Pronouncing Welsh Place Names
...and their meaning
Wales is a bi-lingual country - both Welsh and English are spoken. You certainly don't need to speak any Welsh to enjoy your visit in Wales. But, just a little understanding of Welsh place names will bring your time in Wales to life, especially as most Welsh place names are largely descriptive. So, if you want to learn a little bit about the Welsh language as you cycle around, here goes...
Apart from a few vowels that are slightly different from English, Welsh is a more or less a phonetic language, you pronounce it as it looks. Don't get put off by the long list of vowels and consonants, once you've understood the few rules it is easy.
It may help you to pronounce names if you remember that the emphasis in Welsh is usually on the penultimate syllable. For example, Caernarfon (kyre-nar-von), Beddgelert (beth-gel-airt), Llanberis (thlan-ber-ris), Felindre (veh-lin-dray).
Welsh has a slightly different alphabet from English:-
Welsh place names are largely descriptive, eg: Mynydd Bach is small mountain (Mynydd = mountain, Bach = small). A famous example of this is the town on Anglesey with that long name:-
Which roughly translates as:-
The Church of St. Mary by the pool with the white hazel near the fierce whirlpool by St. Tysilio's church and the red cave.
The actual name of the village is Llanfairpwllgwyngyll and is locally abbreviated to Llanfair PG (well wouldn't you). A Victorian publicity stunt landed the villagers with the long name. If you really want to show off by learning how to pronounce it, try this:-
Thlann vyre pooth gwinn gith gogg-erra kweern drobbooth lann tuss-ill-yo goggo gauk.
The following list of place name elements will help make your map reading a little easier:
Place Name Elements
|afon||river||Afon Dee||avv-on dee|
|bach or fach||small||Felinfach||velin-vach|
|bont or pont||bridge||Pontnewydd||pont-neh-with|
|carreg||stone||Carreg Samson||karregg samson|
|coch||red||Castell Coch||kass-teth koch|
|dinas||fort, city||Dinas-Emrys||dinnass emm-riss|
|fawr or mawr||big||Fforest Fawr||forest vowr (rhymes with hour)|
|felin or melin||mill||Felinfach||velin-vach|
|croes or groes||cross||Croesgoch||croiss-goch|
|llyn||lake||Llyn Brianne||thlin bree-annay|
|mynydd||mountain||Mynydd Bach||munnith bach|
|Llwybr Cyhoeddus||Public Footpath||thlooy-beer kahoy-this|
|Swyddfa'r Post||Post Office||sooeethva post|
|Dim ...||No ...||dim ...|
|Dim mynediad||No entry||dim munned-yad|
|thanks very much||diolch yn fawr||dee-olck unn vowr|
|OK||iawn||yown (rhymes with gown)|
|good morning||bore da||bor-er dah|
|good afternoon||prynhawn da||prin-hown dah|
|good evening||noswaith dda||noss-wythe-ah|
|good night||nos da||noss dah|
|currant bread||bara brith||barrah breeth|
|leek soup||cawl cennin||cowl kennin|
Foot-note: If you think that Welsh is unpronounceable, then think on. In fact English is one of the most unphonetic languages. For instance the English '...ough' can be pronounced 10 different ways:- through, though, thought, tough, cough, borough, bough, hiccough, lough (pronounced 'och' as in loch), and hough ('ock'). The last is fairly archaic, but it does appear in the 1995 Concise Oxford Dictionary.
For a bit of fun, here is Welsh comedian Rhod Gilbert on learning Welsh...
Apologies to Welsh speakers if we have taken a few liberties with the pronunciations. We have tried to keep it as simple as possible.