Welsh & Brythonic Topographical Words And Names – Cartography Of Wales
In a Welsh place name, usually the first element is capitalised and the other one or two are not.
The language mutates, which means that the initial letter of a subsequent word in a composite phrase, changes. It is a pronunciation feature akin to “an apple / a coat” in English”. Many mutated consonants make sound akin to an English “v”: F, BH, MH,
DD is a aspirated TH, but a written TH is a non-aspirated sound.
F is pronounced “V”, FF is pronounced “F”, W is generally “OO”. C is a hard consonant.
Maps seldom default to Welsh except for the place names. There is no independent Welsh or English Ordnance Survey even though there was a Scottish and a Northern Ireland one. Here is an English to Welsh cartographic glossary, followed by a place name glossary:
Geological and specific Cartographic terms:
Airfield: maes awyr
Anglesey: Ynys Mon
Aquaduct: draphont ddwr (this would be one raised on a bridge)
Battle site: safle brwydr
Bridle Way: lwybr ceffylau
Cattle farm: fferm ddefaid
Closed Railway: rheilffordd caeedig
Closed Station: Orsaf caeedig
Contour Line: gyfuchlin
Coal Mine: pwll glo
Coniferous Woodland: coetir conifferaidd
Contours at 50 ft intervals: cyfuchlunio bob 50 troedfedd
Contours in fathoms: cyfuchliniau mewn gwrhyd
Copper mine: mwynglawdd copr
Copyright: hawl fraint
Danger Zone: ardal beryglus
Deciduous woodland: coetir collddail
Drawn by: Drawn gan
Engraved by: engrafio gan
Footpath: llwybr troed
Fully Revised: diwygiedig yn llawn
Great Britain: Prydain Fawr
Guest house: gwesty
Lead Mine: mwynglawdd plwm
Low water: llanw isel
Monmouth (shire) : (Sir) Trefynwy
Milestone: carreg filltir
National Grid: Grid Cenedlaethol
Narrow gauge railway: rheilffordd gul
North Wales: Gogledd Cymru
One inch to the mile: un fodfedd i’r filltir
Ordnance Survey: arolwg ordnans
Passenger ferry: fferi teithwyr (droed:foot)
Post Office: swyddfa bost
Published by: cyhoeddwyd gan
Quarry: chwarel, Slate quarry: chwarel lechi
Revised: diwygiedig, Fully Revised: diwygiedig yn llawn
Right of way: hawl tramwy
Roman Road: ffordd Rhufeinig
Scale on a map: graddfa Mape
Sea Chart: Siart môr
Sea Level: lefel y mor
Sheep farm: fferm ddefaid
Sheet 19: Dalen 19
Slate quarry: chwarel lechi
South Wales: De Cymru
Spot height: fan a’r lle – uchder
Stone Circle: scylach cerrig
Surveyed by: a arolygwyd gan…
Telephone box: blwch (bwth) ffôn
Town Hall: neuadd y dref
Triangulation point: pwynt triongli
Wales: Cymru, West Wales: Orllewin Cymru, North Wales: Gogledd Cymru,South Wales: De Cymru
Water Mill: felin ddŵr
West Wales: Orllewin Cymru
Windmill: melin wynt
Vehicle Ferry: fferi gerbyd
Youth Hostel: hostel ieuenctid
General Place name elements
Aber: Mouth of… Not necessarily an estuary, this can be a confluence in land in which case the name is taken from the tributary stream.
Afon: River, Water first element of a River name, in English examples, of which there are many, Avon is generic and the proper name of the river is lost.
Ancr: Confluence of streams, hook.
Allt: high ground, hillside, cliff. Note, in Scotland this is a highland gill or beck.
Bach, Fach: Little, Lesser. It mutates readily.
Beth: Grave, There are a lot of Old and New Testament names in Wales, but this is s not cognate with the Testament Beth: which is a Hebrew: house. Logically the second name of a Welsh place in “Beth-” should be a personal name.
