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Welsh place names

Welsh place names are usually quite descriptive - either of the local geography or notable features. Most also use the same construction as if you were denoting possession, so ‘the estuary of the Tawe’, or Abertawe, (as opposed to ‘the Tawe’s estuary’). Thus Brynmawr is ‘big hill’, Penrhyndeudraeth is ‘the headland of the two beaches’, Beddgelert is ‘the grave of Celert’ (more likely Saint Celert, rather than Gelert, Prince Llewelyn ap Iorwerth’s faithful dog, as is popularly thought).

wyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch is of course ‘the church of St Mary in the hollow of the white hazel near the fierce whirlpool and the church of Tysilio by the red cave’. It started off as plain old Llanfairpwllgwyngyll, but in the 1880s a Menai Bridge tailor decided to add a few more syllables as a bit of a publicity stunt to pull in the tourists. It worked, too.
Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch train station

aber river mouth or estuary; confluence of two rivers   hen old
afon river   heol road
allt cliff, or wooded hill   isa(f) lower
aran high place   llan clearing, early church
bach small, lesser   llanerch glad
bedw birch   lle place
bedd grave   llech, llechen slate
betws prayer-house   llwybr path
brenin king   llwyd grey
bron slope of a hill   llwyn grove
bryn hill   llyn lake
bwlch mountain pass, gap   llys palace, court
cadair chair, stronghold   maen stone
cae field   maes field
caer fortified settlement (like '-chester', '-burgh' or
'-bury' in English)
  marchnad market
canol centre   mawr, fawr great
cant hundred   melin mill
capel chapel   melyn yellow
carreg stone   merthyr burial place of a saint
cartref home   moel bare or rounded mountain
castell castle   môr sea
cefn ridge   morfa coastal marsh
celyn holly   mynydd mountain
clun meadow   nant stream, brook
clwyd gate, perch   neuadd hall
coch red   newydd new
coed forest, woodland   nos night
cors bog   ogof cave
craig rock   olaf last
croes cross   onn ash
croeso welcome   pant hollow (valley)
cwm bowl-shaped glacial valley   parc park
cwrt court   pen head, top of a valley
cyntaf first   penrhyn headland
de south   pentre(f) village
derw oak   plas hall, mansion
din/dinas fort, city   pont bridge
dros over   porth port, gateway
du black   pwll pool
dwfr, dwr water   rhiw hill, ascent
dwyrain east   rhos moor, heath
dyffryn valley (broad, flat river valley)   rhyd ford
eglwys church   sant saint
eryri eagle's domain   sarn causeway
fawr big   sir shire, county
fferm farm   taf dark
ffordd road   tan under
fforest forest   tomen mound
gardd garden   traeth beach
glan shore, bank   traws cross
glas blue   tref town
glo coal   tw+r tower
glyn valley (like the English 'vale')   ty+, tai house, houses
gogledd north   ucha(f) upper
gorllewin west   uwch higher
gorsaf station   wrth near, by
gwaun meadow   yr, 'r the
gwlad country   ynys island
gwyn white   ystrad valley (like the English 'vale')
gwyrdd green      

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© suw charman 2002, 2003 unless otherwise stated

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