atill one-syllable words endind in a consonant

meddwdod = drunkeness, enwebiad = nomination.

In meddwdod the w drops away to give the form medd'dod [MEDH dod]. In enwebiad in becomes the first consoant of the following syllable [en WEB ad]

Some words which behave in this way are to be found in place names:

derw (oak trees), bedw (birch trees), garw (rough) [DE ru, BE du, GA rw]

In compounds they are monosyllables. Sometimes the 'w' is included in the spelling, and sometimnes it isn't.

(1) (derw = oak trees) + soft mutation + (llw’n = wood, grove) gives derwlw’n, which is simplified der'lw’n > der'lw’n.
Both spellings - derwlw’n and derlw’n - are to be found

(2) (bedw = birch trees) + soft mutation + (llw’n = wood, grove) gives bedwlw’n, which is simplified bed'lw’n > bed'lw’n.
Again, both spellings - bedwlw’n and bedlw’n - are to be found

(3) (garw = rough, strong-flowing, violent) + (nant = stram) gives garwnant, which is simplified gar'nant > garnant.
Both spellings - garwnant and garnant - are to be found

bedwlw’n > bedlw’n = birchwood
derwlw’n > derlw’n = oakwood
garwnant > garnant = rough (violent) stream


Long vowel change in English c1500

Around the year 1500 most long vowels in English became diphthongs.

Some of these changes were
(1) [aa] to [ei].
(2) [ii] to [ai].
(3) [oo] > [ou]. Sometimes the [oo] comes from earlier [aa] in English
(4) [ee] > [ii].
(5) [uu] > [au].


Words taken into Welsh from English before this change circa 1500 occurred have retained the sounds [aa], [ee], [ii] and [oo] sounds.

Welsh plāt [plaat]
English plate [pleit], but in pre-1500 English [plaat]

And words taken into English from Welsh before circa 1500 have undergone these vowel changes

(1) [aa] to [ei].
Rh’s [hriis], English Rice [rais] - this would have been English [riis] to [rais]
and Pen-rh’s (Abertawe) > Penrice [pen RAIS]
The forms Rees / Reece in English show that they are later borrowings

Iāl [yaal], English Yale; formerly [yaal], now [yeil]


(2) [ii] to [ai].

In the south 'pil' is a creek. The word is originally from English 'pill' [pil] = creek. It occurs inWelsh with a long vowel soemtimes, as in Y Pīl [piil], near Pen-y-bont ar Ogwr.
The place called Y Pīl is Pyle [pail] in English.

Other pīl names have no English forms - Pen-y-pīl, a former farm in Caer-d’dd.

Places with the element clun [kliin] (= meadow) have no English form, except for the village of Clun in Castell-nedd ac Aberafan, which has an English form Clyne [klain]

The saint's name Bride in English, now pronounced [braid] was formerly [briid], and this is the pronunciation conserved in the two villages in south-east Wales called Sant-y-brid. (Bride is the English form of the name of the Swedish female saint Birgitta)


(3) [oo] > [ou]
Some English words were originally [aa], as "stone" - staan > stoon > stoun; an example in a Welsh place names is Y Rhath [hraath], early English [raath] > [rooth]; then this [oo] became [ou] - hence Roath [routh], the English name for this village which is now a district of Caer-d’dd.


(4) [ee] > [ii].
Examples in English are "feet" - feet > fiit, "week" - week > wiik.
The river Nedd [needh] is in English "Neath" [niith] (with a change from [dh] > [th])


(5) [uu] > [au].
Examples in English are "house" - huus > haus, "town" - tuun > taun.
Llan-dw [lhan DUU] in south-east Wales, semi-anglicised as Llan-dow - [lan DAU], as in English how, now, cow


37 standard forms or local forms: Machynllaith / Machynlleth

Curiously, some names though reflect the local pronunciation. For example, the diphthong 'ai' in an unstressed syllable is usually pronounced 'e' over most of Wales.

Ystradau > Strade (plural of ystrad = flat valley)
Llangywair > Llangywer
Cadair Idris > Cader Idris ((the) seat / fort (of) Idris)
Machynllaith > Machynlleth (ma Chynllaith - (the) plain (of) Cynllaith)
Llanymynaich > Llanymynech (llan y mynaich 'church (of) the monks')
Maes-hyfaidd > Maesyfed (the) open country / the field (of) Hyfaidd
Llanybyddair > Llanybydder
llan y byddair means 'church of the deaf people' (byddar is the adjective deaf. In English to describe a group of people with a certain characteristic, it is sufficient to use only the definite article before the certain adjectives to transform into a collective noun - the rich, the poor, the French, the Welsh, the Irish, the homeless. In Welsh it is necessary to use the plural form with certain adjectives; y byddair corresponds to English 'the deaf')

In speech, there is a tendency to reduce a place name as much as possible in speech.


37a local forms: shortenings (Pontarddulais > Y Bont; Ffestiniog > 'Stiniog)

In the USA, Philadelphia is sometimes Philly, and Los Angeles, itself a short form of 'el Pueblo de Nuestra SeNora la Reina de los Angeles de Portiuncula' becomes L.A. (the village of Our Lady the Queen of the Angels of Portiuncula)

In England there are names such as Scunny, Donny, Chippy, the Pool for Scunthorpe, Doncaster, Chipping Norton and Liverpool.

The football team Manchester United becomes Man United.

In Argentina, Santos Trinidad y Puerto de Santa Maria de Buenos Aires is reduced to the last two words.

J E Lloyd (1890) described the process like this:
The main purpose of name giving is to distinguish... Where only one object of its kind exists in a district clearly no adjective element is needed to define it for the untravelled folk of that district. The hill-fortress of the region, for instance, would be known as Y Gaer, and only if there were more than one in the vicinity would it be necessary to speak of Y Gaer Fawr [the big fort], Y Gaer Wen [the white fort], and so on. Names which originally contained an adjective element are often curtailed by the people who use them daily and have not to contrast them with others similarly formed. Thus Penrh’ndeudraeth [(the) headland (of the) two beaches]
is locally clipped down to Y Penrh’n, and Portmadoc into Y Port. Tyw’n Meirion’dd [(the) sand flats (of) (the cantrev of) Meirion’dd... is now everywhere known as Tyw’n.

In general, Welsh place names are written in standard Welsh and not according to the local pronunciation, just as for example the capital of England is London although a local pronunciation is 'Landųn'.

Local pronunciations can be:

(1) reduction to the main element of the name
There are many examples of these shortenings. In a few instances (as in Tyw’n) the short form becomes the official name, and the longer name is forgotten. The names which have been replaced by the shorter form are marked with an asterisk
Yr Aber – (“The Confluence”) Abertyleri (locally Yr Apar, 'Rapar), Aber-erch

Y Bont – (“The Bridge”) Pontneddfechan, Pont-t’-pridd, Pontarddulais, Pontrh’dfendigaid, Bontdolgadfan, Y Bontnew’dd (Gw’nedd)
Y Borth – (“The Port”) Porthaethw’, *Porthw’ddno (here Y Borth has become the usual and offical name)

Caer - Caerllion Fawr (Chester, England)
Y Capel – (“The Chapel of Ease”) Capel Llanilltern (locally: Y Capal)
Y Cefn (Cefncoedycymer) (locally Y Cefan)
Y Cei – (“The Quay”) Y Ceinew’dd

Y Crib’n  – (“The Ridge”) formerly Crib’n y Clotas (Llambed, Ceredigion)
Y Dinas - Dinasmawddw’
Y Felin
- Y Felinheli
Y Gelli – (“The Grove”) Y Gelligandr’ll

Y Gl’n - Gl’ncywarch SH6034, Gl’ntarell
Y Penrh’n (“The Headland”) - Penrh’ndeudraeth
Y Rhos - Rhosllannerchrugog
Y Traws - Trawsfyn’dd
Tyw’n – (“The Sand Dunes”) *T’w’n Meirion’dd
Y Waun - Gwauncaegurwen
Yr Yn’s -


(2) clipped forms:
Ffestiniog > Stiniog (village in the county of Gw’nedd, north-west Wales)
Hafot’ > Fot’ (name of various upland farms - the short form is sometimes found on maps)
Mynachlog-ddu > Nachlog-ddu
Gwastadwaun > Gwastadwan > Stadwan
Helygain > Lygan (village in the county of Y Fflint, north-east Wales)

37b local forms: dropping of the linking definite article - Glan-y-mōr > Glan-mōr
The dropped article in the middle of the word is a very noticeable feature in many Welsh names.