Betws: Chapel , Betws y coed: chapel in the forest or wood
Blaen, Blaenau: Upland, sometimes hilltop, sometimes source of a stream.
Borth: Portal, way in, port, so not cognate with “bourne” or the birth of a river.
Burrows: Stable sand dunes, South Walean English.
Bwlch: Pass, Dore, passage through a gap in hills.
Cader: Chair of…. as a toponym, seat of…, where a mythical or historical figure is said to reside, Blencathra in Cumberland must be cognate.
Caer: Fort, castle.
Canol: Middle, often found with Uchaf and Isaf (Higher and Lower).
Cawl: a tidal or shore plant, sea cale : Porthcawl.
Cefn: Ridge, Edge: Cefn hir fynnedd: Long Mountain Ridge.
Ceiriog: Beloved: Afon ceiriog.
Celli, Gelli: Grove or Groves- it mutates readily.
Cil: Corner, Recess, Hidden away place, (geolog): re-entrant.
Clog, Clogwyn: Steep Cliff.
Coch, Goch: Red, common element, mutates. Question is : soil, vegetation or sunset?
Coed: Wood- interesting because it often shows former woods in place names. Sometimes translates as wood without the hunting connotation.
Croes: Cross, also crossroads.
Cwm: Valley, or specifically a rounded glacial valley head in modern geological parlance.
Cyfrwy: Saddle, cognate with Blencathra in Cumberland.
Cymer: Confluence of streams.
Ddu: Black, the implication is difficult with colours: black soil, rocks, vegetation or shadow, lack of light?
Din: Hill fort, see Dinas.
Dinas: City, but usually an old fortress, old fort, old fortification. As an old city it would be an Oppidum. Usually these are on high and prominent ground.
Dwfr, Dwr: Water.
Dyfrdwy: River Dee: Deva, Goddess River. Cgnate with Dee, Don, Donau, Danube.
Eglwys: Church, a word with a clear Latin base.
Erw: Acre, field by implication.
Eryr: Eagle, Eagles- Pen y eryr: Eagle Top.Llyn: Mere, tarn, water, lake. Loch, lough.
Glas: Verdant, but also blue, green-blue: British languages tend to divide colour differently on the spectrum to Anglo Saxon- thus direct translation is not easy. A land and water colour element
Fford saeson: (ffordd saison, ffordd seison)The English Road. Seison, Saeson is used perjoratively, the people were actually Mercian and Angles, not Saxons.
Ffordd, Fford: Road.
Ffynnon: Sprint, source
Foel: bare round topped, seen as a place name by itself: perhaps mutated and then lost its first element- Y Foel perhaps
Glan: River bank, mere bank, lake shore.
Glyn: Deep valley.
Gwaun: Moor, moorland.
Gwyn,Wyn: White. Colour implication is difficult: light, white rock, snow, sun?
Gwyrdd: Green- not often in place names.
Gwyddeleg: Irish, seems to mean “green country people”.
Hafn: Gill, Ravine.
Hafod: Farm, really this is the Summer farm and is similar in meaning to “Uchaf-” where the Summer farmstead is the upland one.
Har-: place name element meaning “Fair”.
Hendre: Winter farmstead, originally the “old farmstead”.
Idris: Mythical Giant remembered in Cader Idris, fell in West Wales
Isa: a contraction of Isaf, found in some parts.
Isaf: Lower, often found with Uchaf and Canol (Higher and Middle).See: Isa.
Iwerddon: Ireland, Iwerddon Bach/ Bach Iwerddon: Little Ireland
Lech: Rock, also used for slate in “slate mines, plural: lechi
Llan-: Church of…but originally “enclosure”. Also “parish”
Llanfi-: Church of Saint……..
Lloegr: England – erroneously translated sometimes as “lost land” which is not a true derivation- perhaps from “Low Land” in English, or “Grey Land”, for the misty Severn Valley was the England encountered just after the border.
