Place names

Open up any map of Fforest Fawr UNESCO Global Geopark and the distinctive place-names leap out. To anyone who has an understanding of the Welsh language, these names add another layer of detail to an understanding of the landscape.

Welsh is a language rich in terms for natural features – after all Wales can boast a great diversity in its countryside.  There are, for example, many different terms for ‘hill’:

  • bryn / fryn (bank)
  • tyle / tylau (rise/s or slope/s)
  • moel / foel (‘bald’ rounded hill)
  • ban / fan/*bannau (peak/s)
  • rhiw (slope)
  • mynydd / fynydd  / *mynyddoedd (mountain/hill)

and ‘cliff’ or ‘rock’:

  • tarren / darren / *tarenni (rocky edge)
  • craig / graig / *creigiau (cliff/s)
  • carreg / garreg / *cerrig (rock/s)
  • maen / faen / *meini / *feini (stone/s)

and indeed for wet ground!

  • gwaun / waun (moor)
  • mign / fign (bog)
  • pant /bant (hollow – often wet!)

Apart from the normal form of words (in bold), common mutations are shown and an * indicates spelling in plural use.

Each of these can say something about the nature of the ground before we even set eyes on it.

Colours too, abound in place names – they might relate to the rocks below or else to the colour of the vegetation above:

  • gwyn / gwen / wen / *gwynion / *wynion (white)
  • du/ddu  / *duon (black)
  • llwyd / lwyd / *llwydion (grey)
  • melyn / felyn (yellow)
  • coch / goch  / *cochion (red)
  • glas / las  / *leision (blue/green)

Trees make frequent appearances:

  • onnen  / *onnau (ash)
  • derwen /  *derw/deri (oak)
  • bedwen / fedwen /  *bedw / fedw (birch)
  • celynnen / gelynnen /  *celyn (holly)
  • gwernen / wernen /  *gwern / *wern (alder)
  • cerddinen / gerddinen /  *cerddin (rowan)

Welsh belongs to a different family of languages from English.  In common with its siblings – Breton and Cornish – and its cousins – Gaelic and Irish – its words often ‘mutate’.  So, for example bryn becomes frynban becomes fan, du becomes ddu and glas becomes las.  Take time to learn a bit (or a lot!) and you won’t regret it.  It will open up a new window for you on Wales and indeed on Fforest Fawr.