A Guide to Pronouncing the Names of Welsh Mountains

A Guide to Pronouncing the Names of Welsh Mountains

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“Names are not always what they seem. The common Welsh name BZJXXLLWCP is pronounced Jackson.” Mark Twain (1835-1910)

This article is a guide to the names of Welsh mountains, lakes and valleys that are listed and written about on SummitPost, and is designed to help anyone who can’t speak Welsh. It is a general guide, and not all names are covered, however it does cover those that are most common. For anyone unfamiliar with Welsh I have also included a brief introduction to the langauge and a quick guide on how to pronounce names, words and phrases. If anyone feels that a name or word is missing let me know by posting a comment and I'll make sure it's added to the table.

A Brief Guide to the Welsh Language

The language of Wales, more properly called Cymraeg in preference to Welsh (A Germanic word denoting "foreigner"), is a Celtic language spoken as a community language in Wales (Cymru) by about 659,000 people, and in the Welsh colony (Y Wladfa) in Patagonia, Argentina (yr Ariannin) by several hundred people. There are also Welsh speakers in England (Lloegr), Scotland (yr Alban), Canada, the USA (yr Unol Daleithiau), Australia (Awstralia) and New Zealand (Seland Newydd). Welsh is fairly closely related to Cornish and Breton, and more distantly related to Irish Gaelic, Manx Gaelic and Scottish Gaelic.

At the beginning of the 20th century about half of the population of Wales spoke Welsh as an everyday language. Towards the end of the century, the proportion of Welsh speakers had fallen to about 20%. According to the 2001 census 23% of the population, 659,301 people, can speak the language and a total of 797,717 people, 28% of the population, claim to have some knowledge it. In most heavily populated areas of Wales, such as the Southeast (containing the large urban centers of Cardiff, Newport and Swansea), the normal language of everyday life is English, but there are other areas, notably in the Western and Northern regions, (Gwynedd and Dyfed particularly) where the Welsh language remains strong and highly visible. The Welsh word for their country is Cymru (Kumree), the land of the Comrades; the people are known as Cymry (Kumree) and the language as Cymraeg (Kumrige). Regional differences in spoken Welsh do not make speakers in one area unintelligible to those in another (as is so often claimed), standard Welsh is understood by Welsh speakers everywhere.

Despite its formidable appearance to the uninitiated, Welsh is a language whose spelling is entirely regular and phonetic, so that once you know the rules, you can learn to read it and pronounce it without too much difficulty. For young children learning to read, Welsh provides far fewer difficulties than does English, as the latter's many inconsistencies in spelling are not found in Welsh, in which all letters are pronounced.

The Welsh Alphabet: (28 letters)

A, B ,C ,Ch, D, Dd, E, F, Ff, G, Ng, H, I, L, Ll, M, N, O, P, Ph, R, Rh, S, T, Th, U, W, Y

(Note that Welsh does not possess the letters J, K, Q, V, X or Z, though you will often come across "borrowings" from English, such as John, Jones, Jam and Jiwbil (Jubilee); Wrexham (Wrecsam); Zw (Zoo).

The Vowels: (A, E, I, U, O, W, Y)

A as in man. Welsh words: am, ac Pronounced the same as in English)

E as in bet or echo. Welsh words: gest (guest); enaid (enide)

I as in pin or queen. Welsh words: ni (nee); mi (me); lili (lily); min (meen)

U as in pita: Welsh words: ganu (ganee); cu (key); Cymru (Kumree); tu (tee); un (een)

O as in lot or moe. Welsh words: o'r (0re); don (don); dod (dode); bob (bobe)

W as in Zoo or bus. Welsh words: cwm (koom), bws (bus); yw (you); galw (galoo)

Y has two distinct sounds: the final sound in happy or the vowel sound in myrrh Welsh words: Y (uh); Yr (ur); yn (un); fry (vree); byd (beed)

All the vowels can be lengthened by the addition of a circumflex (â), known in Welsh as "to bach" (little roof). Welsh words: Tân (taan), lân (laan) .