Sometimes the article is used in the official form, but the spoken form omits it; snd sometimes the standard form has lost the article.


Pen-y-sarn > Pen-sarn (both Pen-y-sarn and Pen-sarn occur as offical names)
Llw’nypia (Rhondda Cynon Taf) becomes Llw’npia in colloquial speech (in fact,
Llwnpia) though officially it is never written without the article

38 local forms: various distortions

Distortion is seen in certain names in England, as in English Brummigam [bru-mi-jųm] for Birmingham.

(Various phonological process are involved, but for convenience sake I'll label it 'distortion')

Cnafron = Caernarfon
Y Bliw = Biwmaris
Pesda = Bethesda
Slafera = Ystalyfera
Smitw = Yn’smeudw’
Llanach-medd = Llannerch-y-medd
Pom-ffään = Y Bont-faen (ffään pronounced approximately as in English "fain" in "faint", "face")

Aber is often reduced to

(1) Aber > Y Ber > Y Br- > Br-
Aberogwr > Aberocwr > Y Berocwr > Y Brocwr > Brocwr

(2) Aber > Byr
Aber-dār > Byr-dār

Aber-erch > Y Berch

39 Llanfairpwllgwyng’llgogerychw’rndrobwllllantysiliogogoch
Llanfair (8) + Pwllgw’ngyll (12) + goger (5) + y (1) + chw’rn (6) + drobwll (7) + Llantysilio (11) + Gogo (4) + goch (4)

One of the stereotyped ideas about Wales is that the place names are weird, unpronounceable and unnaturally long. And the proof of this is the village in Mōn which has the distinction of having the longest place name in Britain.
The name though is a fabrication. The correct name in full has twenty letters

Llanfair Pwllgwyng’ll - the Llanfair which is in the medieval township of Pwllgwyng’ll.

Llanfair is the 'Church of the Virgin Mary'. After the Normans rededicated existing churches or dedicated new churches to Mary, there were so many that it was necessary to distinguish them from each other by means of a tag. In Mōn there are also Llanfair yn y Cwmwd, Llanfair yng Nghornw’ and Llanfair Is Gaer.

See 0510

40 field names
An important element in Welsh place names is field names. Often they become the names of farms; when a village or town grows and surrounding fields are built on, the name of the fields
may become the name of a street or housing estate; and in house names, field names are often used (either taken directly from names of fields, or from names of farms, or made up).
In general, field names are composed of a first element denoting a type of field, and a second element qualifying this.
The most usual words for types of fields are

cae (= enclosed field),
maes (= originally, open field),
dōl (riverside meadow) and
yn’s (riverside meadow).
Dōl is literally 'bend' (the diminutive form, dolen refers to curved objects in modern Welsh - a link in a chain, or in some parts of Wales the handle of a teacup).
Yn’s is literally 'island' and so is a meadow less likely to be completely inundated in times of floods

Other field words are
ton (grassland - very common in South-east Wales, but found in other areas too. Literally 'surface'),
clun = meadow,
acer / erw / cyfair = acre, field;
gweirglodd = haymeadow,
coetgae = field within a hedge,
gwndwn = grassland
gwaun = upland grassland, moor
= alder marsh
= land

and less usual elements such as
dr’ll = piece of land (slao in South Wales 'gun', probably a calque on English, since 'piece' was used in English at one tme for 'gun')
= plot
sblot = plot
= piece
= fallow land
= patch of land
llain = strip of land

The second element can be
1) size
mawr = big, bach = small

2) shape
y del’n = (of) the harp,
yr heter = (of) the smoothing iron,
main = narrow,
pica = pointed,
pengam = pointed

3) vegetation
drysiog = thorny
eithinog = gorse-covered

4) other characterisitics
garw = rough; uncultivated

5) buildings or geographical features
eglw’s = church,
od’n = lime kiln
pont = bridge
ysgubor = barn

6) with prepositions to denote location
o war = above
o dan = under

7) owner
Cae Hywel = Hywel's field

8) animals
defaid = sheep
moch = pigs

What do these name mean?
1 Cae'r Del’n, Cae Del’n
2 Erw Gron
3 Cae Garw
4) Maes y Bont
5) Ton Gwynlais

The general rule, as we have seen, is to write the elements separately if it is not a settlement name.
Ton yr Efail, y Ton Du. But if a field name becomes a settlement name, the elements are run together.

Tonyrefail, y Ton-du.

41 house names (See also this other page in the website 1046 - Give Your House a Welsh Name)
Naming a house is a tradition in Wales. Most house names are in a sense unnecessary since in a town or a village the postal administration identifies the house by number and a street name.

In the industrial valleys, the 'Gweithiau / Gweithe' (literally: the works) of the south-east, many of the original house names survive from when the house was built over a century ago, and they often refer to the place of origin of the first occupants, and have names from the rural zones immediately around the mining areas, or from the western and northern counties.

Examples are 'Aeron', (a river in the south-west), 'Tywi' (another river in the south-west), 'Tregaron' (a town in Ceredigion), etc.

Spelling: If it is a recognised place name, usually the standard spelling wit the elements run together.

If it is an invented name, usually as two separate elements
T’ Cl’d

Although some of these categories overlap, they are typically found (in no particular order)-

1 houses
2 fields
3 trees and plants
4 hills and valleys
5 rivers and streams, the sea
6 contentment, freedom from exertion
7 seasons
8 weather
9 mythology
10 religion
11 old buildings
12 prepositons of place
14 adjectives - clour
15 adjectives - shape abd size
16 birds and animals
17 occupations
18 natinality
19 personal names
20 music
21 Wales; resistance against oppression

1) names with an element meaning 'house'. This might simply be 't’', or it could be more fanciful
bod = house, dwelling
ll’s = court
neuadd = hall
plas = mansion
llet’ = dwelling, abode (also means lodging, accommodation)
bwth’n = cottage
tydd’n, t’n = croft, smallholding
hendre = winter farm
hafod = summer house
tai = houses
lle = place
anedd = dweliing, abode
cilfach = nook, corner
Llet’ Cl’d = cosy dwelling

2) field names (see chapter on field names)

3) trees and plants
Derwen-deg = fair oak
Berllan = (the) orchard
Briallu = primroses

4) hills and valleys
Br’n = (the) hill

5) rivers and streams, sea
Aeron = river in the south-west
= hill (overlooking) the river Hafren (Severn) or Mōr Hafren (Severn Sea, Severn Estuary, Bristol Channel)
Craig-y-don = rock / cliff overlooking the sea
Glan-y-mōr, Glan-mōr
= seaside

6) Home sweet home; contentment, harmony, freedom from exertion, retirement, pleasant place
Bodlondeb = contentment
= resting place
= anghorage
= fair place
= abode, residence
Arhosfa / Arosfa
= staying place; sheepwalk
= little place, spot
= abode
= place of refuge
= heaven, paradise
= quiet place
T’ Ni
= our house
= house of welcome
= paradise
= apple-bearing, Avalon
Tķr na nÓg
= (Irish) land of the young people
Lle Hyfr’d
= pleasant place
= pleasant hill, mount pleasant
= old farmstead, winter farm
= summer farm
= sunshine

7) seasons
Maes-yr-haf = summer field
= spring
= summer breeze

8) weather
Br’n-chwyth = windy hill
= hill of breezes / winds
= hill of breeze / wind, breezy hill, windy hill
= sunny hill
= sunny spot

9) mythology and the supernatural
10) religion
Pros Ceiron -
Y Mans
= the manse (home of a nonconformist minister)
= the vicarage

Rheithord’ = the rectory

11) buildings
Yr Hen Felin = the old mill

The contraction T’n is sometimes understood to be T’'n (t’ + yn)
T’'n y Berllan "House in the Orchard

prepositons of place and other location markers
Geryrafon, Ger yr Afon
= near the river
= under the rock / crag / cliff

Gwar Cae = over the field
Is y Coed
= below the wood / forest
Tu Hwnt i'r Afon
= beyond the river
Uwch y Don
= over (overlooking) the wave (sea)

13) views
Er’l = lookout place
= view of the mountain
= view
= horizon
= lookout place
Gwelfan = viewing place (see + place)

