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The Top Welsh Names in Wales

March 11, 2018 Eleanor Nickerson

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

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.

View all of Elea's articles

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