The Diphthongs:

Ae, Ai and Au are pronounced as English "eye": ninnau (nineye); mae (my); henaid (henide); main (mine); craig (crige)

Eu and Ei are pronounced the same way as the English ay in pray. Welsh words: deisiau (dayshy), or in some dialects (deeshuh); deil (dale or dile); teulu (taylee or tyelee)

Ew is more difficult to describe. It can be approximated as eh-oo or perhaps as in the word mount. The nearest English sound is found in English midland dialect words such as the Birmingham pronunciation of "you" (yew). Welsh words: mewn (meh-oon or moun); tew (teh-oo)

I'w and Y'w sound almost identical to the English "Ee-you." or "Yew" or "You": Welsh words: clyw (clee-oo); byw (bee-you or b'you); menyw (menee-you or menyou)

Oe is similar to the English Oy or Oi. Welsh words: croeso (croyso); troed (troid); oen (oin)

Ow is pronounced as in the English tow, or low: Welsh word: Rhown (rhone); rho (hrow)

Wy as in English wi in win or oo-ee: Welsh words: Wy (oo-ee); wyn (win); mwyn (mooin)

Ywy is pronounced as in English Howie. Welsh words: bywyd (bowid); tywyll (towith)

Aw as in the English cow. Welsh words: mawr (mour); prynhawn (prinhown); lawr (lour)

The Consonants:

For the most part b, d, h, l, m, n, p, r, s, and t are pronounced the same as their English equivalents (h is always pronounced, never silent). Those that differ are as follows:

C always as in cat; never as in since. Welsh words: canu (Kanee); cwm (come); cael (kile); and of course, Cymru (Kumree)

Ch as in the Scottish loch or the German ach or noch. The sound is never as in church, but as in loch or Docherty. Welsh words: edrychwn (edrych oon); uwch (youch ), chwi (Chee)

Dd is pronounced like the English th in the words seethe or them. Welsh words: bydd (beethe); sydd (seethe); ddofon (thovon); ffyddlon (futh lon)

Th is like the English th in words such as think, forth, thank. Welsh words: gwaith (gwithe); byth (beeth)

F as in the English V. Welsh words: afon (avon); fi (vee); fydd (veethe); hyfryd (huvrid); fawr (vowr), fach (vach)

Ff as in the English f. Welsh words: ffynnon (funon); ffyrdd (furth); ffaith (fithe)

G always as in English goat, gore. Welsh words: ganu (ganee); ganaf (ganav); angau (angeye); gem (game)

Ng as in English finger or Long Island. Ng usually occurs with an h following as a mutation of c. Welsh words Yng Nghaerdydd (in Cardiff: pronounced ung hire deethe) or Yng Nghymru (in Wales: pronounced ung Humree)

Ll is an aspirated L. That means you form your lips and tongue to pronounce L, but then you blow air gently around the sides of the tongue instead of saying anything. Got it? The nearest you can get to this sound in English is to pronounce it as an l with a th in front of it. Welsh words: llan (thlan); llawr (thlour); llwyd (thlooid)

Rh sounds as if the h come before the r. There is a slight blowing out of air before the r is pronounces. Welsh words: rhengau (hrengye); rhag (hrag); rhy (hree)

The most common expressions that Welsh-Americans come across are Cymanfa Ganu (Kumanva Ganee); Eisteddfod (Aye-steth-vod); and Noson Lawen (Nosson Lowen)

Mutations (Treigladau):

Welsh has a system of mutations which affects the initial letters of words. This feature is common to all Celtic languages and can make it difficult to find words in dictionaries. The nasal mutation (treiglad trwynol) and aspirate mutation (treiglad llaes) present few difficulties, but there are over 20 different occasions when soft mutation (treiglad meddal) occurs.
Mutations often crop up in place names and there are numerous examples in the mountains, rivers and lakes of Wales. For example in the case of Glyder Fach, the B in Bach is substituted for an F; and in the case of Garnedd Ugain, the C in Carnedd is substituted for a G.

Welsh MutationsA table of Welsh mutations


Read the following, written using the Welsh alphabet:

Gwd lwc. Ai hop ddat yw can ryd ddys and ddat yt meiks sens tw yw. Iff yw can ryd ddys, dden yw ar dwing ffaen and wil haf no problems at ol yn lyrnyng awr ffaen Welsh alffabet.

Good luck: I hope that you can read this, and that it makes sense to you. If you can read this, then you are doing fine and will have no problems at all in learning our fine Welsh alphabet.

The Names

Now the important part. The following table contains words and names that are commonly associated with Welsh mountains. The first column contains the Welsh word, the second its translation into English, the third an example of where the word is used and fourth a translation of the example into English.