14) adjectives - colour
Erw-wen = white acre
(gw’n / wen often used in the sense of contentment - Gwynfa (literally 'white place' is one word for Paradise)
T’-glas = blue house

15) other adjectives - size, shape, material, quality
T’-mawr = big house
= stone house
T’ H’ll
= ugly house

16) birds and animals
Br’n-y-gog = the hill of the cuckoo
= the wood of the nightingale
= the court of the fox

17) occupations
Siop Cr’dd = the cobbler's workshop

18) nationality
T’'r-sais = the house of the Englishman

19) personal names
T’ Gw’nfor = the house of Gw’nfor

20) music
Br’n-y-gān = the hill of song
= the harp place

21) poets
Elfed = Howell Elvet Lewis (1860-1953)
= William Thomas (1832-1878)
= John Ceiriog Hughes (1832 -1887)

21) Wales; resistance
Cambria = Wales (Latin name)
= Wales (Latinised Welsh name, based on English 'Wales')
= place where Llywel’n ap Gruffudd was killed in 1282
= valley with a Welsh-speaking community which was compulsorily purchased by Liverpool Corporation for a reservoir, an unnecessary project since the problem in Liverpool was poor management of existing water supplies; however the local authority was Labour-controlled and intent on gaining votes for Labour candidates to the London parliament in a general election by means of this high-profile scheme. In spite of widespread oppostion all over Wales to the plans for a reservoir, the inhabitants were expelled from the valley.
= home of Owain Gl’n Dwr; fought the English occupiers of Wales (c1354-c1416)

More examples at our page on house names 0816

42 street names

In the South, 'heol' is the usual word for a street or a road. The usual pronunciation though is "hewl" [heul]. (There are many streets with this name in the South. English speakers generally know the word only from its written form and pronounce it as the English word 'heel').
Sometimes, in village names at least, it is sometimes written 'hewl', as in Pump-hewl in Llanelli. In the South-east, the 'h' disappeared in the traditional Welsh of the area (rather as it has disappeared in Catalan and Occitan and Italian and French and Castilian), and local pronunciations - even if the area is one where traditional Welsh has disappeared - will often retain the 'h'-less pronunciation.

In the north 'heol' has a different meaning.... (Rhewl, etc)

In the North too a distinction is made as in English berween a lane (in the country or in a village or town), a street (in a village or town) and a road (between villages and towns).

lōn = lane
str’d = street
ffordd = road

Both 'lōn' and 'ffordd' are to be found in the south, but are less common. In new names for streets - especially in translations from English - there is a tendency to use 'str’d' and 'ffordd' - this could be because the translator is a Northerner, or because northern forms are felt to be more correct (there is a general perception in the south that northern Welsh is 'more Welsh'), or to bring diversity to the names of streets.

In Wrecsam a local form is used in street names - 'stryt', with a final 't', pronounced in the same way as English 'street'.

High Street is generally 'Heol Fawr' in the south, and 'Str’d Fawr' in the north.
With the development of industry in the 1800s, the building of terraced houses creared a new urban landscape in

Such rows of houses were given names which often became the street name.
Sometimes they were simply 'tai' (houses). Other names were
teras [te ras] = terrace,
rhes [hrees] = row,
rhesdai [hres dai] = row (rhes + soft mutation + tai)
and in the south-east, rhestr [hres ter] = row (and 'list' in the standard language), often pronounced "restar" [res tar].

Usually though in the South the street had an official English name, and 'rhestr' was only in colloquial use, though there is an example of the name in Rhestr-fawr in Ystradgynlais in Cwm Tawe.

However, whatever people might have called the streets among themselves, most street names in
Wales are in English
The late 1800s saw Commercial Streets and Victoria Roads and Albert Streets in the coal-mining areas, and after 1917 when the English royal family adopted the name
Windsor the physiognomy of street names changed again

With the rash of suburban development in England in the twenties and thirties, and continuing into the development of municipal housing estates in the fifties and sixties, new kinds of names became fashionable for streets - Crescent, View, Gardens, Avenue, Way, Grove, Place, Drive. Such names were imitated in towns and cities - English names of the most unimaginative and clichéd type were favoured by developers and local authorities.

Glen Views at one time were popular (though the nearest glens are hardly in viewing distance from
Wales), along with Woodlands, Pinewoods, Vale Views. Latterly Paddocks and Briarwoods are disfiguring towns and the indexes of street atlases.

The meaningless new names are at the expense of local Welsh-language names, which lose currency are disappear.
Sometimes residents of a street, or even a local administration, try and rectify the situation by translating the 'road' element of a name into Welsh -

Drive > rhodfa, gyrfa
lane > lōn
gardens > gerddi
close > clos, clas
place > maes, lle
square > sgwār, maes
crescent > cilgant
avenue > coedlan
estate > ystād, stad
grove > llw’n
walk > rhodfa
parade > rhodfa
court > cwrt
yard > iard

There have been successes in giving Welsh names to Welsh streets. But the obsession with using English name is well rooted.

Mid Glamorgan Herald 23 February 1924:
Welsh Street Names
Councillor knows of "prettier" English ones
Speaking as a "very pro-Welshman," Mr Protheroe at Swansea Council asked that the Highways Committee should give translations of three streets named by them - Heol Tir Du, Heol Gwernen, Maes Collen. There were too many Welshmen on the Highways Committee, and he was sure their Englsh friends could have found prettier names for the streets, especially as he had aspirations to living in the neighbourhood. He moved the matter to be put back, and Mr Bassett seconded. Alderman T.J. Roberts expressed astonishment at Mr Protheroe's statement, for according to Welsh history the Protheroes were one of the oldest Welsh families.
Mr Protheroe: I don't know them (Laughter)
Mr Richards insisted that the names were indeed bardic and beautiful
Alderman John Lewis warmly concurred, congratulating Alderman D.J. Davies on his full taste: Heol Gwernen "Alder Tree", and Maes Collen "Hazel Area" - those trees grew in the neighbourhood, and the names were most appropriate.

What's in a Name - Welsh Musings. Thomas Peter Ellis. Vol 16 Welsh Outlook 1929
T.P.Ellis of Wrecsam (1873-1936), a graduate in law at Oxford, and for many years a judge in the Punjab, returned to Wales at the age of 48 and settled in Dolgellau, was angry about the practice of using English names.
"We.. have been doing [it] for a long time past for ourselves, not altogether under pressure from across the border, but of our own free volition, defending ourselves by an appeal to Mammon. We are denationalizing ourselves in so doing; and if this tendency is not an actual cause of the alleged decay of the national spirit in
Wales, it is at any rate a symptom of it... Here in Dolgelley I happen to live near an olden town, which prides itself on being distinctly Welsh. It isn't so in origin, if you go back to origins, but that is by the way. But look what is done here. How are [the streets] named? They are dignified with names like Lombard Street, English Terrace, Bridge Street, Smithfield Road,and so on, and if you come across a triangular opening it is called Finsbury Square, Queen's Square, Eldon Square..."

A writer to the Western Mail in 1988, a co-manager of a housing association, gave an interesting example of the refusal of some local councils to use Welsh names (Usually they were Labour-controlled councils which showed an appalling hostility to the Welsh language, believing this intolerance to be some sort of progressive attitude - burying to them what was the past, and moving on to a glorious future - which seemed to be monoglot English! Many of the councillors who supported this strange view of the world were in fact Welsh-peaking). The association was building a housing estate in Rhydyfelin, Pont-y-pridd, alongside an an existing estate with streets named incongruously after writers from over the border - Wordsworth, Shakespeare, Tennyson, Masefield, Shelley and Tennyson. The writer decided that the name of a local poet would be more appropriate
"A visit to the nearby Glantaff {= Glan-taf} Farm established that a poet had lived earlier in the century at a second farmhouse, within sight of the development. His bardic name, said the friendly farmer, was 'Brynfab'... He had won Chairs in local eisteddfodau, contributed to the development of the Trades Union movement in the Valley, written a poetic commentary on local and national politics for the Merthyr newspaper 'Tarian y Gweithiwr' for over twenty years and had helped lay foundations for the beginnings of the Labour Party... I recommended the name 'Maes Brynfab'. The association agreed, and a paper was prepared and sent to the Taff-Ely Council making and explaining the recommendation. The proposal was rejected. They affixed their own name which still stands. The development was named by the Council as 'Poet's Close'..."
(Western Mail 20 10 88)

43 restoring the correct orthography
Restoring the correct orthography
Comparing a map of say 1950 with a modern map we see that certain places have adopted the correct Welsh form rather than the English adaptation (either a phonetic adaptation, or a faulty spelling)
Examples are (with the former name or spelling in brackets) - Llanelli (Llanelly), Conw’ (Conway), Llandeilo (Llandilo), Aberteifi (Abertivy), Tyw’n (Towyn), Dolgellau (Dolgelley), Caernarfon (Carnarvon), Porthmadog (Portmadoc) (though Portmadoc was in fact the original name - a mock Italianate form. This is a good example of a foreign form becoming Welsh)

There is still work to be done however - often the 'English' name is only the Welsh form in a hideous spelling (although in certain cases it is a spelling at one time used in Welsh, but now no longer valid)

Foreign forms becoming Welsh
Just as in England there are names from British (Dover, etc) or French (Beaulieu) which have been adapted into English, ther are names in Welsh from Irish, English and Norman which have become Welsh in shape.

