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Interesting Etymologies 16 : Welsh

Updated: Nov 20, 2021

"Hello again Word Lovers!" Surprisingly few words have come into English from Welsh, Scots or Irish, especially considering the proximity. English was imported to the British isles and has accepted words from many languages.

Here are some of the few that made it from Welsh

Coracle : It has come from the Latin Corium meaning "leather" (Still apparent in the Spanish word for leather Cuerro.

Corgi : Actually means "dwarf" and the suffix gi is a mutation of ci which means "dog"

Crag : A steep or rocky cliff face. Spelt Carreg, or Karrek in Cornish.

Flannel : Uncertain etymology but may come from flain in French, to mean blanket and there is the Welsh word Gwlanen to mean woolen cloth.

Adder : Believe to have come to Welsh from Latin.

Bow : Could be from old English bugan "to bend" or "bow down" or Welsh bwa.

Lawn : Has an interesting etymology. Originally referred to the grass that surrounded a Christian place of worship, Llan in Welsh. Anyone who has been to Wales or looked at Wales on a map will know that many place names begin with Llan.

Penguin: This word has been gifted to the languages of the world by Welsh. In Welsh Pen means head and Gwyn means White. (Ed: For Spanish listeners Gwyn mutates in Irish to Vaughan, pronounced correctly on the show by Charly as Vorn. So it literally means Mister White!)

Why did Penguin come from Welsh? The story goes that it emerges from the Patagonian Welsh community and in this region there is a type of Penguin that has white markings on the head.

Druid : Charly goes into detail about this fascinating word and the strong intertwined connection between Oak and and Truth. In fact the Anglo Saxons used the word treow for both truth and tree.

Gull : Comes from possibly Welsh or Cornish. Welsh gwylan, Cornish guilan and Breton goelann all derive from the Old Celt voilenno.

Hedgehog & Iron are also believed to have Welsh etymology.

Pen : To mean head, mountain or hill. Very common in place names. Penzance, Penryn, Penrith

Bont : Meaning bridge, clearly comes from Pont

Gwesty meaning Hotel clearly lends itself to Guest House. Gwes in fact means Guest and Ty means House.

We examine the roots of the words "Wales" and "Welsh" in the article attached to Episode 11 Placenames

Explore the full Interesting Etymologies series archive here


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