Hills and mountains in Welsh

It’s an urban myth that the Inuit have 100 different words for “snow”, but there certainly are - quite understandably - lots of words for “hill” and “mountain” in Welsh!

Is there a simple guide to distinguish between types of hill in Welsh? I’m thinking that my university dictionary gives me these words for hill:

twyn, tyle, allt, bre, bryn, gallt, garth, and rhiw. It only gives mynydd for mountain, although I know the Brecon Beacons are “bannau”.

Are the hill words interchangeable, or do they specifically relate to different types/shapes of hills (of course, we have lots of words for hill in English too - tump, mound, hillock, hill, knoll and so on)?


Some are interchangeable but others have subtle differences as you’ll see from the list below.
These are some of the definitions from GPC:

twyn - hill(ock), mound, knoll, hummock, heap, peak, dune, molehill
tyle - hill(ock) (with a suggestion of steepness)
allt - hill(side), steep gradient, cliff, wooded slope
bryn - hill, hillock, mountain
gallt - slope, hill, cliff, rock, wooded hillside
garth - mountain ridge, promontory hill, wooded slope
rhiw - steep slope, hill(side) (more commonly used in the SW)
bryncyn - hillock, knoll, tump, mound, heap
poncen/ponc/poncyn - hillock, tump, knoll, rising ground (more commonly used in the N)
trip - steep hill (relating to a road or path) (more commonly used in SE)
banc - rising ground, hillock, ridge, slope
moel - bare mountain, treeless hill, summit, rounded mountain
mynydd - mountain, large hill
ban (pl. bannau) - top, tip, summit, crest, peak, beacon, hill, mountain, bare hill


Thank you!! Exactly what I was looking for :grin:

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Great post thanks, both.
Interestingly, I’ve only noticed “banc” place names for slope (not riverbank, etc), in the western counties of Wales. Also, in English only in northern English dialects - I think :smile:

Here in this part of North Pembrokeshire we have ‘Cnoc’ meaning a small hill or mound. It derives from the Irish ‘Cnocc’

Interesting. I have ancestors from Cnwc and Pencnwc and I always supposed that it meant a little hill.

Yes; I noticed I made a typo; should read ‘cnwc’ not ‘cnoc’; it’s the Irish that is ‘Cnocc’

I didn’t even know that it was a typo - I thought that it was a variation!

It is now lol.

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Knowing Welsh there probably is a hamlet where they prefer cnoc to cnwc!