A couple of examples - the Ll’^n peninsula is from an Irish word equivalent to modern Irish Lįighean - Leinster, men of Leinster. In this peninsula is the village of Y Ffōr - from a tavern name which had been given an English name - the Four Crosses (i.e. the crossroad). In South-east Wales there is the castle of Bewp’r - from a Norman or French form equivalent to modern French beau pré - fair meadow.

In Bro Morgannwg in the south-east, and in Sir y Fflint in the north, there are many examples of English names which have been adpoted into Welsh as the Welsh gradually moved back into lands which had been taken over by the English invaders. One example from the north-east is Prestat’n - the priest's 'tuun' or farmstead. In the South-east the village of Nash (from a Middle English locative form equivalent to 'at the ash tree') has become Yr As Fach (Little Ash).

44 British names in the lost lands of the Britons
There are very few words of British origin in English - the conquered, if they retain their language, take words from the conquered - as happened with the British and the previous invaders, the Romans, and as would happen in the case of English itself after the Norman invasion, when the English language took in words from the Norman language (or later, Parisian French).

However, elements of place names were retained all over the former lands of the British, and even today they faintly visible on a map of England, in English-language names, or in Southern Scotland, in Scots-language names and Scottish(-Gaelic) names. Sometimes they have transformed themselves into similar-sounding English words (the British word which is the basis of 'crug' in Welsh is appears as 'church' in the Gloucestershire place name 'Churchdown'.
Some examples are (with the modern Welsh element followed by place names in England or Scotland)
afon = river: :.Avening.: (near Nailsworth, Gloucestershire), :.Avon.: (river flowing through Bath and Bristol) (river at Stratford, Warwickshire) (river in Wiltshire and Dorset), :.Aveton Gifford.: (Devon)
argoed = wood: :.East Orchard.: (Dorset)
bar = peak: :.Barr.: (hamlet by Taunton)
barrog = peaked: :.Berkshire.:; :.East Barkwith / West Barkwith.: (Lincolnshire)
blaen = top: :.Blencathra, Blencarn, Blencogo, Blencow, Blennerhasset, Blindcrake.: (all in Cumbria), :.Blenkinsopp .:(Northumberland), :.Plenmellor.: ("blaen + moelfre") (by Haltwhistle, Northumberland)
braint = privilege, Celtic *brigant- = high, exalted: :.Brent Tor.: (conical hill near Tavistock, Devon), :.Brent.: (river in London; Brentford)
bre = hill: :.Brean.: (Somerset), :.Brill.: (Buckinghamshire; near Thame)
br’n = hill: :.Bryn.: (Northwich, Cheshire), :.Bryn.: (Greater Manchester), :.Bryn.: (by Clun, Shropshire)
cadair = chair: :.Caterham.: (Surrey), :.Crewkerne.: (Yeovil, Somerset), :.Chadderton.: (Greater Manchester)
caer = Roman camp: :.Carlisle.: (Cumbria), :.Cardurnock.: (Cumbria)
camddwr = crooked stream: :.Conder.: (Lancaster, Lancashire). (There is a Camddwr in Ceredigion, and another in Pow’s)
cant = periphery: :.Kent.:; :.?Pen-y-ghent.: (mountain in Yorkshire)
carn = pile of stones: :.Charnwood Forest.: (Leicestershire)
carreg = stone: :.Cark.: (near Cartmel, Cumbria), :.Castle Carrock.: (Cumbria)
catreath = cateract: :.Catterick.: (Yorkshire)
cefn = back, hill: :.Chevening.: (near Sevenoaks, Kent), :.The Chevin.: (steep ridge near Otley in North Yorkshire)
cemais = bend in a river; (sea) bay: :.Campsall.: (Doncaster, South Yorkshire), :.Cambois.: (locality in Northumberland)
cerdin = rowan trees: :.Cuerdin Green.: (Lancashire)
cil = recess: :.Culgaith.: ("cilgoed" = secluded wood ) (Cumbria)
coed = wood: :.Culcheth.: (Lancashire) and :.Culcheth.: (Manchester) (= cil coed - wooded recess), :.Penge.: (district in the borough of Bromley, London; (equivalent to modern welsh Pen-coed (at) the (end/edge/top) (of) (the) wood, :.Chicklade.: (near Shaftesbury, Wiltshire), :.Chetwode.: (near Buckingham), :.Chicklade.: (Wiltshire)
coedlan = wood: :.Pencaitland.: (Scotland)
cors = swamp: :.Corse.: (near Gloucester), :.Corsley.: (near Warminster, Wiltshire)
craig = rock, crag: :.Creaton.: (Northampton), :.Blindcrake.: (Cumbria), :.Crake.: (river flowing from Coniston Water, Cumbria), :.North Creake.: (Norfolk), :.Chute Forest.: (Wiltshire)
crug = mound: :.Cricklade.: (near Swindon, Wiltshire), :.Cricklewood.: (in the borough of Brent, London), :.Evercreech.: (near Shepton Mallet, Somerset), :.Churchdown.: (near Gloucester), :.Cruckmeole.: ("crug y moel" = mound of the bare hill) (near Shrewsbury, Shropshire), :.Crook.: (near Bishop Auckland, Durham), :.Creech.: (near Wareham, Dorset), :.Creech St Michael.: (near Taunton, Somerset), :.Cricket St Thomas.: (Somerset), :.Penkridge.: ("pen + crug") (Staffordshire)
cr’w = weir: :.Crewe.: (village in Cheshire on the border with Wales); :.Crewe.: (town in Cheshire)
cwm = valley: :.Cumdivock.: (Cumbria) (= Cwm Dyfog - the valley of Dyfog)
Cymr’ = 'people of the same bro': :.Cumberland / Cumbria.:
din = fort; :.Timble.: (near Blubberhouses, North Yorkshire) (= Din-foel - fort on the hill)
du = black: :.Glendue.:
dwfr = water: :.Condover.: (near Shrewsbury), :.Andoversford.: (near Cheltenham, Gloucestershire), :.Wendover.: ("gw’n" = white, chalky + "dwfr" = water / stream) (in Chiltern Hills near Aylesbury), :.Micheldever.: (Hampshire)
eglw’s = church: :.Eccles.: (near Coldstream, Scotland), :.Eccles.: (Greater Manchester), :.Eccles.: (Kent), :.Ecclesfield.: (South Yorkshire), :.Eccleshill.: (Bradford), :.Eccleston.: (near Chester, Cheshire), :.Eccleston.: (near Chorley, Lancashire), :.Eccleston.: (part of St Helens, Merseyside), :.Great Eccleston.: (Poulton-le-Fylde, Lancashire), :.Eccles Road.: (Norfolk)
Elfed : :.Elmet.: (Yorkshire) name of a former British kingdom (the name occurs in the villages of :.Barwick in Elmet.: and :.Sherburn in Elmet.: east of Leeds)
gl’n = valley: :.Glenridding.: ("gl’n + rhed’n" = fern valley) (Northumberland)
gwern = alder trees, alder swamp: :.Werneth.: ("gwern’dd" = alders) (Greater Manchester), :.Wearne.: (by Langport, Somerset)
gw’n = white: :.Wendover.: ("gw’n" = white, chalky + "dwfr" = water / stream) (in Chiltern Hills near Aylesbury)
heiddiog = barley field: :.Pendock.: (near Tewkesbury, Worcestershire); :.Haydock.: (Lancashire)
hesgin = sedge place: :.Heskin Green.: (by Chorley, Lancashire)
h’nt = way: :.Hints.: (Staffordshire)
llan = church: :.Landican.: (Birkenhead), :.Lamplugh.: ('plw’f' = parish) (Cumbria), :.Landkey.: ("Llandygįi") (near Barnstaple, Devon),
llannerch = clearing: :.Lanercost.: (Cumbria), :.Lanark.: (Scotland)
llw’f = elms: :.Lemon.: (river on Dartmoor, Devon), :.Lympne.: (Kent - site of Roman fort of Lemanis), :.Leam.: (river in Northamptonshire)
llw’tgoed = grey wood: :.Lichfield.: (Staffordshire), :.Lychett Minster.: (near Wareham, Dorset)
llydan = wide: :.Loddon.: (river in Hampshire), :.Leadon.: (river by Ledbury in Gloucestershire)
ll’n = lake: :.King's Lynn.: (Norfolk), :.Lincoln.:,
ll’s = court: :.Liss.: (near Petersfield, Hampshire); :.Liscard.: ("ll’s-garreg" court by the stone) (part of Wallesey, Merseyside), :.Treales.: ("trefl’s" = court by the homestead) (near Kirkham, Lancashire)
maes = field: :.Maisemore.: ("maes mawr" = big field) (village near Gloucester)
magw’r = wall: :.Ashton-in-Makerfield.: (Greater Manchester)
mam = woman's breast; hill: :.Mansfield.: (Nottinghamshire), :.Manchester.:, :.Mam Tor.: (Castleton, Derbyshire), :.Mamhead.: (near Dawlish, Devon)
Meirion (mans's name - Marion): :.Marron.: (river in Cumbria)
= bare hill: :.Cruckmeole.: ("crug") (near Shrewsbury, Shropshire), :.Molland.: (Exmoor, Devon), :.North Molton.: (Devon)
moelfre = bare hill (moel + bre): :.Mellor.: (Greater Manchester), :.Plenmellor.: ("blaen + moelfre") (by Haltwhistle, Northumberland),
moelfr’n = bare hill: :.Malvern.:
moelros = bare hill (moel + rhos): :.Melrose.: (Scotland)
myn’dd (Minehead, Somerset), :.Mendip.: (Somerset), :.Minton.: (near Church Stretton, Shropshire), :.Mindrum.: (myn’dd + drum) (Northumberland), :.Myndtown.: (near Bishop's Castle, Shropshire)
= valley: :.Nent.: (Cumbria)
nyfed = sacred grove: :.Bishop's Nympton.: (Devon), :.Nympsfield.: (by Nailsworth, Gloucestershire), :.Nymet Rowland.: (Devon)
pant = hollow: :.Pauntley.: (near Newent, Gloucestershire); :.Pont.: (river in Northumberland)
peb’ll = huts: :.Peebles.: (Scotland)
Pedrog (saint's name): :.Petrockstow.: (Devon)
= hill: :.Pendle Hill.: (Lancashire), :.Penselwood.: (near Wincanton, Somerset), :.Penrith.: ("pen + rh’d") (Cumbria), :.Penruddock.: (near Penrith, Cumbria), :.Penkridge.: ("pen + crug") (Staffordshire), :.Pendlebury.: (Manchester), :.Higher Penwortham.: (Preston, Lancashire)
pennardd = spur: :.East Pennard.: and :.West Pennard.: (Somerset)
perth = bush: :.Perth.: (Scotland)
plw’f = parish: :.Lamplugh.: ('llan' = church) (Cumbria)
pont = bridge: :.Penpont.: ('bridge end') (near Thornhill, Scotland)
pren = tree: :.Pimperne.: (= "pum pren" five trees) (near Blandford Forum, Dorset)
pr’s = grove: :.Prees.: (near Whitchurch, Shropshire), :.Preesall.: (opposite Fleetwood, Lancashire), :.Dumfries .:(Scotland), :.Priston.: (Somerset)
pwll = pool: :.Pilling.: (Lancashire) "pyll’n" = small pool
rhed’n = ferns: :.Glenridding.: ("gl’n + rhed’n" = fern valley) (Northumberland)
rhos = hill: :.Ross-on-Wye.: (Herefordshire)
rh’d = ford: :.Penrith.: ("pen + rh’d") (Cumbria),
tāl = end; :.Tallentire.:, (Cockermouth, Cumbria) (= Tāl-yn-tir - land's end - yn as in Old Welsh, the original form of the definite article 'yr')
tref = homestead: :.Treales.: ("trefl’s" = court by the homestead) (near Kirkham, Lancashire)
twr = pile: :.Mam Tor.: (Castleton, Derbyshire)
twrch = wild boar: :.Pentrich.: (near Ripley, Derbyshire) (= Pen-t’rch near Caerd’dd / Cardiff), :.Pentridge.: (near Sixpenny Handley, Dorset),
tyll- = perforated: :.Tollard Farnham.: ("tyllardd" = perforated rock) (village in Dorset)
yn’s = island, meadow: :.Innsworth.: (suburb of Shropshire), :.Ince.: (near Wigan, Lancashire), :.Ince.: (near Ellesmere Port, Cheshire)

