Gender-neutral language in Welsh?

Using “they” takes a bit to get used to, but I’m totally fluent with that now, thanks to fanfiction. :smile:
I can’t see why “nhw” couldn’t be used in the same way in Welsh.

Finnish nicely doesn’t have this kind of problem. We have had athro - athrawes distinction but I have never ever heard anyone use the femine form of any word. The femine forms are essentially died out from the current language.

Interestingly, if you do want to emphasize that it’s a woman you are talking about, the current language add the prefix “woman” to the work. So athro - “opettaja” and athrawes “naisopettaja” instead of the mostly archaic “opettajatar”. But the word “opettaja” is not giving any implication of the gender.


Have they died out recently or did it happen a long time ago?

In Russian gender forms of nouns related people are used all the time, I feel that their extinction would make the language somewhat poorer. Our pronouns are gender-specific too, but I’ve never heard “they” used for a single person, instead, the male pronoun is used. I have a lot of friends for whom gender identification is a relevant issue and whose gender doesn’t coincide with the biological one, but I’ve never heard them complain about this particular feature of the language. Personally, I find this “they” thing slightly awkward and I think that languages, with their great flexibility, will adapt eventually and develop forms that are not gender-specific and not plural either, maybe not in our lifetime.


Google says that it mostly fell out of use in 1900s. So it’s been a while. Of course there are still words using the form, like “kuningatar” for queen and similar.

I have had problems with Cymraeg and my female dog and old male cat!! I did wonder about ‘one’ for a person. In Game of Thrones, ‘this one’ and ‘that one’ are used for oneself and another!! I certainly would go for ‘my friend who…’ It actually must be quite hard in Wales as most names are gender specific, although my friend ‘Howell’ (spelled that way) had a female cousin with the same name.

It seems a pity that people should be restricted to using existing pronouns to describe this situation - of course, meanings are always shifting, but it sort of seems a little shabby - a kind of linguistic hand-me-down.

Has anyone tried to coin a decent neologism instead?

After all, if this is an aspect of the human condition with which many people aren’t familiar, a good neologism might help create awareness much faster than working with the existing tool set…


Well I found the BBC Radio Cymru website using the word “darlledwraig” recently - a female broadcaster, so gender-specific language seems to be alive and well in the Welsh media. And as “(g)wraig” also means “wife”, it sounds even more sexist, somehow, but it may not appear so to a first language speaker.

“Wife” has an additional meaning (though in some ways archaic) of woman. You can see this in the word midwife, for example.


Oh, just like in French: femme=woman=wife. I’ve never found it sexist, anyway:)

Greek is like that too - it does not differentiate between woman and wife.

But equally, ‘andras’ means both ‘man’ and ‘husband’ :slight_smile:

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Now that I think of it, in Russian “женщина” (woman) and “жена” (wife) are words of the same root, and so are “мужчина” (man) and “муж” (husband).

Just to give you a little more background: in English, ‘woman’ comes from ‘wifman’, which is ‘wif’ (female) + ‘man’ (person). The male equivalent was ‘werman’. It lost the ‘wer’, obviously, and you only now see it in terms like ‘werewolf’. Man originally meant ‘person’ and gradually came to mean ‘male person’.

I am afraid I haven’t looked sufficiently into Welsh etymology to talk about it though.


Very interesting, thank you!

Along similar lines, ‘Dyn’ originally meant ‘person’ instead of just ‘man’.

Daddy ab Gwilym often addressed the women in his love poetry as “dyn”. I don’t know when that changed in common usage, but apparently it was used up to at least Goronwy Owen in poetry.

It is a similar situation in Dutch with ‘wijf’

It used to tickle me when the Geordies in “Auf Wiedersehen Pet” used to address their wives or sweethearts as “man”! (I think it’s impossible to speak Geordie without “man” appearing somewhere in the sentence! :slight_smile: ).

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I suspect that you’ve been let down by autocorrect there. :wink:



I suspect ‘wijf’ and ‘wife’ are cognates

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I’m pretty sure that they’re exactly the same word.


My big butch South Walian builders call each other ‘lovely’, which makes me smile :smile: