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4  First Words

4.1  One of the most useful things in learning vocabulary is being able to link the new words to words you know already, in whatever language is handy. So the list of words that follows, a preliminary vocabulary, consists of nouns that have some analogy, however indirect, to English. The first column has the Welsh word, the second its meaning, and the third contains various analogies and connexions that might be useful for remembering.

4.2  The link will very often be Latin. During the Roman occupation about six hundred Latin words found their way into prehistoric Welsh, and some of these Welsh derivatives are listed here. But other Welsh words have a similarity to Latin just because they both come from a common ancestor -- they are not derivatives, but cognates. When Latin words are quoted here as memory-aids, no distinction is made between derivatives and cognates.

4.3  Feminine nouns are marked 'f.'. All other nouns are masculine. There are no neuter nouns in Welsh.

achaws, achoscauseL occasio, E occasion
afon f.riverE Avon, L amnis (So 'the River Avon' means 'the River River', just as 'Rio Grande River' means 'Big River River'. The habit is old-established. In England we find Pennhill ['hill-hill' -- Celtic+English] and Torpenhow ['hill-hill-hill' -- English+Celtic+Scandinavian].)
angeudeathGk ananke ('inevitability'), L neca- 'kill'
arddurnornamentL adorn-
arfeuweapons, armsL arma
ariantsilverL argentum, E argent
awrhourL hora
barfbeardL barba, E barber
bedyddbaptismGk -L baptizatio
braicharmL bracchium, F bras, E brassard
bwrddtableE board
carcharbonds, prisonL carcar, E incarcerate
cariadloveL carus, F cher 'love', E charity
carwstag, deerL cervus, F cerf
ci (pl. cwn)dog, houndGk kun-, L canis, E canine, hound
colofncolumnL columna
corffbodyL corpus, E corpse, corpora
coroncrownL corona
cornhornL cornu, E horn
cleddyfswordL gladius, E gladiator, Scots clay(more) -- 'big sword'
cyffes f.confessionL confessio
danttoothL dent-, E dentist
dewreddhardiness, courageL durus 'hard', E endure, durable
drychappearance, lookGk drakon 'snake, dragon' (the "staring animal"), E dragon
drwsdoorE door
dwfrwaterE Dover
duwgodL divus, E divine
dybligfold(s)L duplica-, E double, duplicate
dydddayL dies,
enwnameGk -onym (E anonymous, patronym)
eur, aurgoldL aurum, E aureate, AU
   eurwisg f.gold cloth(see gwisg)
ffenestr f.windowL fenestra
ffurfform, shapeL forma
gwasfellow, servant, lad, groomE vassal
gwerthworth, valueE worth
gwisg f.clothes, garmentL vestis, E vestment, investiture
gwrmanL vir, E virile
   gwrda'goodman', retainer
haearnironGc eisern
hebawg, hebogfalconE hawk
hun f.sleepGk hypnos 'sleep', L *suepnos, somnus
hynt f.path, wayL sentis, F sentier
iarllstewardNorse jarl, E earl
ieuancyoung manL iuvenis, E young
   ieuenctidyouth (abstract)
llawrfloor, groundE floor
llong f.shipL navis longa, 'long ship'
llythrletterL litterae
marchhorse, chargerE mare, marshal
   marchoges f.horsewoman
milwrsoldierL miles 'soldier', E military
   milwraeth f.valour
moes f.custom, usageL mos, E mores, morals
morseaL mare, E mere
mynyddmountainL mont-, E mount
neges f.business, errandL necesse 'necessary'
nos f.nightL nox
palibrocadeF paile, palis
parablspeech, conversational gambitGk, L parabola, E parley, parliament
parthpart, directionL part-
   dosbarthadministration, government
pedestrigwalking-paceL pedestris 'pedestrian'
pebyllpavilionL papilio
pennheadE Penn, and other geographic names
perfeddmiddleL per-medium 'precise centre'
pluffeathersL pluma, E plumage
poen f.punishmentL poena, E penal, penalty
pont f.bridgeL pons, E pontoon
postpostL postis
profedigaeth f.testing, proofL probare 'test', E probation
rhydfordGk rhe- 'flow', E rheostat, diarrhoea
swydd f.officeL sedes 'seat', E see (of a bishop)
syberwydprideL superbus
tarianshieldE targe, target
tirlandL terra, E territory
twrfnoiseL turba, E turbulent, disturb
ynifer, niferretinue, hostL numerus 'number'
ynysislandGk nes- (Polynesia), Irish (Innisfree and many other placenames)
ystafellroomL stabellum, E stable
ystlyssideL *stlatus>latus, E lateral, latitude

4.4  Welsh does not have an indefinite article. The definite article ('the') is

This last form, 'r, is especially common after a ('and') or such prepositions as a ('with'), i ('to'), o ('from'), trwy ('through').

4.5  For practice, put the article before all the masculine nouns in our list. Then use the words in the list to form prepositional phrases of the pattern preposition + article + noun, e.g. trwy'r tarian 'through the shield', o'r afon 'from the river'. A dozen or so should give you the idea.

