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The Top Welsh Names in Wales

The Top Welsh Names in Wales

By Eleanor Nickerson

The are many Welsh names that have become staples in the English-speaking world, like Owen, Megan and Dylan. But which Welsh baby names are popular for Welsh parents?

A cursory glance at the top names in both England and Wales shows many of the same favourite choices, but, dig a little deeper, and Wales‘ Celtic heritage and separate language becomes apparent, with names almost exclusively found inside Wales alone. For one thing, Welsh has its own phonetic rules for letters of the alphabet which don’t always match English. That’s why the Welsh Top 200 has spellings which — to English speakers — look like “creative” spellings, but to Welsh parents are most compatible with their mother tongue: Harri, Tomos, JacAlys, Ela, Lili, Efa to name a few.

A rough pronunciation guide:* w = ‘oo’ sound (wy = ‘ooee’ like the French oui)* dd = ‘th’ as in that and this / th = ‘th’ as in thin and three* ei/eu = ‘ay’ sound (or ‘eye’ sound in South Wales)* f = ‘v’ sound / ff = ‘f’ sound* u = ‘ee’ sound / y = short ‘u’ sound.* Names that start with an ‘I‘ followed by a vowel makes a ‘y’ sound (e.g. Iestyn = YES-tin / Ieuan = YAY-an)* Welsh names mostly have the stress on the penultimate syllable

Below is a list of all the indigenous Welsh names (excluding “Cymricised” spellings like Tomos and Nansi etc) in the top 500 names in Wales in 2016, according to the Office of National Statistics:

Girls

Boys

16

Seren

25

Ffion

31

Megan

48

Mali

70

Eira

78

Cadi

78

Nia

87

Lowri

88

Cerys

91

Carys

110

Eleri

119

Gwen

124

Mari

130

Bethan

137

Catrin

137

Elin

148

Anwen

169

Cariad

169

Mabli

172

Alaw

181

Gwenllian

181

Gwenno

195

Celyn

220

Aneira

241

Betsan

258

Gwennan

306

Delyth

306

Lleucu

306

Menna

330

Arianwen

330

Awen

330

Branwen

330

Mared

365

Angharad

365

Arwen

365

Eila

365

Eirlys

365

Elliw

365

Enfys

365

Medi

423

Anest

423

Bronwen

423

Liliwen

423

Llio

423

Rhian

423

Rhiannon

423

Sioned

423

Tesni

487

Awel

487

Begw

487

Eirwen

487

Eos

487

Fflur

487

Gwendolyn

487

Iola

487

Olwen

487

Sian

487

Siwan

487

Swyn

487

Teleri

16

Dylan

27

Osian

45

Rhys

53

Evan

56

Morgan

64

Cai

65

Owen

71

Ioan

75

Macsen

78

Gethin

104

Ieuan

104

Owain

113

Idris

113

Iwan

130

Ifan

135

Dewi

135

Efan

140

Iestyn

145

Caio

151

Griff

161

Gruffydd

173

Gruff

178

Guto

185

Dafydd

185

Iolo

191

Sion

202

Carwyn

202

Emrys

202

Gwilym

213

Llewelyn

223

Gwion

223

Rhodri

242

Dyfan

259

Aneurin

259

Deio

276

Gruffudd

276

Mabon

312

Bryn

312

Celt

312

Iago

312

Ianto

312

Taliesin

347

Gareth

347

Iori

347

Llew

347

Nedw

347

Rhydian

391

Eifion

391

Emyr

391

Gethyn

391

Gryff

391

Llion

391

Taran

441

Aneirin

441

Bleddyn

441

Cynan

441

Glyn

441

Hywel

441

Ivan

441

Lleu

441

Llewellyn

441

Madoc

441

Math

Alaw / Awen / Awel – one notable trend for girls’ names in Wales is four-letter, vowel-heavy vocabulary names. Alaw (AL-ow -rhymes with how) meaning “harmony,” Awen (AH-wen) meaning “inspiration, poetic gift, muse” and Awel (AH-wel) meaning “breeze” are great examples of this trend. All three have been in rare use since the 19th century, but in the last decade have seen more consistent use in Wales.

Anest (AH-nest) – Nest/Nesta was a common name in Medieval Wales, borne by several royal women. It has traditionally been attributed as the Welsh form of Agnes (hence the A in Anest), but as the name pre-dates the common use of Agnes in Britain, it perhaps derives from the Latin Honesta or is Celtic in origin.

Begw (BEG-oo) – A Welsh diminutive of Margaret (via Meg > Beg) with the diminutive ending -w. This same ending can also be seen in the boys’ name Nedw (NED-oo), a diminutive for Edward.

Eila (AY-la/EYE-la) –Eila has most likely been adopted in Wales as a short form of several Welsh names beginning with Eil- such as Eilwen, Eiluned, Eilian and Eilir and similar to Top 100 favourite Eira (AY-ra) “snow.”

Elliw (EH-hyoo) – Scarlett, Blue, Gray, Ebony… we’re familiar with color names in English, but how about calling your daughter “color”? This Welsh name meaning “color” is rising in Wales, but that double l makes it very tricky for non-Welsh speakers to pronounce correctly.

