Cycling Wales 
Welsh Place Names
The longest place name in Wales

Pronouncing Welsh Place Names
...and their meaning

Welsh Place Names | Meaning of Welsh Signs | Useful Words & 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 visit in Wales. But, just a little understanding of Welsh place names will bring your time 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...

Town sign in Welsh and EnglishApart 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 Anglesey with that long name:-


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 will 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 Llyn Brianne thlin bree-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

Meaning of Welsh Signs

Welsh English Rough Pronunciation
Lon Lane
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
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

Useful 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

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.

For a bit of fun, here is Welsh comedian Rhod Gilbert on learning Welsh...

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...

Cycling Wales' quick guide to the meaning and pronunciation of Welsh language place names & signs.

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