I already know when to use glas for blue, and gwyrdd for green, and that brown and grey seem to be a bit interchangeable, but where are all the other colours?
Descriptive English has so many colourful words - red might be scarlet, ruddy, crimson, maroon, plum, ruby etc etc but so far I’m not coming across these variations in Welsh writing. Is this because I’m not rushing to look in the dictionary all the time? I think not, as I usually draw a blank if I look in an English to Welsh dictionary, or just get a translation for all the above to coch for red.
Is English overburdened with words for colours?


Interesting! I hadn’t really thought about this.

At a quick glance of a dictionary I found;
Ruddy is gwritgoch or rhudd
Purple is glasgoch and porffor
Maroon is browngoch

So they might be there bubbling under the surface?

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And piws, too.


Here’s a few more:

I’ve no idea if there are any paint colours charts available in Welsh, and I would struggle to work out what “clunch” would be in Welsh……0……6.2.568…30i10k1.804Gqm81tHA#imgrc=rbM2scRLhIrawM:

I’m not really the right person to comment, being particularly useless at understanding all the ridiculous marketing names that have been invented for colours in English (Teal anyone? Petrol?). But then I struggle with maroon and mauve as well, so I suspect that it may be my problem rather than any real ridiculousness…

However, Welsh does not have the huge range of shades and hues that English does (with English often naming them using foreign words, presumably showing where the colours came from in the first place), and we tend to just add words together to make a new colour, or steal a word direct from English.

Hence gwyrddlas (turquoise) gwritgoch (a blushy red), browngoch (maroon - although you will also see marŵn) etc.

Remember that colours often don;t correspond between languages, although Welsh colours are rapidly becoming the same as English under the influence of tranlsated children’s books and the fact that we are constantly told that we are “wrong” when we identify a colour according to it’s Welsh definition.

Hence, using brown instead of llwyd or coch is normal, and using glas to describe a tree of particularly lush fields will get you told off by schoolkids.

But the point at which Welsh stopped developing it’s colours was fairly early in the colour sorting process, with the not quite colours du, gwyn and llwyd, and the prime colours identified: melyn, glas and coch, although coch is a latin word that has replaced the original rhudd, for some reason.

Everything else is latin or later - porffor, gwyrdd, oren etc.


I am for ever getting on my ‘English is a polyglot’ soapbox! But it is actually true. Never mind anglo, saxon, Norman, French, old Norse, Danish on top of Latin and hen Gymraeg.
Wedding, Marriage, Nuptuals… oh so many subjects with a multiplicity of ways of saying the same thing! Colours have been joining in for so long, it’s not surprising English has so many. I think, in Wales, there must have been a tendency to reject what was not ours and was not strictly necessary!

In a disastrous attempt to sing multip[le verses of “Oes Gafr Eto” at a SSiW birthday party, I discovered that the much-favoured 70s bathroom suites were typically “afocado” in colour. :laughing:

It seems to me that there is a Welsh equivalent to the suffix “-ish” as in blue-ish. Does anyone know what that is?

(in French it’s “atre”, by the way - with a circumflex on the a)

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i experimented and ‘aidd’ may work. Mind, this is based on a test with Google translate! But cochaidd (reddish)’, melynaidd (yellowish) and glasaidd (bluish) worked! I got bored then!


Diolch - sounds good to me

So there really is a limited range. I feels strange that a language otherwise so expressive doesn’t make more of colour. “The bridesmaids wore browngoch dresses” doesn’t feel like it has the same ring as maroon. And can you get cochbrown too, is that exactly the same colour, or is the emphasis on the first or the second colour within the word?

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Isn’t there a bit of a spectrum (no pun intended) of languages and their use of colour?

True. I don’t think we’re great with colours…maybe we should fix it.

I’m a painter myself and colour is one or my favourite subjects. In fact, I wrote my degree dissertation about the history of different pigments! I am not yet that well taught in French or Russian to be able to say if it’s the same there as Welsh. English is a mixture of Germanic and Norman dialects with other words from different languages thrown in as well and this I think has contributed to its richness. Its history has given it things like ‘Navy blue’. Other colours are related to history as well, such as Delft Blue and Prussian Blue. I digress…

Simply put, we might have some of the adjectives but in terms of actual usage, they were simply not needed for most of the population for a long time. We have been people have the land mostly, peasants, farmers, with no massive cities like London that have many wealthy patrons to support art in this way (or not in the same way as England anyway). I would say as a culture, we are more poetically or musically switched on than artistically switched on. That’s not to say that there are no great Welsh artists, but there is a difference between us and other countries like Italy for example.

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Anyone up for a mini-tutorial on the Physics of Colour?
Oh well. :disappointed:


As soon as I read that question, the words “Berlin and Kay” popped into my head, so I looked them up - and yes, my memory is correct. Brent Berlin and Paul Kay were the authors of a fairly influential book on the hierarchy of colour terms across languages.

(I’m feeling rather smug that I remembered their names, at least two decades since I last read anything on the subject. It’s amazing what things are lurking in the recesses of your mind, that you’ve forgotten you ever knew!)

A couple of Wikipedia articles on the subject, for anyone interested: on the Berlin and Kay book specifically. and on the subject of colour terms more generally.

I won’t comment further, in case I embarrass myself. It’s not really my field, and I most certainly am not qualified to answer @pollypolly’s original question.

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Some ‘theft’ or just admiring copying - khaki (Urdu) springs to mind. I bet there are more!

All languages mix. It’s natural not illegal.

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mae’n ddrwg gen i, I did not mean the crime of theft but the acquisition in the way that jodhpurs came - no other known word existed! Theft may be a sin or a crime, but I do not see it as either in linguistic terms! Usually people are not even aware where the words came from! Difficult. I cannot say ‘borrow’ as that implies return. Never will the word by relinquished back to Urdu!


emphasized text:smile: brilliant!
Mind I bet that’s how Lord Elgin referred to his obtaining of the marbles! :laughing:

How about share? considering I doubt Urdu has lost the word. Which is completely different to the British Museum and the marbles.

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