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Period Welsh Models for SCA Households and the Nomenclature Thereof

copyright © 1994 Heather Rose Jones, all rights reserved

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Names from Natural Features

In addition to the place names described above that incorporate some reference to human activity - whether via social or political organizations or human-built structures - many simply describe the natural features of the landscape. Most often, these names follow the structure <geographic term> <modifier> although there are a few modifiers (especially colors) that can also regularly take the first position, along with those (such as hen "old") which always do so for grammatical reasons.

I have listed these "geographic terms" in groups according to their general nature, followed by a list of the types of elements I have found following them. In many cases, the modifier is made more definite by addition of the article. This generally happens with structures, geographic features, occupations, living creatures, and such. Also note that many of the geographic terms can be modified by independent place names. It is this feature that can lead to long, complicated place names in Welsh (such as the infamous "Llanfairpwllgwyngyll...etc."). In spite of the theoretical scope for endless loops, I have not found period examples that had more than one layer of embedding.

The types of modifiers (as I have lumped them) are: basic adjectives (color, size, shape, relative position, and "fair" usually teg but rarely another word of the same meaning), living creatures (birds and animals, both tame and domestic), plant names (listed as "vegetation"), both the proper names of rivers and generic words for bodies of water (the latter listed as "water"), geographic terms (i.e., the main headings in this list), words for man-made structures, and various words refering to people in some way (personal name, occupation or title, nationality). Finally, as noted above, terms may be modified by an independent place name. The colors used in place names include glas (blue/green/grey), coch (red), gwyn (white), du (black), aur (gold), and brith (speckled).

Again, the examples are taken from Richards (1969) and are not guaranteed for age.

The format of each item is:

Welsh element "translation" (known modifier types)

Water-related Terms

Aber "estuary" (river name)

Blaen "source, headwater" (river name, place name)

Ffynnon "spring" (personal name, usually a saint or legendary figure)

Glan "bank, shore" (river name, water)

Llyn (geographic term, position)

Nan(t) "stream" (river name, size, color, geographic term, occupation)

Pwll "pool" (color, river name, personal name, animal)

Rhyd "ford" (place name, size, structure, vegetation, nationality, geographic term)

Ynys "island" (personal name, size, color, geographic term)

Ystum "river bend" (geographic term, river name, personal name, water)


Allt "hillside" (color, size, personal name, vegetation)

Bron "hillside" (geographic term. feature, structure)

Bryn "hill" (size, personal name, vegetation, place name, structure, water, color, animal)

Bwlch "gap, pass" (color, place name, structure)

Cefn "ridge" (color, size, geographic term, animal, structure, place name, personal name, occupation)

Esgair "mountain ridge" (shape, geographic term, bird, personal name, water)

Mynydd "mountain" (color, personal name)

Pen "head, upper end" (river name, personal name, geographic term, water, structure, modified geographic term)

Rhiw "hillside" (personal name, color, geographic term, vegetation, nationality)

Fields and Marshes

Cae "field" (structure, size, color, personal name, bird, occupation)

Cil "nook, corner" (personal name, vegetation, geographic term, color, water, geographic term + color)

Dol "meadow" (personal name, occupation, geographic term, color)

Gwern "swamp" (personal name, occupation, geographic term, nationality)

Maes "field" (personal name, color, vegetation, structure, place name, size, fair, bird, geographic term, domestic animal)

Morfa "marsh" (size, structure)

Rhos "moor" (occupation, color, geographic term, structure)


Cerrig "stone" (personal name)

Craig "rock" (color, structure)

Crug "mound, cairn" (personal name, color, domestic animal, bird)

Llech "stone" (shape, size, personal name, structure)

Maen "stone" (personal name, structure, occupation, shape)


Coed "wood" (personal name, color, nationality, size, geographic term)

Gelli "grove" (color, fair, structure, geographic term, personal name)

Llwyn "grove" (color, personal name, vegetation)

There are a number of adjectives that are commonly found in the first position in compounds (an order that is "normal" for compounds although it defies normal word order). These, with the geographic terms found following them, include:

Glas "blue/green/grey" (geographic term)

Gwyn "white" (structure, geographic term)

Hen "old" (structure, geographic term)

Hir "long, tall" (structure, geographic term)

Llaeth "milk (relating to a dairy)" (structure, geographic term)

Moch "pig" (structure, water, geographic term)

Tal "end, front" (geographic term, fair, structure, water)

Traws "across, beyond" (geographic term)

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