4.6  When one noun follows another, the second is in a "genitival" position. (The main function of the "genitive case" is "possessive", so that it is equivalent to the English patterns with of, or 's. But the genitive can also have other non-possessive functions.)
gwisg milwra soldier's clothes
march swyddawgan officer's horse
cwn Annwfnhounds of Annwfn
The first noun in this pattern never has the article:
enw y marchawgthe name of the knight
moes y tira custom of the land, the custom of the land


  1. profedigaeth gwr
  2. ffurf a drych y corff
  3. corn carw
  4. perfedd y bwrdd
  5. cleddyf milwr
  6. gwerth yr eurwisg
  7. arfeu Duw
  8. ansyberwyd Pwyll
  9. yn ('in') ieuenctid y dydd
  10. trwy'r afon
  11. i ystafell Arawn
  12. ar ('on') ystlys yr hynt
  13. o achaws angeu Hafgan ('by reason of, because of')
  14. cariad Duw
  15. cyffes yr iarll or cyffes y iarll

4.8  Read the Welsh phrase for 'the value of the ____', supplying the words for 'ornament', 'deer', 'confession', 'gold cloth', 'hawk', 'horse', 'custom', 'office', 'shield'; and the Welsh phrase for 'the middle of the ____', supplying 'table', 'body', 'day', 'path', 'night', 'ford', 'shield'.

4.9  Verbs are usually named by two forms: the first person singular of the present (verb base + -af) and the verbal noun.

4.10  Again, in our initial list of common verbs, we lay out three columns: the verb, its meaning in English, and some analogy in another language or in the Welsh you have already met, that may be some help in remembering.

archaf, erchilook, seek, askIE p-r-k, L preco (Note: The Indo-European /p/ disappears in Celtic. So, if you see P in a Welsh word, it either comes from Indo-European /kw/, or it is a loan word from some other language.)
canaf, canusingL cano, E cantata, chant
   datganaf, datganureveal, announce
caraf, caruloveL carus, E charity
cerddaf, cerddedgo, walk
cymmellaf, cymmellcompel, forceL compello
cysgaf, cysgusleepLquiesco, E quiet
diffygaf, diffygiawvanish, cease, tireL deficio
dihunaf, dihunawwakeW hun
dygaf, dwyntake, leadL duco, E tug
dywedaf, dywedudsay
edrychaf, edrychlookW drych
eisteddaf, eisteddsitIE sta-, WE eisteddfod
gwelaf, gweledseeL vultus
mynnaf, mynnuwant
prynaf, prynubuyGk porn-
rhoddaf, rhoddigiveL, Gk pro-do
talaf, talupayG zahl, E toll

4.11  The verbal noun (sometimes called the "gerund") has an English form in '-ing'. It works like any other noun -- consider pairs of sentences like:

The verbal noun is of great importance in Welsh, and covers much of the ground usually occupied by the infinitive (nonexistent in Welsh) and participles (almost nonexistent in Welsh). It does not have an easily predictable relationship with the verb-base. The four commonest endings are shown here: But there are many other forms, some in small groups, such as but others quite sporadic.

4.12  The present tense covers the meanings of the English present and future. There is no separate future form. So, the word edrychaf can mean 'I look' or 'I shall look'. Like other Welsh verb forms it does not need a separate pronoun subject, but often has one, following the verb.

edrychaf i I lookedrychwn niwe look
edrychy tiyou (s.) lookedrychwch chwiyou (pl.) look
edrych efhe looksedrychant wy, wyntthey look (two alternative forms -- they are not masculine and feminine.)
edrych hishe looks

Note how the verb base appears in the third person singular.

4.13  Practise by "conjugating" (i.e. saying or writing the complete pattern) the present tense of edrychaf, and then of these verbs, which work in exactly the same way:
cyrchaf, cyrchuapproach
disgynnaf, disgynnudescend
prynaf, prynubuy
mynnaf, mynnuwant
dylyaf, dylybe entitled, have a right


  1. Prynaf i cariad y marchawg
  2. Edrych y gwr ar ystlys yr ystafell
  3. Mynn y gwrda gweled yr arfeu
  4. Rhoddwn y cwn i Arawn
  5. Cysgant wy ar y bwrdd
  6. Datganaf i'r milwr angeu y swyddawg
  7. Cymmell hi yr ynifer edrych ar pali yr eurwisg
  8. Cerddwch chwi ar hynt, a gwelwch corff carw
  9. Diffyg enw yr iarll o achaws ansyberwyd
  10. Eistedd yr hebawg ar arddurn y march
  1. Remember that gweled is a verbal noun, and yr arfeu is in the genitival position; the structure is 'the seeing of the weapons', even though we translate it as the English infinitive, 'to see the weapons'.
  2. Similarly, edrych 'looking', even if we translate it as 'to look'.
  3. o achaws 'from the cause', i.e. 'because'.
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All text copyright © 1996 by Gareth Morgan. Online layout copyright © 2001 by Daniel Morgan.