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
from Welsh afon; Cornish avon
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
a traditional Welsh soup/stew; Cornish kowl
from corwgl. But this Welsh term was derived from the Latin corium meaning "leather or hide", the material from which coracles are made. [2]
from cor, "dwarf" + gi (soft mutation of ci), "dog".
from an Insular Celtic source, perhaps from Welsh craig'or 'Carreg.;[3][4] Cornish karrek
from crom llech literally "crooked flat stone"
from cwm "coomb." Cornish; komm; passed into Old English as 'cumb'
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
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).[5]
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".[3][4]
from llymru[3][4]
from cist (chest) and maen (stone).
from llech.[6]
possibly penguin 
Possibly from pen gwyn, "white head". "The fact that the penguin has a black head is no serious objection."[3][4] 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,[7] the American Heritage Dictionary,[8] the Century Dictionary[9] and Merriam-Webster,[10] 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 and in Breton. An alternative etymology links the word to Latin pinguis, which means "fat". In Dutch, the alternative word for penguin is "fat-goose" (vetgans see: Dutch wiki or dictionaries under Pinguïn), and would indicate this bird received its name from its appearance.
meaning “hamlet, home, town.”;[11] Cornish tre.
a kind of sea fish (derived via Cornish wrach, Welsh gwrach (meaning hag or witch)).[12]

Words that derive from Cornish[edit]

mine as in Balmaiden or Hemerdon Bal in Devon
brill (possibly) 
from Cornish brilli, "mackerel".[3]
from Cornish and/or Breton taolvaen, taol, "table" and maen, "stone".
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.
a form of prospecting
perhaps Gull 
Welsh gwylan, Cornish guilan, Breton goelann[13]
paw, claw, figuratively hand; padgy-paw dialectal newt or lizard 'four-paw'[14] (Pawen in Welsh)
a species of fish.
possibly Puffin 
a type of bird.
Tiddy oggy; another term for pasties.
vug, vugg, vugh 
from Cornish vooga, "cave".
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.

from Breton (jeweled) ring
from 'dwarf' (diminutive)
from Breton men stone and hir "long" / "tall", i.e. a "long stone" (Main Hîr means long,slender in Welsh)

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.

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.
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
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]
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".
Welsh crempog Cornish or Breton Krampoez; 'little hearth cakes'
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)
from either Welsh or Cornish;[15] Welsh gwylan, Cornish guilan, Breton goelann; all from O.Celt. *voilenno- "gull" (OE mæw)
Cornish Hogh (and hedgehog)
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)[16]
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)[17]
From pen gwyn meaning white-head from either Welsh, Cornish or Breton[18] An alternative etymology links the word to Latin pinguis, which means "fat". In Dutch, the alternative word for penguin is "fat-goose" (vetgans see: Dutch wiki or dictionaries under Pinguïn), and would indicate this bird received its name from its appearance.
meaning hill or mountain, possibly via Latin turris (tower) such as Glastonbury Tor, is particularly prevalent in Devon.[19]

Welsh words used in English[edit]


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]


  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. ^ Online Etymology Dictionary
  3. ^ a b c d e Weekley, Ernest (1921), An Etymological Dictionary of Modern English .
  4. ^ a b c d Skeat, Walter W (1888), An Etymological Dictionary the English Language .
  5. ^ Online Etymology Dictionary
  6. ^ "Lech", Etymology online .
  7. ^ Oxford English Dictionary. Accessed 2007-03-21
  8. ^ American Heritage Dictionary at Accessed 2010-01-25
  9. ^ Century Dictionary at Accessed 2010-01-25
  10. ^ Merriam-Webster Accessed 2010-01-25
  11. ^ "Tref", Etymology online .
  12. ^ "Wrasse", Etymology online .
  13. ^
  14. ^
  15. ^ "Gull", Etymology online .
  16. ^ "Iron", OED .
  17. ^ "Lawn", Etymology online .
  18. ^ "Penguin", Etymology online .
  19. ^ "Tor", Etymology online .