Maen, Men: Stone.
Mawr, Fawr: Great, mutates readily and is usually a suffix.
Melyn, Velyn, Felyn: Yellow- not to be confused with Melin: Felin: Mill.
Melin, Felin: Mill, mutates readily.
Merthyr: Shrine, pilgrimage place, chapel of a significant Christian person or event.
Moch: Swine, pig. Mochnant is a stream
Mochnant: Pig Valley
Moel: Bare fell, Bare Hill and usually a large round fell, round hill, cognate with Mell in Cumberland, and Meall in Scotland, Breast shaped fell.
Mynydd: superficially “fell”, “hill” but sometimes fell-side moorland or mountain, side prominence of a larger hill and also quite small hill often associated with a village. In Anglophone Welsh areas “Mountain” is often just a upland pasture perhaps of a few hundred feet. Example, several “Mynydd” names appear around Pumlumon. Sometimes “moorland”. “Mountain” is not a place name word in England but is found in Anglophone Wales.
Nant: Gill, beck, bourne, brook, also a valley of such a beck : thus small valley or river valley.
Pandy: Fulling Mill, Carding Mill- Wool MillPant: Hollow Valley.
Pen: Top or End, Head, end of…. .
Pentre: homestead, village.
Pill: stream that enters the sea directly, often running across tidal flats: South Walean English.
Pistyll: A Force, a Spout, A Waterfall.
Plas: Hall, Large house, Park House.
Pont: Bridge, Pen y Bont: End of the Bridge. A word with a Latin base.
Pumlumon: Plynlimon: a famous fell in Mid Wales; the word means 5 peaks.
Pwll: Pool, can be a coastal feature.
Rhaeadr: Force, Waterfall : cognate, Rydalwater in Westmorland.
Rhiw: Hill , Slope.
Rhodfa: Walking route, track, Pass: Cefn y Rhodfa: Ridge of the track?
Rhos: Moor, Promontory.
Saisneg, Seisnig: English
Sarn : Causeway- but can often mean upland road so perhaps the implication is “laid stones”, Road, road in the sense “route”, “trail”. .
Seison, Saeson, Sais, Seis: English, Saxon- but usually Mercian who were on the border.
Sir: County, Shire.
Stryd: Street, Cognate: Strood in England means specifically causeway across water.
Tafarn: Pub, Inn, hoselry cognate: tavern.
Tal: End of, prefix,; presumably cognate with “tail”.
Tan: Fire. Afon Tanat: Fire River, perhaps Beacon River or look out point river originally. Thanet in Kent is a cognate.
Tawr: Bull, Mynydd tawr: Bull Mountain.
Teifi: Flowing River: cognate with Tiber and Tyne, Ancient Indo European Root.
Traeth: Beach, but often “stretch of tidal sands” which would not be used as a beach- can be very large.
Ucha: Uchaf: Higher, Upper, this variant is seen in North East Central Wales.
Uchaf: Higher, often found with Canol and Isaf (middle and lower), see Ucha.
Y, Yr, ‘r: Of the, at the, by they- =usually the middle element of a place name- where it is dative
or ablative,.As the first element it is usually just “The”, nominative, unless a first element is now lost.
Ynys: Eyot, holm, isle, island; cognate with Inish in Irish and Inch in Scots.
Ystrad: Valley , cognate: Strath. Perhaps it had the implication of a valley with a track or road down it.
Other useful words for place names, not in the above AZ:
Gwern: Alder; Wern: probably also Alder but also titmouse is possible; Sych: Dry, as in Sychbant; Clos: Close, common but meaning not clear; Derw: Oak; Goeden Onnen: Ash tree; Llwyfen: Elm; Ffawydd: Beech; Ywen: Yew; Meryw: Juniper; Ci: Dog; Ffos: Ditch; Fyddin: Army; Arad: Plough; Rhos: also means heath; Dau: Two; Tri: Three; Pedwar: Four; Pump: Five.