Pronouncing Welsh Place Names

The longest place name in Wales

The Meaning & Pronunciation of Welsh Place Names

Welsh Place Names | Understanding Welsh Signs | Useful Words and Phrases

Do not climb on the bullWales is a bi-lingual country - both Welsh and English are spoken. You certainly don't need to speak any Welsh to enjoy your cycling holidays in Wales. But, just a little understanding of Welsh place names will bring your cycling holiday in Wales to life, especially as most Welsh place names are largely descriptive. So, if you want to learn a little bit about the Welsh language as you cycle around, here goes...

Village signApart from a few vowels that are slightly different from English, Welsh is a more or less a phonetic language, you pronounce it as it looks. Don't get put off by the long list of vowels and consonants, once you've understood the few rules it is easy.

It may help you to pronounce names if you remember that the emphasis in Welsh is usually on the penultimate syllable. For example, Caernarfon (kyre-nar-von), Beddgelert (beth-gel-airt), Llanberis (thlan-ber-ris), Felindre (veh-lin-dray).

Welsh has a slightly different alphabet from English:-


Welsh Place Names:-

Welsh place names are largely descriptive, eg: Mynydd Bach is small mountain (Mynydd = mountain, Bach = small). A famous example of this is the town on Anglesy with that long name:-

Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch

Which roughly translates as:-

The Church of St. Mary by the pool with the white hazel near the fierce whirlpool by St. Tysilio's church and the red cave.

The actual name of the village is Llanfairpwllgwyngyll and is locally abbreviated to Llanfair PG (well wouldn't you). A Victorian publicity stunt landed the villagers with the long name. If you really want to show off by learning how to pronounce it, try this:-

thlann vyre pooth gwinn gith gogg-erra kweern drobbooth lann tuss-ill-yo goggo gauk

The following list of place name elements might help make your map reading a little easier:

Place Name Elements

Welsh English Example Rough Pronunciation
aber river mouth Aberdaron abb-er-darron
afon river Afon Dee avv-on dee
bach or fach small Felinfach velin-vach
bont or pont bridge Pontnewydd pont-neh-with
bwlch gap, pass Bwlch boolch
carreg stone Carreg Samson karregg samson
cefn ridge Cefn-coed kevenn-koid
coch red Castell Coch kass-teth koch
coed wood Cefn-coed kevenn-koid
cwm valley Cwmfelin-fach koom-velin-vach
dinas fort, city Dinas-Emrys dinnass emm-riss
du black Cwmdu koom-dee
eglwys church Eglwyswrw egg-lewis-oorroo
fawr or mawr big Fforest Fawr forest vowr (rhymes with hour)
felin or melin mill Felinfach velin-vach
croes or groes cross Croesgoch croiss-goch
llan church lands Llanwrtyd thlan-ooer-tid
llyn lake LlynBrianne thlinbree-annay
maes field Maesteg mise-teg
mynydd mountain Mynydd Bach munnith bach
pen top Pen-y-bont pen-a-bont
rhyd ford Rhydfelen reed-vellen
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Understanding Welsh Signs

Welsh English Rough Pronunciation
Cymru
Wales
kumm-ri
Gwesty
Hotel
gwesty
Lon
Lane
lonn
Ffordd Road forth
Llwybr Cyhoeddus Public Footpath thlooy-beer kahoy-this
Siop Shop shop
Swyddfa'r Post Post Office sooeethva post
Gorsaf Station gorsav
Heddlu Police hethlee
Ysbyty Hospital uss-butty
Traeth Beach trye-th
ARAF SLOW arav
Dim ... No ... dim ...
Dim mynediad No entry dim munned-yad
Toiledau Toilets toy-led-eye
Merched Ladies (toilet) mair-kedd
Dynion Gentlemen (toilet) dunny-onn
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Useful Welsh Words & Phrases

English Welsh Rough Pronunciation
thanks
diolch
dee-olck
thanks very much
diolch yn fawr
dee-olck unn vowr
please
plis
please
OK
iawn
yown (rhymes with gown)
good morning
bore da
bor-er dah
good afternoon prynhawn da prin-hown dah
good evening noswaith dda noss-wythe-ah
good night nos da noss dah
hello helo hello
cheerio, goodbye hwyl who-ill
currant bread bara brith barrah breeth
leek soup cawl cennin cowl kennin
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The Goat pubFoot-note: If you think that Welsh is unpronounceable, then think on. In fact English is one of the most unphonetic languages. For instance the English '...ough' can be pronounced 10 different ways:- through, though, thought, tough, cough, borough, bough, hiccough, lough (pronounced 'och' as in loch), and hough ('ock'). The last is fairly archaic, but it does appear in the 1995 Concise Oxford Dictionary.


Apologies to Welsh speakers if we have taken a few liberties with the pronunciations. We have tried to keep it as simple as possible.

See also...

This is Cycling Sideways' quick guide to understanding Welsh language place names & signs


Hand-free Welsh: Welsh Language Audio Course

Hand-free Welsh:
Welsh Language Course
from Amazon UK
from Amazon USA

Welsh For Beginners

Welsh For Beginners
from Amazon UK
from Waterstones UK

The Modern Welsh Dictionary

Modern Welsh Dictionary
from Amazon UK
from Waterstones UK
from Amazon USA

Welsh Place Names

Understanding Welsh Place Names: What They Mean and How to Say Them
from Amazon UK
from Waterstones UK

Welsh Place-names Unzipped

Welsh Place-names
from Amazon UK
from Waterstones UK
from Amazon USA

Rough Guide to Wales

Rough Guide To Wales
from Amazon UK
from Amazon USA

Lonely Plant Guide to Wales

Lonely Planet: Wales
from Lonely Planet
from Amazon UK
from Amazon USA

More Welsh Language Books at Amazon UK

More Welsh language books at Amazon USA

More Books About Wales
at Waterstones

More Books About Wales
at Waterstones

More books about Wales from Amazon UK

More books about Wales from Amazon USA