Name Translation Example Translation
Aber Mouth/Confluence Aber Mawr Large Estuary
Afon River Afon Gwynant White Stream River
Allt Hill, slope or Wood Cwm yr Allt-lwyd Valley of the Grey Wood
Aran Mountain Aran Benllyn Mountain above the Lake
Arth Hill Llanarth Parish on the Hill
Bach Small/Little Glyder Fach Little Mound
Bala Outlet Y Bala The Outlet
Ban/Bannau Summit/Summits Bannau Brycheiniog Brecon Beacons
Bere Buzzard/Kite Castell-y-Bere Castle of the Buzzard
Betws Grove Betws y Coed Grove of the Trees
Blaen Head of Valley Blaen-y-Nant Head of the Streams Valley
Bras Prominent Foel Fras Prominent Bare Hill
Bro Region/Vale Y Fro Gymraeg The Welsh Region
Bron Rounded Hill Bron-Yr-Aur The Golden Round Hill
Brwynog Rushy Cefn Brwynog Rushy Trough
Bryn Hill Bryn Glas Blue Hill
Bwlch Pass Bwlch y Moch Pass of the Pigs
Bychan Small/Little Llyn Cwm Bychan Little Valley Lake
Cader/Cadair Chair/Fortress Cadair Idris Idris’ Chair
Cae (Cau) Field Gau Graig Rocky Field
Caer Fort Caer Las Green Fort
Canol Middle Mynydd Canol Middle Mountain
Capel Chapel Cefn y Capel Ridge of the Chapel
Carn Cairn Y Garn The Cairn
Carnedd Cairns Garnedd Ugain Twenty Cairns
Carreg Rock Carreg y Diocyn Rock of the Scoundrel
Castell Castle Castell y Gwynt Castle of the Wind
Cefn Ridge Cefn y Capel Ridge of the Chapel
Celli Grove Gelli Aur Golden Grove
Ceunant Ravine Cwm Ceunaut Ravine Valley
Clogwyn Cliff Clogwyn Du’r Arddu Black Cliff above a Ploughed Field
Coch Red Foel Goch Red Bare Hill
Coed Wood/Woodland Coed y Brenin The Kings Wood
Cors Bog/Marsh Cors y Llyn Marsh of the Lake
Craig Rock Craig Twrch Wild Boars Rock
Creigiau Rocks Creigiau Gleision Blue Rocks
Crib Ridge/Arête Crib Goch Red Ridge
Cribin Serrated Ridge Y Gribin The Serrated Ridge
Crug Mountain Bryn Crug Hilly Mountain
Cwm Valley Cwm Ogwen Ogwens Valley
Cyrn/Cyrniau Peak/Peaks Cyrniau Nod Characteristic Peaks
Ddysgl Dish Crib-y-Ddysgl Ridge of the Dish
Diffwys Precipice Y Diffwys The Precipice
Dinas Fort Bryn Dinas Fort Hill
Drum Ridge Drum The Ridge
Drws Pass Bwlch Drws Ardudwy Pass on the Two Fields
Du Black Foel Ddu Black Bare Hill
Dŵr Water Llyn Dwr-Oer Cold Water Lake
Dwy Two Afon Dwyfor River Two Seas
Dyffryn Valley Dyffryn Teifi Teifi Valley
Eglwys Church Eglwys Fach Little Church
Eira Snow Gors-yr-Eira Bog of the Snow
Eryr Eagle Bryn yr Eryr Hill of the Eagle
Esgair Ridge Yr Esgair The Ridge
Ffridd Hillside pasture Tan-y-Ffridd Under the Pasture
Ffrwd Waterfall Ffrwd Fawr Big Waterfall
Ffynnon Spring/Well Ffynnon Wen White Spring
Fraith Speckled Esgair Ffraith Spackled Ridge
Gallt Hillside Gallt y Wenallt Hill of the White Slope
Gardd Garden Gardd Ynys Garden Island
Garth Hill Garth Gwyn White Hill
Glas Green or Blue Glaslyn Blue Lake
Glyder Mound/Heap Glyder Fawr Big Mound
