It appears that the etymology of the name Welsh is derived from the Anglo-Saxon word wilisc meaning 'foreigner', 'stranger', or 'non-Anglo-Saxon'. These terms were used by the ancient Germanic peoples to describe inhabitants of the former Roman Empire over the Alps, Rhine, and North Sea, who were largely romanised and spoke Latin or Celtic languages. The Old High German walh became walch in Middle High German and the adjectival walhisk became MHG welsch. In present day German, Welsche refers to Latin (or Romance) peoples, the Italians in particular, but also the French and the Romanic neighbours of the German-speaking lands in general.
The Anglo-Saxon variant wilisc of the Proto-Germanic root was applied to the native British peoples encountered by the Saxon invaders and settlers during the 5th and 6th centuries AD. Over the succeeding centuries the term wilisc morphed through Middle English into welsh, becoming an epithet at once more specifically for the Welsh people, as England became increasingly populated with Anglo-Saxons, and more generally for numerous types of metaphorical and real 'outsider' in medieval community life. This last point opens up a wide vista of possibilities for the genealogy and origin of the surname 'Welsh' in individual cases, thus bringing into question the easy assumption that an ancestral 'Welsh' was necessarily Celtic or a 'Welshman'.
A related colloquialism is the verb to welsh/welch ('to renege') as in 'to Welsh/welch on a deal or bet', which is derived from an age-old 'English' stereotype of the Welsh/Celtic peoples as unreliable oath-breakers, making it a somewhat pejorative term.
|Meaning||Foreigner, Stranger, Romano-Briton (Celt).|
|Region of origin||British Isles|
|Related names||Walsh, Walshe, Welch; German cognates: Welsch, Walsch, Walch|
- Barry Welsh, comedy character played by John Sparkes
- Chris Welsh, former baseball pitcher and current announcer the Cincinnati Reds
- Christie Welsh, American soccer player
- David Welsh, (Scots religious leader)
- Freddie Welsh, Welsh World Lightweight boxing champion
- George Welsh, a college football coach
- Harry Welsh, a US paratrooper in World War II
- Irvine Welsh, a Scottish author
- John Welsh (footballer), a player for Hull City, England
- Mark Welsh, 20th Chief of Staff of the United States Air Force
- Matt Welsh, an Australian swimmer
- Matthew E. Welsh, an American politician and governor of Indiana
- Peter Welsh, a New Zealand steeplechase runner
- Paul Welsh, British television and radio correspondent
- Sean Welsh, Scottish footballer
- Jonathon Welsh, US Air Force master sergeant
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