With English, Scottish and Northern Irish football teams out of Euro 2016, only the Welsh are left to represent the (still) United Kingdom. Not surprisingly there are plenty of people ferreting about in their family trees for some Welsh roots. With a mother, husband and son born in Wales, and over twenty years living and working there, I have as good a claim as many!
For a country that shares a long border with England, and with many people as closely linked through blood and marriage, as I am, it is surprising how few words from Welsh have entered the English language. The one word we all know comes from Welsh is Penguin. Literally this means head – white.But the word probably was originally a reference to the great auk (as the other thing we all know is penguins have black heads). And its Welsh origins are disputed anyway.
We are on safer ground with corgi (literally dwarf dog), and Dad (originally Tad). But there aren’t many more.
There are some words we know are Welsh and we have no exact translation, but we can use them in specific situations:
- Eisteddfod – a cultural gathering with songs and poetry in Welsh.
- Cawl – a sort of soup
- Hiraeth – homesickness/ wistfulness/nostalgia
Maybe one reason so few words have made it from Wales to England is the grammar, which changes the beginning of a word depending on where it is in the sentence. The Welsh capital city, Cardiff, for example, starts with an ‘N’ if you want to say ‘in Cardiff.’ Makes it kinda hard to look up words you don’t understand in a dictionary.
Plenty of words have flowed from England / America into Wales, especially to do with new technology. As a rule of thumb, just change the spelling to reflect Welsh pronunciation, and say it with a Welsh accent, and you’re fine! P.S: One useful phrase for the 6th July: Cymru am Byth! (Wales Forever).
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