The Most Beautiful Words in the Welsh Language

Owl © Steve Wellock/ Flickr
Owl © Steve Wellock/ Flickr
Photo of Poppy Jacob
15 October 2017

Wales’ culture has been shaped by its tradition of sharing poetry, song and magic-filled tales by word of mouth, so it follows that its language is full of beautiful, sing-song words. Here are our picks…

Gwdihŵ

Owl. This word, pronounced good-ee-hoo, pays perfect homage to the noise owls make.

Owl | © Steve Wellock/ Flickr

Pili-Pala

Butterfly. Similar to the above, pila-pala makes you think of light fluttering wings. You say it pill-ee pall-ah.

Butterfly | © Terry Hughes/ Flickr

Nefoedd

Heavens/heaven/bliss. Pronounced ‘NEH-foy-thuh’. The two letter ‘Ds’ together is something you’ll see a lot with Welsh words. They’re pronounced as you would say the ‘th-‘ in ‘there’.

Rosa Celeste: Dante and Beatrice gaze upon the highest heaven by Gustave Doré | © WikiCommons

Wilber

A sweet-sounding word meaning wheel barrow.

Wheelbarrow | © Nadine Doerle/Pixabay

Ling di long

Lackadaisical which means: ‘lacking enthusiasm and determination; carelessly lazy’. Ling di long is spelt phonetically and the sound of it poetically encapsulates the sense of aimlessness.

Hiraeth

This popular word and concept has no direct English translation. It describes ‘a longing, yearning, nostalgia, wistfulness, or an earnest desire for the Wales of the past‘. Or rather for your homeland. Not to be confused with homesickness, it refers to your connection to your homeland when you’re away.

Welsh flag | © terimakasih0/Pixabay

Cynefin

Cynefin has no direct English translation. It can be loosely translated as meaning ‘habitat’, but, as artist Kyffin Williams explained, it’s more nebulous than that. He said: ‘It describes [a] relationship: the place of your birth and of your upbringing, the environment in which you live and to which you are naturally acclimatised.’ (Sinclair 1998).

Pendwmpian

To doze.

Dozing cat | © Ranya/Pixabay

Cwtch

Also spelt ‘cwtsch’, this popular word was voted as the nation’s favourite in 2007 and is one of the most well-known Welsh words among non-Welsh-speaking people. It has two meanings: a cupboard/cubbyhole or (and this is the translation most people know) a cuddle/hug. Really there is no direct English translation, the word cuddle doesn’t quite demonstrate the affection of a cwtch. Using the word’s former meaning – an enclosed space to safely store something – as a clue however, we can understand it as providing someone with a safe place in your arms.

Calennig

A gift given for the new year. What a nice idea.

Learn more about the Welsh language here.

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