Tag Archives: Welsh folk tunes

Geirau Cymraeg/A Glossary of Welsh

To aid all readers of my Pendyffryn: The Conquerors series and my first novel, Traitor’s Daughter, I include a Glossary of Welsh Words (Geiriau Cymraeg) that are used in each of the books (six in all to date). The Glossary is the final section of the book (both digital and print) but I thought having the Glossary accessible someplace else would be of help. Therefore, I’m including it here and also on my website, lilydewaruile.com, so these words are readily available at any time.

The Glossary also includes a pronunciation guide. Readers are surprised when they see words like pendefig or hafodydd, how easy they are to pronounce. Some words, such as Llanfair­pwllgwyngyll­gogery­chwyrn­drobwll­llan­tysilio­gogo­goch, are difficult even for me, but these words are not in my books!

Here then, is the entire Glossary section from my latest paperback edition of Revival: Book IV: Pendyffryn: The Conquerors. Not all of the words are in all of the books and some words in other books in the series have additional words, but this will help readers get a quick start on learning the wonders of the Welsh language!

Glossary of Gymraeg (Welsh Words)

In most instances, the following words are used so their meaning is explained within the context of the story. I have taken a few liberties with the plural, adjective and possessive forms of some words. Welsh follows the Latin & other Romance languages noun/adjective (as in vin rougevino rosso /gwin coch) rather than the Teutonic adjective/noun (red wine) but to do that in a book written in English would be a step too far. I wanted to use some Welsh to give some flavour of the language Caryl and her friends speak. As in Invasion, Book 1 of this series, Christophe Maides is conversant in the Celtic language, having a greater facility for linguistics than his close friend, Jehan-Emíl deFreveille.

Welsh also employs a similar form of expressing ownership: the object is dominant and the owner is subordinate: her cloak is ei chlogyn hi. Caryl’s cloak is clogyn Caryl. For the purposes of this story, I have used the English possessive construction of adding ‘apostrophe s’. I simplified the mutations that occur in specific juxtapositions of words starting with certain letters, such as in ei chlogyn hiei designates (in this instance) female when followed by hi. If followed by ‘e’ then the mutation is male and is ei glogyn e. These mutations are the aspirate and soft mutations, respectively. There is also the nasal mutation which replaces the beginning consonant with an ‘ng’, ‘ngh’, ‘m’, ‘mh’, ‘n’, or ‘nh’ when the word is proceeded by ‘yn’ (and a number of other instances that I won’t mention!) as ‘c’ becomes ‘ngh’; ‘g’ becomes ‘ng’; ‘b’ becomes ‘m’; ‘p’ becomes ‘mh’; ‘t’ becomes ‘nh’. Caryl refers to her husband as fy ngŵr.

You can hear how these words are pronounced at http://translate.google.com/. The emphasis is always on the next to last syllable, as in most Romance languages. Below, I have used some English words to illustrate the sounds. ‘S’ is always an ‘es’ sound, never ‘z’. ‘R’ is always rolled. ‘CH’ is always aspirated as in ‘loch’, never as in ‘choo-choo’ or ‘k’ as in the Italian ‘che’. ‘DD’ is pronounced as the ‘th’ in ‘with’. ‘TH’ is the ‘th’ sound as in ‘pith’.

Many double letters (dd, ll, th, ph, ng, etc.) are considered a single letter in Welsh and follow their closest single letter (d, l, t, p g etc.) in the Welsh dictionary.

Welsh vowels are the same as in Italian, open and full—one of the reasons why Welsh is called the language of heaven. Welsh also has more vowels than English, not only “and sometimes Y and W”: AEIOUYW.

Arawn: the lord of the underworld (AHR-ow*n) *as in ‘ouch’

Baban: infant (BAH-bahn)

Beudy: Dairy, Milking Parlor (BAY-dee)

Blodyn: flower (BLOW-din) – also a term of endearment

Buarth: farmyard (BEE-ahrth)

Caer: fort (CEYEr)

Calan Gaeaf: beginning of winter/All Hallow’s Eve (CAH-lahn GEYE-ahv)

Calan Gwanwyn: beginning of spring (CAH-lahn GWAHN-win)

Cariad: love (cahr-EE-ahd)

Carthen: blanket (CAHRth-en)

Cawl: Meat (Lamb) Stew (COWl)

Cromlech: burial tomb (CROHM-leCH – CH as in loch)

Cymraes: Welshwoman (CUHM-rice)

Cymro: Welshman (CUHM-row)

Diawl: Devil (DEE-ahwl)

Duw annwyl: Dear God (DEE-you AHN-noo-eel)

Gelyn: enemy (GEL-en – G is always hard as in ‘gas’)

Gwraig: wife (GOOR-eyeg)

Gŵr: man/husband (GOOr)

Gwyl Dewi: St. David’s Day, March 1st (GOO-eel DOW-ee)

Hafod(ydd): small dwelling(s) (HAH-vod(iDD), DD is pronounced as in ‘with’)

Mam: Mother (MAHM)

