Cambria is a name for Wales, being the Latinised form of the Welsh name for the country, Cymru. The term was not in use during the Roman period (when Wales had not come into existence as a distinct entity). It emerged later, in the medieval period, after the Anglo-Saxon settlement of much of Britain led to a territorial distinction between the new Anglo-Saxon kingdoms (which would become England) and the remaining Celtic British kingdoms (which would become Wales). Latin being the primary language of scholarship in Western Christendom, writers needed a term to refer to the Celtic British territory and coined Cambria based on the Welsh name for it.
The Welsh word Cymru (Wales), along with Cymry (Welsh people), was falsely supposed by 17th-century celticists to be connected to the Biblical Gomer, or to the Cimbri or the Cimmerians of Antiquity. In reality it is descended from the Brythonic word combrogi, meaning "fellow-countrymen". The term thus conveys something like "[land of] fellow-countrymen". The use of Cymry as a self-designation seems to have arisen in the post-Roman Era, to refer collectively to the Brythonic peoples of Britain, inhabiting what are now Wales, Cornwall, Northern England, and Southern Scotland. It came into use as a self-description probably before the 7th century and is attested in a praise poem to Cadwallon ap Cadfan (Moliant Cadwallon, by Afan Ferddig) c. 633. In Welsh literature, the word Cymry was used throughout the Middle Ages to describe the Welsh, though the older, more generic term Brythoniaid continued to be used to describe any of the Britonnic peoples (including the Welsh) and was the more common literary term until c. 1100. Thereafter Cymry prevailed as a reference to the Welsh. Until c. 1560 the word was spelt Kymry or Cymry, regardless of whether it referred to the people or the country. The Latinised form Cambria was coined in the Middle Ages, and was used regularly by Geoffrey of Monmouth.
Cambria in legend
According to Geoffrey of Monmouth in the first part of his pseudohistory Historia Regum Britanniae ("History of the Kings of Britain"), the Trojan Brutus had three sons, among whom he divided his lands after landing in Britain and subduing Gogmagog. His eldest son, Locrinus, received the land between the rivers Humber and Severn, which he called Loegria (a Latinisation of the medieval Welsh name Lloegyr (modern Welsh: Lloegr), "England"). His second son, Albanactus, got the lands beyond the Humber, which took from him the name of Albany (Yr Alban in Welsh: Scotland). The youngest son, Camber, was bequeathed everything beyond the Severn, which was called after him "Cambria".
This legend was widely prevalent throughout the 12th–16th centuries.
The name "Cambria" lives on in some local names, e.g. Cambrian Line, Cambrian Way. It is also used internationally in geology to denote the geologic period between around 542 million years and 488.3 million years ago; in 1835 the geologist Adam Sedgwick named this geological period the Cambrian, after studying rocks of that age in Wales.
It is also found in the name of a number of colleges stretching across North East Wales - Coleg Cambria.
- Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Cambria". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.
- Davies, John (2007). A History of Wales. London: Penguin. ISBN 0140284753.
- Lloyd, John Edward (1911). "A History of Wales from the Earliest Times to the Edwardian Conquest (Note to Chapter VI, the Name "Cymry")". I (Second ed.). London: Longmans, Green, and Co. (published 1912): 191–192.
- Phillimore, Egerton (1891). "Note (a) to The Settlement of Brittany". In Phillimore, Egerton. Y Cymmrodor. XI. London: Honourable Society of Cymmrodorion (published 1892). pp. 97–101.
- Davies (1994) p. 71, The poem contains the line: 'Ar wynep Kymry Cadwallawn was'.
- Davies (1994) p. 69
- "Adam Sedgwick (1785-1873)". University of California Museum of Paleontology. Retrieved 2009-08-13.
- "Quick facts about the name". ohbabynames.com.
- "Cambria - meaning of Cambria name". Thinkbabynames.com. Retrieved 2009-08-13.