Some river names found in Wales have equivalents in England and Scotland since thay had the same British name:
Brefi: :.Breamish.: (river, Northumberland) (See Llanddewi Brefi)
Ceint : :.Kenton.: (village near Dawlish, Devon)
Claear : :.Kingsclere.: (village in Hampshire)
Clown : :.Clowne.: (town near Bolsover, Derbyshire)
Crai : :.Cray.: (village, North Yorkshire), :.Cray.: (river in London borough of Bromley; :.Crayford.: named after it)
Cynw’d = river name: :.Cantlop.: (near Shrewsbury, Shropshire), :.Cound Brook.: (Shropshire), :.Kennet.: (river, Wiltshire), :.Coundon.: (Coventry), :.Countisbury.: (near Lynton, Devon)
Dulais = black stream: :.Dawlish.: (Devon)
Ffraw : :.Frome.: (name of three rivers: Dorset, Somerset, Gloucestershire) (See Aberffraw)
Gwili: :.Wylye.: (river in Wiltshire, at :.Wilton.:)
Gw’ : :.Wye.: (river, Derbyshire), :.Wey.: (river, Dorset; :.Weymouth.:)
Hawddnant : :.Hodnet.: (village by Market Drayton, Shropshire)
Llafar = 'talking' : :.Laver.: (river by Pateley Bridge, North Yorkshire)
Lliw = brilliant: :.Lew.: (two rivers in Devon), :.Lifton.: (Devon, near the Cornish boder)
Llydan = wide; :.Leadon.: (river flowing past Ledbury, Gloucestershire)
Llyfni : various rivers called :.Leven.: (Yorkshire, Cumbria; Scotland)
Nedd: : :.Nidd.: (see Castell-nedd)
Taf (river name): :.Team.: (joins the Tyne at Gateshead), .:Tay, Tame.: (North Yorkshire), :.Tame.: (Staffordshire), :.Tame.: (Manchester)
Tawe : :.Taw.: (Devon)
W’sg = river name: :.Esk.: (Cumbria; Yorkshire; Langholm, Scotland; Musselburgh, Scotland) :.Exe.: (Devon), :.Axe.: (Dorset, and another in Devon),
Such vestiges are scarce in the east of England which the Germanic invaders settled first, but the further west one goes, the more numerous are the surviving post-British (early Welsh or early Cornish) place names. They are especially numerous in the south-west (
Somerset, Dorset, and Devon) up to the Cornish border - and also in Wiltshire and Hampshire. In the Cheshire and Lancashire area there are higher concentrations of Welsh names, and in the lands of the 'Hen Ogledd' (the Old North) - in Northumberland, but especially in Cumbria and the south-west of Scotland, where there were speakers of Cumbric (the British language of the kingdom of Strathclyde) apparently until around 1100. Between Shrewsbury and the current Welsh border there are also many Welsh names, and in Herefordshire and Gloucestershire. (Part of Shropshire around Croesoswallt / Oswestry is traditionally a Welsh-speaking district; and until the 1800s Welsh was spoken in the part of the old kingdom of Gwent which was later incorporated into Herefordshire, between the rivers Gw’ /Wye and Mynw’ / Monnow)

