Old Welsh words

I’ve recently been listening to the band Calan’s cover of Peth Mawr ydy Cariad. As the song dates from the 1800s, It has a number of old Welsh words which I can’t find in my dictionary. Eg…

Mi fynnaf gael dy gladdu a’th roddi di dan bridd
Cyn cei di briodi; mi’th claddaf di yn wir.

cyfeiriais yn bur hy.

Can someone give me an idea of their meaning and point me in the direction of some resources for old Welsh words please?

Thank you

Hm, at first glance there don’t seem to be that many words that would be completely unusual today, but many words appear in forms that you don’t find in (printed) dictionaries, such as mutated words or conjugated verbs. If you have access to a smartphone, there is one App available that is clever enough to work out the root form. The name of the app is just “Ap Geiriaduron”.
If in that App you search for “fynnaf”, for example, it will tell you that the root form is “mynnu” (to insist).
Another thing that may throw you is “a’th” a “mi’th” - the 'th is a form of dy that is used in literal Welsh (so also in poems and songs) if dy would follow immediately after a vowel.


I have had a go at this and present the results below as an literal interlinear translation with notes. It would be great if someone more competent than I in the language (Siaron? Hendrik? Well, pretty well anyone really…) could cast an eye over it and check/correct my understanding.

A Great Thing Is Love [i.e. a powerful force]

Peth mawr ydy cariad pan elo fo’n drwm,
A great thing is love when it goes grievously, [elo: 3rd person present subjunctive form of af (I go). Why a subjunctive, you may ask, and I think it’s just because the Welsh tend to use that mood for proverbial sayings. ‘Drwm’ from ‘trwm’, ‘heavy’ but perhaps here ‘grievous’
Peth gyrrodd gryn lawer o’u llefydd i ffwrdd
A thing that drives a good many away from their places [i.e. their familiar haunts] [‘gryn’ from ‘cryn’, here just used as an intensifier]
Peth gyrrodd fi fy hunan oedd geiriau fy nhad,
What drove me myself were the words of my father
A’m mam, oedd yn garedig, a’m gyrrodd i o’m gwlad.
And my mother, who were loving, they drove me from my country.

Verse 2: now it is the father and mother speaking. They evidently don’t approve of their son’s choice of beloved, and these were those unimaginable times when children took notice of their parents in such matters…

‘Mi fynnaf gael dy gladdu a’th roddi di dan bridd
I want to see you buried and put you under the earth [‘gladdu’ from ‘claddu, to bury; ‘bridd’ from ‘pridd’, earth, soil]
Cyn cei di briodi; mi’th claddaf di, yn wir.
Before you get yourself married; I’ll bury you indeed.
Rhof dorchen ar dy wyneb a charreg uwch dy ben
Put a clod on your face and a stone (i.e. tombstone) above your head [‘dorchen’ from ‘torchen’ which is a variant of ‘tywarch’, a clod, sod, piece of turf)
Cyn cei di fartsio’th gorffyn, wel, gyda’r feinir wen.’
Before you get to march your wretched body (i.e. to the altar), look you, with the fair maiden’.

[‘fartsio’ from ‘martsio’, to march; ‘gorffyn’ from ‘corffyn’, derogatory diminutive of ‘corff’, body; ‘feinir’ from ‘meinir’: beautiful young woman, sweetheart. I take ‘wel’ to be from ‘gweld’ rather than the interjection meaning well]

Pan glywais innau hynny es gyda man–i–wâr,
When I heard this I went with a man-of-war [i.e. enlisted in the navy]
Bum hefoi am saith mlynedd heb weld na thad na mam;
Was with it for seven years without seeing either father or mother. [hefoi is a contraction of ‘hefo hi’, with it]
Saith mlynedd wedi pasio pan ddois i i Gymru’n ô1,
Seven years had passed when I came back to Wales [‘dois’ from ‘dod’]
Gan dybied yn fy nghalon fach na fyddwn i byth mor ffol.
Thinking in my little heart I would never be so stupid again. [‘dybied’ from ‘tybied’, to think, suppose]

At dŷ fy nhad mi gerddais, lle bum i lawer tro,
I walked to my father’s house, where I had been many a time
A phawb oedd yno’n llawen fy ngweld yn dod yn ô1;
And everyone there was glad to see me come back.
Awr nos a ddaeth yn brysur, a’m meddwl gyda mi,
The hour of night came swiftly, and my thought with me [‘brysur’ from ‘prysur’, usually means ‘busy’ but here ‘swift’]
At dŷ yr hogen annwyl cyfeiriais yn bur hy.
That I would make my way to the house of my dear girl most boldly [‘cyfeirio’: to direct, guide; ‘bur’ from ‘pur’; ‘hy’: bold, audacious, confident].

Evidently there was a fifth verse to the song but the singer from whom it was collected was not taught it because her father considered its contents to be too indecent. It describes the travelling hero’s return to his home, where he is met with a child, as well as a lover.



Fantastic job, David, da iawn ti :smiley:


That’s amazing @Davids! Da iawn ti!

One suggestion I might offer on the use of the subjuntive “elo” at the beginning. It was a lot more common in days gone by, in English too, when there is some doubt. In this case you could translate it as “if it should go” which captures the feel of the subjunctive there.

Thanks, Deborah, good point. I rather mourn the decline of the subjunctive in English. I wonder, would it still be preserved in Welsh, as in English, in whatever they say for that now rather unnecessary expression ‘Long live the Queen’?

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Aha, a fellow subjunctive supporter! Have a look at the last line of the chorus of Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau - you’ll see the Welsh subjuntive form for “Long live” used there :slight_smile:
Well, it’s “Let it continue” but similar in meaning.