List of English words of Welsh origin

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This is a list of English language words of Welsh language origin. As with the Goidelic languages, the Brythonic tongues are close enough for possible derivations from Cumbric, Cornish or Breton in some cases.

Beyond the loan of common nouns, there are numerous English toponyms, surnames, personal names or nicknames derived from Welsh (see Celtic toponymy, Celtic onomastics).[1]

Words that derive from Welsh[edit]

Welsh Corgi
avon 
from Welsh afon; Cornish avon
bard 
from Old Celtic bardos, either through Welsh bardd (where the bard was highly respected) or Scottish bardis (where it was a term of contempt); Cornish bardh
cawl 
a traditional Welsh soup/stew
coracle 
from corwgl
corgi 
from cor, "dwarf" + gi (soft mutation of ci), "dog".
crag 
from an Insular Celtic source, perhaps from Welsh craig.;[2][3] Cornish karrek
cromlech 
from crom llech literally "crooked flat stone"
cwm
from cwm "coomb." Cornish; komm; passed into Old English as 'cumb'
dad 
from Welsh tad. From a common Proto-Indo-European root used in many other languages, but almost certainly entered English from Welsh as the Old English equivalent was fæder (father) from Proto-Germanic fader Cornish; tas
eisteddfod 
from Welsh, lit. "session," from eistedd "to sit" (from sedd "seat," cognate with L. sedere; see sedentary) + bod "to be" (cognate with O.E. beon; see be).[4]
flannel 
the Oxford English Dictionary says the etymology is "uncertain", but Welsh gwlanen = "flannel wool" is likely. An alternative source is Old French flaine, "blanket". The word has been adopted in most European languages. An earlier English form was flannen, which supports the Welsh etymology. Shakspeare's The Merry Wives of Windsor contains the term "the Welsh flannel".[2][3]
flummery 
from llymru[2][3]
kistvaen 
from cist (chest) and maen (stone).
lech 
from llech.[5]
possibly penguin 
Possibly from pen gwyn, "white head". "The fact that the penguin has a black head is no serious objection."[2][3] It may also be derived from the Breton language, or the Cornish Language, which are all closely related. However, dictionaries suggest the derivation is from Welsh pen "head" and gwyn "white", including the Oxford English Dictionary,[6] the American Heritage Dictionary,[7] the Century Dictionary[8] and Merriam-Webster,[9] on the basis that the name was originally applied to the great auk, which had white spots in front of its eyes (although its head was black). Pen gwyn is identical in Cornish & Breton.
tref 
meaning “hamlet, home, town.”;[10] Cornish tre
wrasse 
a kind of sea fish (derived via Cornish wrach from Welsh gurach).[11]

Words that derive from Cornish[edit]

Bal
mine as in Balmaiden or Hemerdon Bal in Devon
possibly brill 
from Cornish brilli, "mackerel".[2]
dolmen 
from Cornish and/or Breton taolvaen, taol, "table" and maen, "stone".
fogou 
from Cornish underground structure souterrain which is found in many Iron Age settlements in Cornwall. The purpose of a fogou is no longer known, and there is little evidence to suggest what it might have been.
Fossicking 
a form of prospecting
perhaps Gull 
Welsh gwylan, Cornish guilan, Breton goelann[12]
paw
paw, claw, figuratively hand; padgy-paw dialectal newt or lizard 'four-paw'[13]
Porbeagle 
a species of fish.
possibly Puffin 
a type of bird.
Tiddy oggy; another term for pasties.
vug, vugg, vugh 
from Cornish vooga, "cave".
Wrasse 
a type of fish.

Many dialect words in the West-Cornish dialect of English are from the Cornish language itself, however these words are localised to West Cornwall and therefore it would not be accurate to describe them as having passed into English "proper".

Words that derive from Breton[edit]

All Breton-origin words in English come by way of French.

bijou 
from Breton bizou (jeweled) ring
Korrigan 
from 'dwarf' (diminutive)
menhir 
from Breton men stone and hir "long" / "tall", i.e. a "long stone"

Words with indirect or possible links[edit]

Old Welsh origins for the topographical terms Tor (OW tŵr) and crag (OW carreg or craig) are among a number of available Celtic derivations for the Old English antecedents to the modern terms. However, the existence of similar cognates in both the Goidelic, Latin, Old French and the other Brythonic families makes isolation of a precise origin difficult, such as for example, the adoption of the word Cross from Latin Crux, Old Irish cros, OE Rood ; appearing in Welsh and Cornish as Croes, Grows.

