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Welsh Nickname Names: Iolo, Betsan and Llio

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By Eleanor Nickerson, British Baby Names

The major headline for British baby names in the last decade has undoubtedly been the rise of diminutives as given names. Alfie, Archie, Charlie, Tommy, Evie, Millie, Maisie and many others are boundless in our playgrounds as parents opt for cheerful and breezy short forms. But this phenomenon is certainly not confined to the English language — Wales has also been getting in on the act of reviving vintage pet forms and putting them ‘up front’ on birth certificates.

Here is a typical Welsh birth announcement from 2013 to illustrate: Ionawr 14eg, 2013 Croeso mawr i Nico Llwyd mab i Berwyn ac Awel a brawd bach i Bedo, Nanw a Nel. Translation: January 14th 2013. Welcome to Nico Llwyd, son of Berwyn and Awel and little brother to BedoNanw and Nel.”

Several Welsh diminutives, such as Dai, Bethan and Megan, are as established as first names as Jack, Harry, Elsie. This piece, however, does not aim to look at the long established and emancipated Welsh diminutives but rather delve into vintage Welsh pet forms which are now taking on new life. Some are indigenous Welsh nicknames, shortened from indigenous Welsh names; some are wholly Welsh pet forms of ‘English’ names; and others are established “Cymricised” forms of familiar English nicknames.

Boys

Bedo (BE-d?) – A diminutive of Maredudd Meredith (m?-RED-idth) which is long established in Wales and notably borne by several medieval kings and princes. Bedo itself is known to have been borne by at least four medieval poets, demonstrating the nickname’s longevity. The surname Beddoe / Beddow derives from this name. Bedyn (BED-?n) is a rarer diminutive of Maredudd.

Bilo (BIL-?) – A pet form of William.

Dafi (DAV-ee) – A diminutive of Dafydd, the Welsh form of David, and equivalent to Davey. In 2012, Dafi ranked for the first time in England and Wales since 1996 with 3 births.

Deian (DAY-?n) – Another diminutive of Dafydd that is a little more established as an independent name, having ranked fourteen years in seventeen since 1996. In 2012, 8 babies were named Deian.

Guto (GIT-?) – A diminutive of Gruffudd (GRIFF-idth) which, like Maredudd, hails back to medieval Welsh royalty. Guto is well established as a given name, obtaining a birth count of between 7 and 19 each year since 1996. In 2012 it was given to 10 babies. Gutyn (GIT-in) is a rarer diminutive of Gruffudd has not yet ranked as an independent given name.

Gronw (GRON-oo) – A short form of Goronwy. In Welsh mythology, Gronw Pebr is a character in the fourth branch of the Mabinogian.

Gruff (GRIF) – The most common nickname for Gruffudd Gruffydd itself is the shortening Gruff, though this has less independent usage than Guto. Gruff has been rising as a given name since 2006 and in 2012 was given to 12 babies.

Ianto (YAN-t?) – A diminutive of Ifan, one of the Welsh forms of John. Ianto has taken on new life as an independent name since its boost from Torchwood, and was given to 10 babies in 2012. Iantws (YAN-tus) is another variant.

Iolo (YOL-?) – A diminutive of Iorwerth (YOR-w?th) which has been long established as an independent name. In 2012, 31 babies were named Iolo, perhaps influenced by nature observer and television presenter Iolo WilliamsIolyn is a variant form.

Iori (YO-ree) – A short form of Iorwerth (YOR-w?th) which has ranked in England and Wales since 2005. In 2012, 5 babies were given the name.

Llew (HLOO) – A short form of Llewelyn, which ranked as an independent name in 2010 and 2011.

Meic (M?K) – A short form of Meical, a Welsh form of Michael. Essentially this a Cymricised form of Mike and, as such, is no longer commonly given to boys, but is prevalent among adults.

Moi (MOY) – A diminutive of Morus (MO-ris), the Welsh form of Maurice / Morris. It has not had more than three births per year to rank in official data, though birth announcements show that it is currently in use.

Nedw (NED-oo) – A diminutive of Edward with the diminutive suffix -w (Edward > Ed > Ned > Nedw). Neda is occasionally found as a feminine form.

Girls

Begw (BE-goo) – A diminutive of Marged (Margaret), based on Meg with the diminutive suffix -w. Marged > Meg > Beg > Begw. Beggan is another similar diminutive.

Betsan (BET-s?n) – Another pet form of Elizabeth, based on the diminutive Betsi with the diminutive suffix -an.

Betw (BET-oo) – A diminutive of Bet, a short form of Elizabeth.

Cadi (KAD-ee) – A diminutive of Catrin, the Welsh form of CatherineCadi has been rising steadily since 1996 and was given to 43 babies in 2012.

Fanw (VAN-oo) – A diminutive of Myfanwy (mi-VAN-wee), an old traditional Welsh name which means “my dear girl.”

Gwenlli (GWEN-hlee) – A short form of Gwenllian (gwen-HLEE-an), one of the most enduring and classic Welsh girls name. Gwenlli has a birth count of between 1 and 3 births per year.

Gwenno (GWEN-?) – A diminutive of Gwen, a short form of GwenllianGwynhwyfar and Gwendolen. Gwenno is being increasingly used as an independent name. In 2011, 19 babies were given the name.

Lali (LAL-ee) – A pet form of Sali (SAL-ee), a diminutive of Sara. (Sara > Sal > Sali > Lali).

Llio (HLEE-?) – A diminutive of Gwenllian which, independently, has had a birth count of between 3 and 11 each year.

Magws (MAG-oos) – A pet form of Magi (MAG-ee), a diminutive of Marged (Margaret) and the Welsh form of Maggie. Magi was given to 4 babies in 2012.

Malws (MAL-oos) – A pet form of Mali (MAL-ee), a diminutive of Mari, the Welsh form of Mary. (Mari > Mal > Mali > Malws). The closest English equivalent is Molly. Malws still remains in use more as a pet form. Mali, however, is increasingly used in its own right, and was given to 78 babies in 2012.

Malen (MAL-en) – A pet form of either Magdalen or Mari. 3 babies were given the name independently in 2012.

Myfi (MIV-ee) – A pet form of Myfanwy (mi-VAN-wee).

Nanw (NAN-oo) – A pet form of Nani (NAN-ee), a diminutive of Ann. (Ann > Nan > Nani > Nanw). The closest English equivalent is Annie. In the last century, Nanno was sometimes used as a variant spelling. In 2012, 4 babies were given the name Nanw.

Nelw (NEL-oo) – A pet form of Nel, the Welsh diminutive of Elin (Ellen) or Elinor (Elin > El > Nel > Nelw). Nel itself is has been rising steadily since 1999 and in 2012 was given to 35 babies.

Palws (PAL-oos) – A pet form of Pali (PAL-ee), a diminutive of Mari and equivalent to Polly in English (Mari > Mal > Mali > Pali > Palws).

Pegan (PEG-?n) – A diminutive of Marged (Margaret) via the short form Peg (Marged > Meg > Peg > Pegan).

Siani (SHARN-ee) – A diminutive form of Siân, the Welsh form of Jane.

For more examples of Welsh diminutives, see this post at British Baby Names.

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Elea

Eleanor Nickerson, better known to Nameberry message board visitors as Elea, is a primary school teacher living in Coventry, England and author of the blog British Baby Names.
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