Why Gorffennaf?

I know that English summers these days seem pretty short, and perhaps Welsh ones are even shorter, but I’m not sure if I’ve ever heard a convincing reason why July should have been considered the “gorffen” of “haf”.

Is there a known explanation? I’m guessing it’s perhaps to do with harvesting, and maybe calendar changes have come into it.

But if anyone has any insights, I would be interested to read them.

I don’t know but here are some ideas. The Summer Solstice was known as Mid-Summer in old Celtic lore, which is true from a celestial standpoint.

In Irish pagan lore, August 1st was a celebration known as Lughnasadh. It was the first harvest festival and was considered the start of Autumn.

So from these perspectives, July would be the last month of Summer.

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You’ve just put the whole new perspective to July. Now I’ll never forget how it says in Welsh and I never looked at the name of the month this way. According to all written here this probably is the true reason why Gorffennaf.

@mikeellwood thank you for this.

I’m sure for all months the similar explanation why such names could be find and if someone has the will and time to write this down it would be really interesting to read/know.

I don’t know how much various calendar changes have had to do with this. After all September (Medi) used to be the 7th month of the Latin calendar. July was added and named for Julius Caesar, then August for Augustus of that ilk. If you are further south, days and nights don’t get so long or short I know some days have been added here and there to bring things back into kilter with reality. The modern calendar Cymraeg is clearly a mix of Latin and not-Latin! Jan-May seem Latin. I’m not sure about Mehefin, presumably mid-summer! Then we had ‘Summer’s end’ then ‘Harvest’ which makes perfect sense. Then comes Autumn! I am unsure of Tachwedd, but Rhagfyr can signify turn as well as opening. Did we once have 10 longer months? I am ignorant!


(I “liked” your post @Hendraig, but I do not agree with your last sentence! - At least, I am equally uncertain as to the precise history of our months and days of the week - in English and in Welsh)

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I have wondered about the same thing myself!
But having moved to a rural part of North Wales and watching nature much closer than I ever did living in the city I have now explained it for myself simply by watching nature’s cycles: in spring and early summer nature is on the up, things are growing and blooming (kind of exploding really). But if you look closely you the end of July nature switches down a gear, things don’t grow explosively anymore, and everything slows down a bit as plants are switching from blooming to fruiting and setting seed. I can see that change in gear very clearly around me now that I started noticing it. So by the end of July summer indeed comes to an end, and autumn / harvest time is now upon us.

Not a linguistic or etymological explanation, and by no means scientific, but to me Gorffennaf makes perfect sense now.


Perfectly scientific! You applied scientific method - you observed reality and took note thereof! And I don’t say that just because you, basically, agree with me!!
To @aran @garethrking anyone? Can you explain Tachwedd to me? Because my analysis above comes up with 11 months, which seems a bit odd. Gorffennaf is in the right place, August is out, Medi is OK etc.


ETYMOLOGY: an obsolete word meaning “slaughter” – Tachwedd is “(the) (time) (of) slaughtering” - that is, the slaughtering time for cattle before the winter to ensure a supply of meat and to reduce the stock of cattle so that the available feed would last until the spring)



I always assumed that the fyr (i.e. byr) in rhagfyr referred to the shortest day of the year, but not sure whether I’ve ever seen it confirmed.

The same etymological dictionary as above gives a meaning

rhàg ‹HRAG› (preposition)
1 (obsolete) in front of

perhaps something like the month or time in front of the shortest day, specially when we think about the difference between the Gregorian and Julian Calendars. In the old, Julian calendar, things would have been about 12 days later, hence Christmas was celebrated once upon a time on January 6th, and still is in some places.

This is just semi educated guess work and feel free to correct me if anyone knows better.


It probably depends how you define summer, we tend to define summer solely by what the temperature is, people centuries ago would have been much more in tune with the natural cycles of the plants and animals and the length of the days would have been more prominent before artificial lighting. June has the longest day (midsummer) and including the 2 months either side, May - July would give 3 months of Summer.

Dafydd ap Gwilym’s poem Mawl i’r haf talks about the sun causing the plants to grow for the 3 months of summer

I am a prince,’ (it was the sunshine that sang)
to come for three months to grow
the materials of a host of crops,
and when the growth of treetops and leaves
ceases, and the weaving of branches,
to avoid the winter wind
I go from the world to Annwfn.’

and talks about the sun declining in August:

And it is a perpetual evil
that August is so near, by night and by day,
and knowing from the gradual decline
that you would depart, golden pile.

(Mawl i’r haf is poem 35 but the previous 3 poems 32-34 also talk about summer and particularly May which is described as the beginning of summer)


Oh, dioch yn fawr for this. As soon as I read it, I remembered learning it before, or at least hearing it before - probably back when I originally got taught Cymraeg with loads of word lists…days…months…!!
To @Kinetic thanks for raising Rhagfyr, which I’d only half explained and thanks Margaret for explaining!!
Now - We seem to have managed to avoid changing Gorffennaf to Iwlai in homour of that chap who got driven back and failed to conquer Prydain, but got stuck with Awst which shoves Medi back. Most harvesting happens in August, I’d say! Ideas?
Also, any idea why friday always seems to be female? Freya, Venus?

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I had never thought of it before, but now I look it up, I see “gwener” also means Venus.
Is it the only female day? I suppose the people who doled out the days were not exactly believers in equal-opportunity. Modern feminists should probably claim Friday as their day, although of course they would be justified in claiming more days for themselves. We could have three each, and share one day (Sunday?).

At one time, for a period after the winter solstice, the months were not counted. Back then it was a lunar calendar so, instead of finding a system to keep the lunar in sync with the solar year, they just picked back up in the spring. So there only had 10 named months. Eventually the other 2 were added.

When Julius Caesar created the Julian calendar, switching to a solar calendar, he wanted the beginning of the year to be either the Vernal Equinox or the Winter Solstice. But, the Senate wanted it to be January when the Senate reconvened.

The only other one would be Monday (Moon/Luna).

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The ancients believed that different days were ‘presided’ by different spirits/deities/planets/characteristic, so Monday - day of the moon, Tuesday (mars), Wed (Mercury), Thurs (Jupiter), Fri (Venus), Sat - sabbath - obvioulsy a Judaeic/Chrstian addition, Sun - day of the Sun (or Day of the lord in romance languages) etc…
nothing to do with feminine/masculine per se


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In Old English Tiw (Tyr in norse) was the god of war, hence “Tues” and Wednes from Woden (Odin). Thurs is from Thor god of thunder - compare to German Donnerstag (thunder day). Satur from Saturn as @robbruce points out.

True, just that Mon and Fri namesakes happened to be feminine deities.

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Renaming Awst? The problem is that Medi already means reaping, or harvest.

And December, by its name tells us there were once ten months, October being the eighth and November being the ninth. In fact Nov and Naw look pretty related to me.

The lovely @tatjana took me to Bled Castle in Slovenia and I seem to remember a series of pictures relating the names of the months to the agricultural work done at that time of the year. More winemaking there than here I think.


Agreed, much more winemaking. Almost the whole country is suitable for growing grape and producing wine and this is probably for that reason.