Adder
The Proto-Indo-European root netr- led to Latin natrix, Welsh neidr, West Germanic nædro, Old Norse naðra, Middle Dutch nadre, any of which may have led to the English word.
Bow
May be from Old English bugan "to bend, to bow down, to bend the body in condescension," also "to turn back", or more simply from the Welsh word bwa
Coombe
meaning "valley", is usually linked with the Welsh cwm, also meaning "valley". However, the OED traces both words back to an earlier Celtic word, *kumbos. It suggests a direct Old English derivation for "coombe".
(Coumba, or coumbo, is the common western-alpine vernacular word for "glen", and considered genuine gaulish (celtic-ligurian branch). Found in many toponyms of the western Alps like Coumboscuro (Grana valley), Bellecombe and Coumbafréide (Aoste), Combette (Suse), Coumbal dou Moulin (Valdensian valleys). Although seldom used, the word "combe" is included into major standard-french dictionaries. This could justify the celtic origin thesis).[citation needed]
Crockery
It has been suggested that crockery might derive from the Welsh crochan, as well as the Manx crocan and Gaelic crogan, meaning "pot". The OED states that this view is "undetermined". It suggests that the word derives from Old English croc, via the Icelandic krukka, meaning "an earthenware pot or pitcher".
Crumpet
Welsh crempog Cornish or Breton Krampoez; 'little hearth cakes'
Druid
From the Old Celtic derwijes/derwos ("true knowledge" or literally "they who know the oak") from which the modern Welsh word derwydd evolved, but travelled to English through Latin (druidae) and French (druide)
Gull
from either Welsh or Cornish;[14] Welsh gwylan, Cornish guilan, Breton goelann; all from O.Celt. *voilenno- "gull" (OE mæw)
Hog
Cornish Hogh (and hedgehog)
Iron
or at least the modern form of the word "iron" (c/f Old English ísern, proto-Germanic *isarno, itself borrowed from proto-Celtic), appears to have been influenced by pre-existing Celtic forms in the British Isles: Old Welsh hearn, Cornish hoern, Old Gaelic íarn (Irish iaran, iarun, Scottish iarunn)[15]
Lawn
from Welsh Llan Cornish Lan (cf. Launceston, Breton Lann); Heath; enclosed area of land, grass about a Christian site of worship from Cornish Lan (e.g. Lanteglos, occasionally Laun as in Launceston) or Welsh Llan (e.g. Llandewi)[16]
Penguin
From pen gwyn meaning white-head from either Welsh, Cornish or Breton[17]
Tor
meaning hill or mountain, possibly via Latin turris (tower) such as Glastonbury Tor, is particularly prevalent in Devon.[18]

Welsh words used in English[edit]

Eisteddfod

English words lifted directly from Welsh, and used with original spelling (largely used either in Wales or with reference to Wales):

  • awdl
  • bach (literally "small", a term of affection)
  • cromlech
  • cwm (a valley)
  • crwth (originally meaning "swelling" or "pregnant")
  • cwrw - Welsh ale or beer
  • cwtch (hug, cuddle) (also small cupboard or dog's kennel/bed)
  • cynghanedd
  • Eisteddfod
  • englyn
  • gorsedd
  • hiraeth (distant longing, homesickness)
  • hwyl
  • iechyd da (cheers, or literally "good health")
  • mochyn - pig
  • sglod, sglods (Welsh plural = sglodion) - chips or "French fries", in fish-and-chip takeaways (Flintshire)
  • twp/dwp - idiotic, daft
  • Urdd Eisteddfod (in Welsh "Eisteddfod Yr Urdd"), the youth Eisteddfod
  • ych a fi - an expression of distaste

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Max Förster Keltisches Wortgut im Englischen, 1921, cited by J.R.R. Tolkien, English and Welsh, 1955. "many 'English' surnames, ranging from the rarest to the most familiar, are linguistically derived from Welsh (or British), from place-names, patronymics, personal names, or nick-names; or are in part so derived, even when that origin is no longer obvious. Names such as Gough, Dewey, Yarnal, Merrick, Onions, or Vowles, to mention only a few."
  2. ^ a b c d e Weekley, Ernest (1921), An Etymological Dictionary of Modern English .
  3. ^ a b c d Skeat, Walter W (1888), An Etymological Dictionary the English Language .
  4. ^ Online Etymology Dictionary
  5. ^ "Lech", Etymology online .
  6. ^ Oxford English Dictionary. Accessed 2007-03-21
  7. ^ American Heritage Dictionary at wordnik.com Accessed 2010-01-25
  8. ^ Century Dictionary at wordnik.com Accessed 2010-01-25
  9. ^ Merriam-Webster Accessed 2010-01-25
  10. ^ "Tref", Etymology online .
  11. ^ "Wrasse", Etymology online .
  12. ^ http://www.etymonline.com/
  13. ^ https://openlibrary.org/books/OL24826762M/The_ancient_language_and_the_dialect_of_Cornwall
  14. ^ "Gull", Etymology online .
  15. ^ "Iron", OED .
  16. ^ "Lawn", Etymology online .
  17. ^ "Penguin", Etymology online .
  18. ^ "Tor", Etymology online .