Grisiau Steps Tanygrisiau Under the Stairs
Grug Heather Grug-y-Mynydd The Heather Mountain
Gwyn White Llyn Gwynant White Stream Lake
Gwynt Wind Castell y Gwynt Castle of the Wind
Hafod Summer residence Hafod y Garreg Summer Residence of the Rock
Haul Sun Bron Heulog Sunny Rounded Hill
Hendre Winter residence Tarren-Hendre Winter Residence on the Hill
Hir Long Fan Hir Long Place
Isaf Lowest Llyn Isaf Lowest Lake
Lefn Smooth Moel Lefn Smooth Bare Hill
Llan Parish Llanberis Saint Perris’ Parish
Llechog Slaty Llechog Slaty
Llechwedd Hillside Llechwedd Du Black Hillside
Llethr Slope Y Llethr The Slope
Llwyd Grey Cwm yr Allt-lwyd Valley of the Grey Wood
Llyn Lake Llyn Ffynnon-y-Gwas Lake of the Servants Spring
Maen Stone Maen Du Black Stone
Maes Field Maes Glas Green Field
Man Place Pen y Fan Fawr Top of the Large Place
Mawr Big/Large Glyder Fawr Big Mound
Melyn Yellow Esgair Felen Yellow Ridge
Moch Pigs Bwlch y Moch Pass of the Pigs
Moel Bare/Treeless Hill Moel Ysgyfarnod Bare Hill of the Hare
Môr Sea Môr Iwerddon Irish Sea
Morfa Wetland/Marsh Morfa Dyffryn Valley Marsh
Mynydd Mountain Mynydd Moel Bare Mountain
Nant Stream Nant y Moch Stream of the Pigs
Newydd New Llyn Newydd New Lake
Oer Cold Waun-oer Cold Moor
Ogof Cave Moel yr Ogof Bare Hill of the Cave
Pen Head/Top Pen y Llithrig Wrach Top of the Slippery Witch
Pentref Village Pentref Ifan Ifans Village
Perfedd Middle Mynydd Perfedd Middle Mountain
Person Parson Clogwyn y Person The Parsons Cliff
Pistyll Waterfall Pistyll y Rhaeadr The Waterfalls Waterfall
Plas Mansion Plas Gwynant White Stream Mansion
Pont Bridge Bont Ddu Black Bridge
Rhaeadr Waterfall Rhaeadr y Cwm Waterfall of the Valley
Rhiw Hill Crib-y-rhiw Ridge of the Hill
Rhos Marsh Rhos y Garn Cairn of the Marsh
Rhyd Ford Rhyd Ddu Black Ford
Saeth/Saethau Arrow/Arrows Bwlch y Saethau Pass of the Arrows
Sych Dry Moel Sych Dry Bare Hill
Teryn King/Tyrant Llyn Teryn Lake of the Tyrant
Tir Land TiryMynach Land of the Monk
Treath Beach/Shore Traeth Bach Little Beach
Traws Across Trawsynydd Across the Mountain
Tref Town Tref Frenhinol Royal Town
Tri Three Drygarn Fawr Three Big Cairns
Twll Hole Twll Du Black Hole
House Tŷ Mawr Big House
Tyddyn Smallholding Tyddyn Du Black Smallholding
Uchaf Highest Garnedd Uchaf Highest Cairns
Uwch Above Llanywchlyn Parish Above the Lake
Waun Moor Waun-oer Cold Moor
Wen White Pen yr Ole Wen Top of the White Slope
Wrach Witch Pen y Llithrig Wrach Top of the Slippery Witch
Wyddfa Burial mound/Viewpoint Yr Wyddfa The Burial Mound
Y The/Of the Y Garn The Cairn
Ynys Island Ynys Las Blue Island
Yr The/Of the Pen yr Helgi Du Top of the Black Hound
Ysgafell Ledge/Brow Ysgafell Wen White Ledge
Ystrad Valley Floor Ystrad Fflur Valley Floor of the Flowers