45 Modern Welsh names for places in the island of Britain
Welsh names of English and Scottish places

In modern standard Welsh there are names which refer to places outside Wales

yr Alban ·· Scotland
Amw’thig / Sir Amw’thig ·· Shrewsbury / Shropshire ··
Bryste ·· Bristol ·· from an older English form (= bridge-stow) before the 'l' of the local Bristol dialect was added
Caer / Sir Gaer ·· Chester / Cheshire ··
Caeredin ·· Edinburgh ··
Caerefrog / Efrog ·· York ··
Caer-grawnt / Sw’dd Caer-grawnt ·· Cambridge ··
Caerhirfr’n / Sw’dd Gaerhirf’n ·· Lancaster / Lancashire ··
Caerliwel’dd ·· Carlisle ··
Caerlo’w / Sw’dd Caerlo’w ·· Gloucester / Gloucestershire ··
Caer-l’r / Sw’dd Gaer-l’r ·· Leicester ··
Caerwrangon / Sw’dd Gaerwrangon ·· Worcester ··
Caerwrangon ·· Worcester ··
Caer-w’sg ·· Exeter ··
Caint ·· Kent ·· Celtic 'kant-' = periphery, rim
Cilgwri / Penrh’n Cilgwri ·· the Wirral / the Wirral Peninsula ··
Croesoswallt ·· Oswestry ··
Dyfnaint ·· Devon ··
Gwald yr Haf ·· Somerset ·· 'land of summer'
Henffordd / Sw’dd Henffordd ·· Hereford ··
Lerpwl ·· Liverpool ·· (from a Middle English form of the name - Lerpool)
Llanllieni ·· Leominster ··
Lloegr ·· England ·· probably a British name for a part of what is now midland England, applied to the whole of England
Llw’dlo ·· Ludlow ··
Manceinion ·· Manchester ··
Mōr Hafren ·· Bristol Channel ··
Mōr Udd ·· the English Channel ··
Penbedw ·· Birkenhead ·· translation of English (Birkenhead = 'headland of the birches')
Rh’dychen / Sw’dd R’dychen ·· Oxford / Oxfordshire ··
Some names are adaptations of the English name (such as Llundain / Llunden, from Middle English 'Lunden')
others are names that have been used since the time that the British lived in these towns and spoke British; still others are revivals of the old names, or inventions (such as Caerfaddon 'Roman fort (of ) (the) bath' for Bath)
These are the names used in modern Welsh...
Tafw’s ·· Thames ··
Yn’s W’th ·· Isle of Wight ··
Ystrad Clud ·· Strathclyde ··

English counties are named by placing 'sw’dd' before the county town, whereas Welsh counties are always known as 'sir'. 'Sw’dd' is from Latin 'sźdes', a seat. 'Sir' is from Middle English 'shire' (Old English scīr 'shiir' = office, aithority). Generally, though, Cheshire and Shropshire are referred to as if they were Welsh counties, with 'sir'.

(A recent practice on Welsh-language radio which has been criticised has been to say the name in Welsh followed by the English name because otherwise 'the listeners don't know what place we're talking about'. Whether Welsh-speakers have suddenly forgotten what the traditional names are is debatable, but the answer is probably not to have a radiophonic version of bilingual road signs.)

Less well-known names. These would be used in literary contexts
Afon Trannon          River Trent
Y Dref-wen   Whittington (Shropshire)
Trefesgob       Bishop's Castle
Yr Heledd-wen         Nantwich
Yr Heledd-ddu          Northwich
Ceintun         Kington
Fforest y Dddena      Forest of Dean
Yn’swydrin Glastonbury

46 Welsh names overseas (USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand)
There have been attempts at various times to establish Welsh settlements abroad, especially in the United States.
The first attempt was in the early 1600s by Sir William Vaughan in Llangyde’rn in Sir Gaerfyrddin / Carmarthenshire in the early sixteen hundreds. He was widely-travelled, a scholar, and extremely religous, and believed that his divine intervention had saved his life twice in order to allow him to carry out his ideas to better the lot of his compatriots. He believed that the establishment of a colony would help alleviate poverty and overpopulation in Wales. He wrote 'their cornfields in most places are so bare of corn that a stranger would think that the earth produced such corn naturally wild... I have known in these last few years that a hundred people have yearly died in a parish where the tithe amounted to not to four score pounds a year, the most part for lack of food, fire and raiment.' He also deplored the lack of initiative among his fellow countrymen - ' Our grievance is that instead of plentiful droves of cattle which heretofore served us well for our sustenation as to supply our own necesities abroad... our stock is decayed, and nowadays we rear up two-legged asses which do nothing but wrangle in law, the one with the otther. By this ungracious brood we become so impoverished that our neighbours in Devonshire, notwithstanding our large circuit of the sea and our infinite extent of land, go far beyond us in shipping and necessary trading." His solution was a colony in Newfoundland, which he called 'Cambriol'. He obtained a sub-grant of territory from adventurers who had been granted rights to colonise Newfoundland by the English monarch James 1, and in 1617 he 'transported thither certain colonies of men and women at his own charge.' But there were problems with pirates, lawless fishermen, the cold, scurvy, and the quality of his settlers - he sent out a governor with a second group of settlers a year later, and the governor later wrote - "the plantation can never be made beneficial by such idle persons as I found there in the year 1618, which people had remained there a whole year before I came near, and had not applied themselves to any commendable thing."
The colony didn't succeed and after 1630 it was abandoned.

As E. Roland Williams remarked in his account of the colony - 'John Mason's map of Newfoundland, published between 1620 and 1625, leaves little room for doubt as to the Welsh character of the little settlement. In Cambriol there was a 'Cardiff', a 'Vaughan's Cove' and a 'Golden Grove', besides 'Glamorgan', 'Pembroke', 'Cardigan', 'Carmarthen' and 'Brecon'.

No traces of these names survive in Newfoundland today.

Other Welsh settlements were not schemes by the Anglicised gentry to make industrious citizens out of the feckless and to increase their wealth, but rather attempts to create an ideal Wales, free from the intolerance of the Anglican church and where the Welsh language could have official status. One involved a family in Dolobran, in Meifod (Pow’s), descendants of the poet Daf’dd ap Daf’dd Llw’d (b. 1549). His son took an English name, John Lloyd (b 1575), and one of his grandsons was Thomas Lloyd (b. 1640) who became a Quaker at the age of 22, and along with his brother abandoned his studies at Jesus College because of persecution of Quakers in the university and in the town. At the age of 43 he left his home at Maes-mawr by Y Trallwng (Welshpool) and went to Pennsylvania where he William Penn's Deputy Governor. William Penn had promised land to the north-west of Philadelphia as a 'Welsh Tract' (Y Rhandir Gymreig in Welsh) where the Quakers from Wales could have autonomy with 'officers, magistrates, [and] juries of our own language.' The first settlers had arrived a year before, in 1682. However, there was later disagreement between the Welsh Quakers and William Penn who accused him of not keeping his word, since the Welsh Tract was later split between two counties, and other settlers were allowed in.

There are a number of Welsh place names which survive in this area. One of the first settlers was Rowland Ellis of

(1) Bryn Mawr (Br’n-mawr) by Dolgellau. He called his new home in Pennsylvania by the same name, and the college of Bryn Mawr takes its name from here.

Other names are

(2) Berw’n and

(3) Tredyffrin. This survives as a township name (Tredyffr’n - an invented name rather than a transferred name, since there is no place of this name in Wales).

There is also a unique Welsh name in the area from a later period,

(4) Bryn Ath’n
(hanes yr enw Bryn Athyn - gair gwneud o eiriadur Willliam Owen Pughe yw athyn)


(5) Nant-y-glo

In Blaenau Gwent there is a small town called Nant-y-glo [nant ų gloo] (the) stream or valley (of) the coal. In the USA in ?? there is the curiously spelt Nanty Glo, which is either a transferred name or a name devised to describe this coal-mining valley.

There are sporadic examples of place names from Wales abroad - but usually they are the English versions of such names (Aberdare, Cardiff, Swansea in the Newcastle coalfield in ...).


