Welsh placenames

A short but powerful message here from Tudur Owen about importance of protecting historic Welsh placenames: https://twitter.com/BBCWales/status/1006920518195404800


Hi John
I’m really sorry that I didn’t see this topic before I started a 2nd one. Even though I carried out a search, nothing came up except the Outside of Wales and Spanish ones. :frowning:

I don’t know if someone wants to merge the threads?

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(Not wanting to but in on any of the similarly titled threads).
There seems to be fair bit on at the moment about anglicisation of place names. I can understand the concern.

Fortunately I don’t notice it happening much in the SW Wales area, but I could be wrong. If anything it seems to be going more towards the Cymraeg, which I love.

Apart from new streets, with bilingual signs, most streets just seem to keep their original name, whether it was English or Welsh. There’s the odd strange one like a street in our village by the name of Pen yr Alley Avenue. Sort of starting in Welsh and then drifting into English.

I loved Tommo’s (I think it was him) recent comment on Llanelli, when he said something like: No pretentious signs, just Cymraeg.

Further afield, the other Llanelli, Llanelley Hill near Brynmawr, (pronounced Llanelli) has changed it’s spelling back to Welsh. Also, Saddleback in the Lake District, changed to Blencathra a good while ago.

Any (nice) thoughts?

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I wonder if that is the explanation for Heol Yspitty in Bynea? Maybe an anglicised spelling of ysbyty.

The naming of Blencartha is interesting as is Pen-Y-Ghent in the Yorkshire Dales.I did try to convince my Yorkshire friend that she must be Welsh, especially as she now lives in Wales :laughing:


I used to think when I was a kid that even though everyone didn’t speak Welsh, almost everyone knew what Heol was because so many of the streets started with Heol. No-one in the village I grew up in knew any Welsh, but there was no thought about names like Heol Pant Gwyn or simple street names that just said Aelfryn or Gelli.

I see absurd street signs in Neath Port Talbot like cwmnantllwyd road, with Heol Cwmnantllwyd underneath. There’s no need for the English version - anyone struggling to say or understand Heol would be totally stumped by Cwmnantllwyd anyway.

I also see Welsh versions that look odd - there’s an Alltacham drive, which in Welsh is Rhodfa Alltacham. The Rhodfa is unnecessary, as is drive - the original Alltacham on all the old maps says all thats needed and rhodfa or drive pretty much just duplicate the Allt.


I don’t know if someone wants to merge the threads?

Done. :smile:


Interestingly, the Welsh Language Commission released a “standardised” list of Welsh place names yesterday: http://www.comisiynyddygymraeg.cymru/english/commissioner/placenames/pages/search.aspx


Also, there is an audio facility, although it’s a bit satnavy on some of the names.

Yes, I think so. Also Spytty in Newport.

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It usually means (as in Ysbyty Ystwyth in Ceredigion) that the Order of St John (the Knights Hospitaller) had a presence in the area.


Just something I stumbled upon a few minutes ago. It seems to give the pronunciation of some North Wales settlements

I live in a village called Cefneithin, Eithin means Gorse. The next village is Gorslas. Last weekend I met someone who said that he had heard it alleged that Cefneithin, when pronounced by someone who didn’t know otherwise, had come out as 7/18. Cefn, seven. Eithin, eighteen. I’m not sure I believe it myself.

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Just out of interest - I heard someone on S4C pronounce Dowlais near Merthyr as Dowlish and it reminded me of Dawlish in Devon. I looked up Dawlish on wikipedia, expecting it to say that it was derived from an anglo-saxon name, but no it actually said:

The name Dawlish derives from a Welsh river name meaning black stream. There was also a Roman translation of Dolfisc, meaning ‘Dark river’ and ‘The Devils Water’. It was first recorded in 1044 as Doflisc. By 1086 it was Dovles; in 1302, Dovelish; and by 1468 it had become the more recognisable Dawlisshe.[4]

I then looked up Dowlais near Merthyr and it has the same etymology:

The name is derived from the Welsh du meaning ‘black’ and glais meaning ‘stream’.

So to my surprise, both Dowlais and Dawlish are just variations on the very common Welsh place name Dulais.


That’s interesting! And not too far from Dawlish, near to Ilminster in Somerset there’s also a small village called Dowlish Wake - I wonder how many other place names in Lloegr have the same derivation?


Also this is an area with a lot of "combe"s, which I think is generally accepted to be equivalent to cwm (even a penny combe farm - pen-y-cwm?). The history of Dawlish said it was very small pre-victorian times, but originally had a history of:

Before Dawlish itself was settled, fishermen and salt makers came down from the higher ground where they lived, to take advantage of the natural resources available on the coast hereabouts. They built salterns to produce salt and stored it in sheds nearby

Whenever I see salt, I look for place names with Hal and there are indeed Haldon Hills nearby and who knows maybe nearby Holcombe, might have once been Halcombe?.


And that Dowlish you found in Somerset, also has a Dowlish Brook and a Dowlish Ford nearby

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Here’s the whole thing (about 6 minutes) on YouTube. Inspiring!

Reminded me of Halkyn, in Flintshire. However, its Welsh name gets away from “hal” and is Helygain.

(I could have sworn it said “Holkyn”, rather than “Halkyn” on the road sign, when we drove past it the other day, but then again, I could well be mistaken).

Helygain’s very similar to helygen (‘willow’ in Welsh) but maybe that derives from some association with salt (and the genus of willow is Salix, so more salt!)

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Diolch @Wrexhamian - that’s wonderful!