Meddyg: medic (MEDD-ig, DD is pronounced as in ‘with’)

Menyw: woman (MEHN-you)

Merch: girl (MEHRch – CH as in loch)

Mwydyn: worm (MOOee-din)

Pendefig: prince/nobleman (pen-DEHV-ig)

Pennaeth: chieftain (PEN-eyeth)

Pryfyn: insect (PRUH-vin)

Saeson: Saxon (SIGH-son)

Titw: small bird/tit (TIT-oo)

Trwsus: trousers (TRUE-sis)

Tylwyth: family/clan (TUHL-ooeeth)

Uffern: hell (EE-fehrn)

Uwd: porridge (IEWD)

Ystad: estate (UHS-tahd)

Don’t be shy! Welsh is the language of heaven and of singing. In fact, singing in Welsh is the best way to learn the pronunciation. To get you started, here is a link to a wonderful folk song that I’ve sung in public at a St. David’s Day event while my lawyer played her harp! Morfa Rhuddlan means the Marsh of Red Land (literally). It is a lament for the deaths of Caradog and all his Welsh warriors in a battle with Offa in 796AD, the words were written by Ieuan Glan Geirionydd. A number of harpists have recorded the tune, but it is the words/poetry of the song that capture the true pathos of the history of Cymru (Wales).

If you have time, please listen to the other songs that Thomas L. Thomas sings, you will recognize some of the tunes which have become theme tunes for films and much more. If there is anything that can explain my love of Welsh, Wales and the Welsh people, it is the music they have created that speaks so eloquently to the heart.



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Filed under Cymraeg/Welsh Language, Cymreig/Welsh, Cymru/Wales, Hanes Cymru/Welsh History, Y Cymry/Welsh People

Hanes y Cymry: First Millennium Detail

Saint Patrick Windowc387-460AD – Saint Patrick (Qatrikias) is born in Castell Nedd, Cymru, captured and enslaved by Irish invaders. He escaped after six years and returned to his family in Cymru, became a priest and returned to Ireland as a bishop. His name in early Irish shows the difference between the Q Celtic (Gaelic) and the P Celtic (Brythonic).

c500-589AD – Saint David is born in Pembrokeshire, becomes a priest, begins his mission of the conversion of theDewi Sant at Jesus Chapel, Oxford chieftains to Christianity, made bishop, and a saint.

632-633AD – Cadwallon vanquished the king of Northumbria and was killed the following year.

c642-655AD – Cynddylan, son of Cyndrwyn, and his brothers stand against the Saxons at Lichfield. A few years later, he and all of his followed are murdered on ‘The Night of the Long Knifes’ in a treacherous attack. Marwnad Cynddylan and Canu Heledd are poems that have been set to mournful tunes.

754-798AD – Caradog ap Meirion reigns as king in Gwynedd. During his reign the battle at Morfa Rhuddlan is purported to have taken place in 796.  According to tradition, Caradog fought Offa at Morfa Rhuddlan and the battle is commemorated in a beautiful poem by Ieuan Glan Geirionydd (Evan Evans). Two years after this bloody event, Caradog was slain by the Saxons. This link will take you to a site to hear the 9th Century folk tune to which the poem is most often sung http://carolink.tripod.com/marsh.html. Or this to hear it played on the pib Cymreig: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ikGp9Cxb6AM or this to see a video:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZwU9gzjuCOA or my personal favorite on the harmonium at the right tempo http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I9wRXJhhKy4&feature=related. Most folk tunes at this period were dance tunes, not dirges. The poem is one of the most beautiful I’ve read or sung. (I sang this as a solo on St. David’s Day accompanied by harp – one of the bravest things I’ve ever done!)

844-878AD – Rhodri Mawr (the Great) is king of Gwynedd, Powys and Seisyllwg (Sir Gaerfyrddin). His allies included Charles, king of the Franks. He died in battle against the Saxon king of Mercia. (Two years before this battle, 876AD, is the year in which I set the first of my Pendyffryn series with the novel, Invasion.)

Hywel Rex

Hywel Dda codified the marriage laws in Cymru.

880-950AD – Hywel Dda, son of Cadell and grandson of Rhodri Mawr, brings south, west and north together under his reign. He is acclaimed as one of the five great lawmakers of antiquity. The Laws of Hywel Dda were accepted as the standard of law in the judiciary in Cymru until the 16th Century. (Traitor’s Daughter is set in this period.) For more about the Marriage Laws of Hywel Dda, see my earlier article: Marriage Laws in Celtic Britain

1039-1063AD – Gruffydd ap Llywelyn, arguably the most successful of the pre-Norman kings of Cymru who, by the end of his reign, had united the whole of the country from Gwynedd to Gwent. He was the spirit of rebellion that kept the Cymry from succumbing, like their Saxon neighbors in one blow, to the power of the Normans.


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Filed under Cyfraith/Celtic Law, Cymraeg/Welsh Language, Cymreig/Welsh, Cymru/Wales, Hanes Cymru/Welsh History, Y Cymry/Welsh People