'Oes?' at start of a conversation?

I joined up with a group of Welsh speaking ramblers the other day and the first thing one said to me was ‘Oes?’ - a bit mystified the only thing I could think of to say was ‘Iawn’ which seemed to be accepted as an appropriate answer. Can anyone suggest what ‘Oes?’ on its own might mean here when it’s not said in response to an earlier statement, e.g. is it simply like saying ‘OK? in English’?

What, just ‘oes’ entirely on its own?

If someone said that to me, I’d say ‘oes beth?’ - and I’d presume either that I hadn’t heard an earlier statement, or that I’d misheard what they’d said… :slight_smile:

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I think I heard something like that on Radio Cymru the other day (though I might have misheard) … a sort of “hanging ‘oes’”.

As an initial greeting, could it be short for something like “Oes popeth yn iawn?” - to which the answer “iawn” would fit. Not sure if it’s grammatical, but it would be presumably understandable.

Nope - that would be ‘ydi popeth yn iawn?’ - oes will refer to a particular thing - and ‘ydi?’ on its own would be every bit as baffling as ‘oes?’ on its own.

I don’t know the answer but must just say I ADORE that just chucking back ‘iawn’ let the Welsh continue to flow without disruption!

That seems to be a very SSIWish learnerish way to handling it - absence of panic or English and moving on…


Which part of Wales was this in?

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It was Sir Ddinbych, nr Llangollen, although I’m not sure if the person who said this came from this area

Ah yes…we have had versions of this issue on the forum before, I’m sure.
Here is Gareth King on the subject (Modern Welsh: A comprehensive Grammar):

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I’m flummoxed by this one.

‘Oes’ isn’t normally used as a greeting, unless it’s an extremely colloquial linguistic trend. I doubt this though (but I’m willing to be corrected if anyone else can shed light on the matter). I’ve been trying to think of words that rhyme with ‘oes’, but none of them make logical sense…yet…

Is it at all possible that the man was trying to say ‘Oer!?’ This would be plausible, even as a kind of greeting/break-the-ice (pun not intended)/conversation starter on a particular cold day, especially if you were heading off for a walk. ‘Cold, isn’t it?’ Then, your ‘iawn’ would have been accepted as a ‘Yes, very’. Just a thought.

If you do find out what the man said, do let us know. It’d be interesting to get to the bottom of this mystery.


did he maybe say “Oi!!” :P… tynnu eich coes/ pulling your leg


Diolch Mererid - I guess it’s certainly possible that I misheard ‘Oer’ as ‘Oes’ and it was indeed quite chilly, so that would fit. I suspect it’ll be a while though before I bump into the man again, by which time he’ll likely have forgotten what he said, but I’ll try and remember to ask him!
Hwyl, John


you should have replied “gafr eto” and if he said oes again you might have had a bit of a duet - replying “heb i godro”. (just in case you don’t know it - that well known tongue twisting folksong that all kids seem to learn at some stage - cyfri’r geifr)


Maybe crOESo?? We are very welcoming in that part of the country!


Yes, that’s a possibility too - people were indeed very welcoming!

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That’s an excellent idea - it’s where my money goes for now, although Mererid’s ‘oer’ is another great one. :slight_smile:


…unless the person hailed from Barry, in which case it could have been “Oh!” :slight_smile: A passing motorist in Barry once shouted “Oh!” to get my attention. I felt awful for laughing, when I realised that it wasn’t meant as a joke.

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