But here and there there are more interesting names....
(Llanrheidol, Awstralia, etc) (TO BE ADDED)

A suburb of Canterbury, on New Zealand's South Island is Bryndwr (Br’n-dwr = (the) hill (of) (the) water / stream). The Welsh pronunciation is [brin-duur] but in citizens of Canterbury call it [brin dwų]

46a Welsh names overseas; Y Wladfa - Wales in Patagonia
In 1865 a group of emigrants left Liverpool in the Mimosa to found a Welsh republic in which the Welsh language would be the official language and Non-conformist religion freely practised.....
(heb ei wneud eto) (TO BE ADDED)


46b Miscellany


Welsh place names are generally spelt with literary Welsh forms, rather than local pronunciaitons (thouh exceptions abound).

One phenomenon is mistaking a perfectly literay form for a colloquialism, and 'restoring' it to a supposed correct form.

Between the rivers Rhymni and Taf in south-east Wales there are a handful of names which incorporate the element 'bargod'. This is 'the eaves of a building' in modern Welsh, but it also has an obsolete sense of 'boundary, borderland' which is the meaning in the place names in question. Some of these names are misspelt with "Bargoed" instead of "Bargod". In the south it is usual in spoken Welsh for a final 'oe' diphthong to become simplifed as 'o'. For example, 'cyfoeth' (riches) would become 'cyfoth'. Names with 'coed' as the last element would undergo the same change: Glasgoed (green wood) > Glasgod,

Trawsgoed (across + wood) > Trawsgod,

Hirgoed (long wood) > Hirgod.

An example by Aber-dār is Llw’tgoed (grey wood) > Llw’tgod (though in fact there were further transformations in the local dialect and it became Llycod).

It was assumed that the final syllable was a reduction of 'coed' = wood, and so it was 'corrected' and respelt as Bargoed, and explained as "the wood on the summit, summit wood" (bar = summit) + soft mutation of a noun preceded by a qualifying element + (coed = wood).

Another reduction especially in the south is 'w’' in a final syllable to 'w'

(Examples: ofnadw’ (terrible) > ofandw’; and many river names with a final -w’

Mynw’ > Mynw (Englished as 'Monnow', the river flowing through Trefynw’, 'Monmouth').

Arw’ > Arw (Englished as 'Arrow', a river in northern Pow’s)

Ebw’dd (nowadays Ebw’) > Ebw (and seen in the English name Ebbw Vale, which was used in English instead of the Welsh name Pen-y-cae. The present Welsh name is Glżnebw’, in fact a translation into Welsh of Ebbw Vale).

East of Aber-carn in south-east Wales there is a place marked on the map as Pegw’n-y-bwlch. Since there is no word 'pegw’n' in Welsh, but there is 'pegwn', it must be 'Pegwn-y-bwlch' (the peak / beacon of the pass). The 'w' had been wrongly assumed by the mapmakers to be a reduction of 'w’'

In some words, the name for what encloses an area of land has come to mean what's inside the enclosure.

cae The most obvious one is 'cae', a field, but originally a hedge. It is related to the word 'cau' to close. In Cornish 'ke' is hedge, or a low wall enclosing a field.

bangor 'Bangor' is the name of a town in north-west Wales SH 5771 which was the site of an important monastery; and there was another large monastery at Bangor Is-coed (SJ 3845). In the South there is also a locality Bangor Teifi SN 3740.
The origin of the name is the verb 'cōr' = plaiting, binding. Intertwining of Irish has 'cor' to turn. Cornish 'kor' = a turn. In Welsh corw’nt = whirlwind, ban is top (and in south Wales means peak of a mountain, or mountain).

Bannau Brycheiniog - the peaks of Brycheiniog ('Brecon Beacons')


There are examples in anglicsing Welsh names where part of the name is repeated in English.

Some examples - Y Wenallt (literally, white wood) in Tonna, Castell-nedd ac Aberafan.
Marked on maps as 'Wenallt Wood'.

Tautology also occurs when, for example, a road is named using a Welsh name and a neighbouring road with a traslation of the Welsh name.

In Mynachlog-nedd there is a road called Rh’d-hir - (the) long ford. Nearby are 'Longford Road' and 'Longford Lane',


English words in Welsh which are used in place names

Welsh and English have existed side by side in the island of Britain for over one thousand six hundred years. A great number of English words have been adopted into Welsh, and many of these are to seen in place names.

Some of the earlier borrowings, taken from Old English (before approximately the year 1000) are:
bad = boat (used in
South Wales),

barclod = apron (from 'barmcloth', Old English = 'bosom' + cloth'). Found in the place name Barclodiad y Gawres, 'the apronful of the giantess', one by Aberffraw in the county of Mōn, and another on the Eifl mountain by Trefor in Gw’nedd, where a profusion of stones is explained through the action of a mythological figure
bwrdd = table (English board),
ffald = sheepfold,
ffordd = road (= English ford),
hafn / hafan - fissure; harbour, port, haven,
hebog = hawk,
iarll = earl,
llidiard = gate,
sticil, sticill = stile.   

Others are generally from Middle English forms (pre 1500)
acer = acre,
bac = back, hill,
bae = bay,
banc = bank, plateau
begwn = beacon,
beting = beating - place where turf is burnt ,
bwla = bull,
bwth’n = cottage (from booth),
cei = quay,
clai = clay,
clos = close,
clwt = patch of land; same as modern English 'clout',
comins = common land,
copi = coppice,
cwar = quarry,
cwarel = quarry,
cwrt = court,
cwt = hut,
ffair = fair,
fferi = ferry,
fferm = farm,
fforest = forest,
ffroga = frog,
ffwlbart = polecat ,
ficer = vicar,
gardd = garden,
iet = gate,
lōn = lane,
nyrsri = nursery,
parc = park; field,
pentis = lean-to, shed; pentice / penthouse,
person = parson,
pia (South Wales) = magpie ,
pit = pit,
plas = place = mansion,
ponc = bank,
poplar = poplar,
popl’s = poplars,
porthmon = cattledrover
rhaca = rake,
sgwār = square,
sietin (used for hedgebank in mid-Wales) = sheeting,
Siōn = John,
siop = shop,
sir = county,
str’d / str’t = street,
swnd = sand,
top = top,
twr = tower,
tyrpeg = turnpike,
wtre = lane (from Shropshire dialect outrake),
ystad = estate.

In addition, there are a number of place names which are English in origin, but adapted into Welsh.

There are concentrations of such names in areas which were conquered and settled by the English but which became Welsh-speaking once again.

Two regions where this is evident are in north-east Wales, in the counties of Sir y Fflint and Wrecsam, and Bro Morgannwg, by Caerd’dd. In the North-east examples are the names y Fflint and Wrecsam themselves; also Prestat’n, which preserves an earlier form of a name equivalent to Preston in modern English (the priest's tūn or farm).

Other later examples of English names becoming Welsh names are

(1) Y Fali (Yn’s Mōn) < valley,

(2) Y Ffōr (Gwynedd) < Four Crosses (= the crossroads), an inn name.


Tags replacing the full name

Sometimes a village name is shortened not by dropping the tag but by dropping the first element - preseumably because the first element is ambiguous, being used for other places - though this is not a convincing explanation for some names of this type

Llangadwaladr Trefesgob > Trefesgob (Casnewydd, south-east Wales). 'The Llangadwaladr by Trefesgob'. Trefesgob = the trźv / farmstead of the bishop. (esgob [E skob] = bishop)

There are three other places called Llangadwaladr (church of ŗCadwaladr), all in the North.

Soft mutation where it shouldn't be


This is especially noticeable in names in
South Wales, though instances occur in other parts of the country. And it happens most often with names where the first element is a feminine noun.
Examples are gors (cors = swamp), wern (gwern = swamp), waun (gwaun = moor), foel (moel = bald hill), lan (glan = river bank, hillside), fron (bron = hill), gored (cored = fish trap)

For example - Werntarw, a village
This is from gwern y tarw (the) swamp (of) the bull

So why is it mutated?

(1) Either: It's because the mutated form (wern) is used so often in speech - more than the radical form (gwern) - that it has been accepted as a new radical form (wern)
in a swamp - mewn gwern ; but to a swamp - i wern, to the swamp - i'r wern, from a swamp - o wern, from the swamp - i'r wern, and so on

(2) or: And there are plenty of place names where the 'wern' form is to be expected, because it comes after the definite article
y wern ddu - the black swamp

(3) or both.