Eirwen (AYR-wen/EYER-wen) / LiliwenGwen “white, flair, blessed” is a staple element in Welsh names and they are still going strong. Eirwen combines (g)wen with eira “snow” while Liliwen is lily + wen.

Eos (AY-os) / Iola (YOL-a) – Eos may be a mythological Greek name meaning “dawn” but it also the Welsh word for “nightingale” now used as a name. Similarly, Iola is not only a Greek name, it is also the feminine form of Iolo, a short form of the old Welsh name Iorwerth “worthy lord.”

Lleucu (HLAY-kee/HLEYE-kee) – Pronounced with that tricky Welsh ‘ll’, Lleucu has traditionally been used as a Welsh counterpart to Lucy (from Latin lux “light”) based on meaning, rather than the phonetic spelling Liwsi.Lleu (itself ranking at #441 for boys), is the ancient name of the twin brother of Dylan in Welsh legend whose name means “light, brightness, shining.” The –cu part of Lleucu means “dear, beloved” in Welsh and was no doubt used to echo the -cy of Lucy.

Medi (MED-ee) – We may use the English month names April, May and June, but in Wales the most popular Welsh month name is Medi “September.” The reason for its success is likely thanks to its similarity to Welsh staples like Cadi (Katie), Mali (Molly) and Mari (Marie).

Menna – Coined in the 19th century by Welsh poet John Ceirog Hughes (1832-1887) for the love interest in his poem Alun Mabon. Similarly, poet Eliseus Williams (1867-1926) addressed some of his poems to the a woman named Men.  It isn’t clear where Menna comes from, but it was most likely conceived as a short form of Welsh names such as Morwenna, Mairwen and Meriona or from the Welsh word menyw “woman.”

Swyn (SOOEEN) – A magical modern coinage taken from the Welsh word meaning “magic, charm, enchantment.”

Dyfan (DUV-an) – A 2nd century Welsh saint whose name is commemorated in the village of Merthyr Dyfan. It’s meaning is unknown, but it might be related to the Celtic -dubno “deep, world.”

Eifion (AYV-yon/EYEV-yon) – An ancient Welsh name with obscure meaning. Welsh poet Eliseus Williams (1867-1926) used the bardic name Eifion Wynn which he no doubt took from Eifionydd (itself named after an ancient Welsh leader called Eifion) – the place where he grew up. The name has had recent expose thanks to Welsh rugby player Eifion LewisRoberts.

Gruffydd (GRIFF-uth) – A traditional Welsh name which has seen continual use since it was borne by Welsh royalty in the 11th century. The second part is certainly the Old Welsh iudd “lord.” The first is uncertain, but most likely represents cryf “strong, powerful.”Not only does the Welsh Top 500 have the spellings Gruffydd and Gruffudd, but also the short form Griff, Gruff and Gryff (which together would rank in the Top 100). Added to this is alternate short form Guto (GEE-to).

Gwion (GWEE-on) – A figure of Welsh mythology who was charged with stirring Ceridwen’s cauldron of inspiration (“The Awen”) and accidentally drank some, leading to his becoming the great bard Taliesin. It has been used as a genuine given name since the 19th century.

Hywel (HOO-ul) – A traditional Welsh name, borne by early royalty, that survived in continual use in Wales from the Middle Ages (later often found in the English form Howell). It derives from the old Celtic words *su– “good” and *welo- “to see” and probably was originally a nickname for someone who was forthright.

Iori (YOR-ee) – Alonside Iolo (YOL-o), Iori is a short form of the traditional Welsh name Iorwerth: ior “lord” and gwerth “worth, merit.”

Mabon (MAB-on) – The name of one of the most significant Celtic gods, which means “(divine) son.” Mabon also appears in Arthurian legend and as a genuine given name in the Middle Ages.

Math – A character in Welsh mythology who most likely represents an ancient Celtic god. The name derives from either the Celtic *matu- “bear” or *mati- “good.” It has been used as a genuine given name since the 19th century, but as a name might be confused with the word.

Rhydian (HRID-yan) – An early Welsh saint, whose name is possibly from the Old Welsh rudd “red” making it cognate with the Irish Ruadhan. It has been in use as a given name since the early 20th century.

Many thanks to the website annaprints.co.uk for permission to use their adorable illustration.

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And  now for your weekly bonus: Katinka‘s fabulous Forum findings this week:

*Help urgently needed for a still-nameless Valentine‘s baby boy! Rafael, Romeo, Romanwhat would you choose?

*Feeling the pressure to use a family name? Some interesting ideas in this thread on how to make a “Jr.” name your own.

* This is such a sweet request! In search of a baby boy name that comes with its own lullaby, just like big sister’s music-inspired moniker.

* The Great Gender-Bender Debate rages on: why are conventionally masculine names so popular for girls these days — and why should we care?

* And, on a lighter note: stellar sibsets! What are your criteria for super sibling names?

About the Author

Eleanor Nickerson

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.