Colours are often present in Welsh place names, for example Y Foel Goch (The Bare Red Hill), therefore I have included a short table of the most common colours used.

Welsh English
Aur Gold
Du Black
Coch Red
Glas Blue or Green
Gwyn White
Gwyrdd Green
Melyn Yellow

External Links

Welsh Language Board
Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg Welsh language pressure group
Cymuned Welsh language pressure group
Yr Urdd (Welsh Youth Association)
Welsh-English / English-Welsh online translator
Welsh-English / English-Welsh Online Dictionary
Welsh-English / English-Welsh Online Lexicon


Post a Comment
Viewing: 1-20 of 25

Andino - Jul 27, 2007 1:35 pm - Voted 10/10

Excellent idea...

Bravo !
And long live Europe and all its languages ;o)


Nanuls - Jul 27, 2007 7:57 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: Excellent idea...

Diolch yn fawr!

Nigel Lewis

Nigel Lewis - Jul 27, 2007 10:40 pm - Voted 10/10

Da iawn

Os treisiodd y gelyn fy ngwald tan ei droed,
Mae hen iaith y Cymry mor fyw ac erioed,
Ni luddiwyd yr awen gan erchyll law brad,
Na thelyn berseiniol fy ngwlad.

My country tho' crushed by a hostile array,
The language of Cambria lives out to this day;
The muse has eluded the traitors' foul knives,
The harp of my country survives.


Nanuls - Jul 28, 2007 5:14 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: Da iawn

Very nice I haven't heard that one before, where's it from?

Nigel Lewis

Nigel Lewis - Jul 29, 2007 9:16 am - Voted 10/10

Bet you have!!




Nanuls - Jul 30, 2007 4:33 am - Hasn't voted

Re: Bet you have!!

ah yes, don't I feel a fool now :)


Deb - Jul 30, 2007 2:36 pm - Voted 10/10

OH! My eye!!

Yikes! I wouldn't have realized that it does seem simple once explained. Thanks for helping us out with your alphabet soup. :)


Nanuls - Jul 31, 2007 2:08 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: OH! My eye!!

Thanks for the vote, or should I say 'diolch am eich pleidlais'.

Scott M.

Scott M. - Jul 30, 2007 11:26 pm - Hasn't voted

Not enough vowels

When my wife and I were traveling in your lovely country we had so many humorous instances while driving. We would come to an intersection and she, as the navigator with the road map, would try to pronounce names such as Llanfihangel-yng-Nhywyn (Anglesey) with phases like, "Turn toward Llanfihangel-yng-Nhywyn." After she butchered your language we'd get to laughing when I said, "Just say go left or right." An innkeeper up in Beaumaris helped us some by teaching us a word or two each night. We were glad to hear that there was interest in keeping the language alive after it had been de emphasized in the schools for some time.


Nanuls - Jul 31, 2007 2:12 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: Not enough vowels

Ha ha, some of the names can be a bit hard, Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch being a good example :)


peterbud - Aug 2, 2007 8:28 am - Voted 10/10

Very good!

I was always curious about this :) Thx!


Nanuls - Aug 2, 2007 9:07 am - Hasn't voted

Re: Very good!

Thank you very much, glad I could help!


sibu1901 - Aug 2, 2007 12:16 pm - Hasn't voted


i love your beautiful country, cymru. i spent the most unforgetable 4 weeks holiday there 5 years back. my friends and i traveled from aberystwyth all the way to carnaefon. along the way we visited many places such as beddgelert, capel-curig, betws-y-coed and many more. we walked the miners track in snowdonia, and had to turn back because i had mild hypothermia. and i took back with me a precious lesson in wilderness travel. will definitely visit again in the near future.


Nanuls - Aug 3, 2007 8:57 am - Hasn't voted

Re: croeso

Thanks for your comment, glad to hear you enjoyed your time here!


Charles - Aug 3, 2007 6:39 am - Voted 10/10

Good article

Thanks for that


Nanuls - Aug 3, 2007 8:57 am - Hasn't voted

Re: Good article

Thanks Charles!


igneouscarl - Aug 4, 2007 2:49 pm - Voted 10/10


This is brilliant. Surrey-born though I am, I manage to get plenty of trips to Wales (Snowdonia mainly). This article will definately prove helpful in enriching my appreciation of one of my favourite places. Understanding a name strengthens the connection between a place, its history and the present- thank your very much.


Nanuls - Aug 5, 2007 3:06 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: Suberb

Hi there thanks for your comment, glad to be able to help. I know what you mean by being able to understand the names, it does add another level of appreciation to the mountain.



herbie - Aug 30, 2007 5:34 am - Voted 10/10

Very helpful

thank you very much!
I always wondered about these names, your article helps a lot!
Actually it's not difficult, if the rules are known (I especially wondered about the "w"s in the middle of a series of other consonants).


Nanuls - Aug 30, 2007 6:36 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: Very helpful

no problemo, glad to be of help.

Viewing: 1-20 of 25



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