This has happened with a few words why now are standard 'ogof' = cave, though in older Welsh it was 'gogof'

With other names in spoken Welsh there is mutation, though generally these mutated forms don't become official. For example, it is so usual to use place names in soft mutated forms (from, to) that even after yn people in some dialects use the soft mutated form.

i Gaer-d’dd = to Caer-d’dd ("Cardiff"), o Gaer-d’dd = to Caer-d’dd

yng Nghaer-d’dd = yn Gaer-d’dd = in Caer-d’dd

And the soft-mutated form becomes generalised
Clydach > Glitach (village in the Nedd valley)
Treforus > Dreforus (place in Abertawe county; "Morriston")
Caer-d’dd > Gaer-d’dd ("

Pen-y-cae > Ben-cää (original name of Gl’nebw’, "Ebbw Vale")


French names in Wales

There are some names of French origin in Wales, but usually these are used as 'English' forms instead of the native names, though they may go back several hundred years

Yr W’ddgrug ('the burial mound') in north-west Wales is 'Mold' in English, a name corresponding to modern French 'Mont Haut', high hill.

Some French (or Norman) names were adapted as Welsh names
Y Grysmont grųs-mont] (Sir Fynw’) is gros
mont - big hill. The English name is Grosmont [gros-mųnt].
Biwmaris [biu-ma-ris] (Yn’s Mōn) corresponds to modern French beau marais = beautiful marshland. The English name is Beaumaris [bou-ma-ris] or [biu-ma-ris]
Y Bewp’r beu-pir], a mansion in Bro Morgannwg, corresponds to modern French beau pré = beautiful meadow. The English name is Bewper or Beaupré)


Some French names are no longer in use - in Welsh there is a native name, the English use an English name.
Y Gelligandr’ll (Pow’s) ('the shattered wood, the felled woodland);
The former French name corresponds to modern French
la haie taillée - the cut down hedge, though it probably refers to a hunting estate bounded by a hedge, with extensive clearings. The English name is Hay (Hay-on-Wye) = the hunting estate
Y Fflint - 'the rock of quartz). It is in fact from English flint, meaning quartz-like stone (but not necessarily flint). The English name is Flint, and the French name corresponds to modern French Le Caillou (the rock). In modern French caillou = stone, pebble

combination names

Some names are formed by putting two names or three together

Cwm-bach Llechr’d - this is the name of a locality in Pow’s and comes from the amalgamantion of two parishes, Cwm-bach and Llechr’d, in 1887. The English call it Builth Road, from an English name given by the railway company for a station here.

Rhondda Cynon Taf - three river names which are the name of a county in south-east Wales (1996)

Castell-nedd Aberafan; in fact the official Welsh name is Castell-nedd Port Talbot, a hybrid half-Welsh half-English translation of the English name which is Neath Port Talbot. But Port Talbot in Welsh is Aberafan - the port was built within the boundaries of Aberafan, though the situation on English maps is reversed, with a district of "Port Talbot" being called "Aberavon".

47 mutations - summary page

48 Bibliography

49 list of place name elements
(Tree and plant names in Welsh tend to be collective nouns. Strictly speaking this is the base form - corresponding to an English plural - and the singular form is derived by adding a suffix. 'Derw' = oaks, 'Derwen' = oak trees. But here we'll treat them as ordinary singulars and plurals 'derwen' = oak tree, 'derw' = oak trees)

Casnew’dd (ar W’sg) [kas-neu-idh (ar uisk)] 'the new castle on the river W’sg / Usk'. English name: Newport
castell [ka stelh] (m) castle (Welsh < British < Latin)
Castell Coch [ka-stelh kookh] 'red castle'
Castell-nedd [ka stelh needh] '(the) castle (in) (the commote of) Nedd'. English name: Neath
cath [kaath] (f) wildcat - (the wild European cat, Felis silvestris, that resembles the domestic tabby but is larger and has a bushy tail) (Welsh < British < Celtic)
Catwg [ka tug] (m) south-eastern form of the saint's name Cadog, as in the name Ffynnoncatwg (Cadog's well), Pen-t’rch; various places called Llangatwg (church of Cadog)
cau, gau [ kai, gai] (adj) 1 hollow 2 enclosed (in South Wales, 'cau' is often 'cou' koi)
cawl [kaul] (m) 1 soup 2 used to describe a messy place - as in Heol y Cawl, probably 'muddy road' (Welsh < British < Latin caul- = stem. The same as in English cauliflower, a word from Italian)
cawnen (plural: cawn) [kau nen, kaun] (f) reed
cawres [kau res] (f) giantess
cawr (plural: cewri, ceiri) [kaur, keu ri, kei ri] (m) giant
caws [kaus] (m) cheese
cawsai, y cawsai / y gawsai [kau se] (mf) causeway

Taf [taav] (f) Name of two rivers in South Wales, from British *tam-. The eastern Taf is called 'Taff' in English. A related name is 'Tefeidiad' in mid-Wales (English: Teme). In fact, the name was in use for a number of rivers in the British period. The river names 'Tame', 'Thame' and 'Thames' in England are all equivalents of 'Taf'. There is a Thame river near Aylesbury which flows into the river Thames (and a town named after the river SU 5793). The 'th' is a spelling foible, a respelling to suggest it was a classical name, in the same way that English teatre, catedral, etc were respelled and (eventually pronunced) with a 'th'.

Rivers of the same name in rhe Midlands of England and in the North of England are spelt simply 'Tame' - one rises by Walsall SK 1914 and flows into the Trent (another British river name), one on the moors by Junction, Greater Manchester SJ899, and there is yet another with its source by Guisborough in north-east England which flows into the river Leven (another British name).

(There is no connection between the river name and the word Taff or Taffy 'a slang word or nickname for a Welshman' (Collins Dictionary), first found in English in the 16s. This is an inexact imitation of Dafi [da-vi], a short form of the forename Daf’dd = David)

-w’ [ui] (suffix) Supposedly meaning 'water / river. In the 1800's some Welsh writers made the startling discovery that words were made up of primitive elements and that the etymology was discernible by splitting the present form of the word into its constituent parts - rather like realising that an English place name such as 'Brighton' is in fact is made up of 'bright' and 'on', because 'the sunshine is bright on the sea'. This was really the intrusion of folk etymology into the work of dictionary makers and although the more prudent declared that this was nonsense, some people found these explanations attractive, and their effect is in a couple of instances to be found in place names

One such myth was that river names at one time ended in -w’, an element meaning 'water'. In fact some river names do end in –w’ (Conw’,  Mynw’, Ebw’, etc) but it is not necessarily a suffix (Ebw’ for example was origiannly Ebw’dd, but the fina [dh] has been lost – this loss of a final [dh] is not unusual in Welsh, and is a characteristic of the Welsh of the county of Penfro at the current time)

Many names had the 'w’' restored (although they'd never had it in the first place!)

Ewenni > Ewynw’
Llynfi > Llynfw’
Ogwr > Ogw’
Taf > Tafw’
Tywi > Tow’

These forms are found in minor names - house names or sometimes street names (there is a Heol Ogw’ in the village of Cwmogwr, for example)
The river in Patagonia by which the Welsh settlement was founded in 1865 was given the name 'Camw’' (crooked river)

W’ddfa : Yr W’ddfa [ųr uidh va] (f) (Snowdon) (1085m / 3560ft) The word 'gw’ddfa' means 'burial mound' (gw’dd = grave, -fa = suffix meaning 'place'). The mountain was 'Moel yr W’ddfa' (hill of the burial mound) but later 'Yr W’ddfa' (the burial mound) came to apply to all the mountain. It is found in other place names in Wales. A similar word is 'gw’ddgrug' (gw’dd = grave, crug = mound). It stood on top of a hill which the Normans called Mont Hault (= modern French mont haut), the basis of the English name Mold. This word 'gw’ddgrug' is also found in other parts of Wales. 'Gw’dd' originally meant 'face', and by extension 'respect' (as in the English expression 'to lose face' = to lose respect, from the French expression 'perdre la face). The Irish word which corresponds directly to 'gw’dd' is 'fiadh' which means 'respect' (gw- in Welsh is often f- in Irish equivalents). The idea is probably 'place where respect is due', hence 'grave'.
 (There was an extensive vocabulary here, but it was in need of serious editing, so we've taken it out. We're putting it back bit by bit at
0817) (03 07 2000)


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