The Welsh term bardd ("poet"), which is the source of the English word bard, originally referred to the Welsh poets of the Middle Ages, who might be itinerant or attached to a noble household. Some of these medieval poets were known by a pseudonym, for example Cynddelw Brydydd Mawr ("Cynddelw the Master Poet"), fl. 1155 - 1200 and Iolo Goch ("Iolo the Red"), c.1320 - c.1398. The practice seems to have very ancient antecedents, as in the names of the presumably 6th century poets Talhaearn Tad Awen, Blwchfardd and Culfardd, mentioned by the Welsh historian Nennius alongside Taliesin and Aneirin, the last referred to as Aneurin Gwenithwawd ("Aneurin of the Corn Poetry").
Bardic names are also useful in differentiating between individuals of the same name: a problem which is much more common in Wales than most other countries. For example, John Jones (Talhaiarn) took his bardic name from his place of origin, to distinguish him from contemporaries with the name John Jones. The minister Joseph Harris (Gomer) selected his bardic name from the Bible. Others, such as Hedd Wyn, used poetic inventions.