WELSH NAMES: Beyond Gwyneth and Griffin

 Because of its relatively small population, Wales has sent fewer immigrants to the US than Ireland and Scotland have–a mere 100,000 between 1820 and 1976–so that  Welsh names are not as well known here as the other Celts. Which is a shame, because  it’s a lilting, rhythmic language, offering lots of fresh and beguiling choices.

Like the Irish, the Welsh have only rediscovered some of the rich resources of their own language and culture in the past century. Ater the Welsh language was suppressed for hundreds of years, baby namers are now digging back into their native history and myth, traditional literature and legends for inspirational namesakes of ancient heroes, princes and other royalty, for example increasing the popularity of names like the mythological Rhiannon.

Unlike the Irish names, Welsh choices present far fewer pronunciation challenges–their spelling is much closer to phonetic. Also note that the yn ending is usually masculine (even though, for example, Gwyn might sound feminine to us), and the en ending, as in Gwen, is for the most part feminine.

Here, a selection of some rich Welsh possibilities:

GIRLS

ADWYN
AELWEN
AERON/AERONA
ALYS
ANWEN
AURON (AYR-on)
BEDELIA
BETHAN
BRANWEN
BRIALLEN
BRONWEN
BRYN (unisex)
CERYS
DELYTH/DILYS
EIRA (AY-ra)
ELERI (el-AYR-ee)
ELEN/ELIN
ENID
FFION, FFIONA
FFLUR (FLEER)–Welsh word for flower)
GLADYS
GLENYS
GWENDOLEN
GWENNO (a nickname-name for Gwen names)
GWYN/GWYNETH
IOLA (YO-la)
KENDALL (unisex)
LLIO (LHEE-oh)
LOWRI
MAIR
MARGED
MEGAN
MELERI (mel-AYR-ee)
MYFANWY
NERYS
NIA

NESTA
OLWEN
RHIANNON (ree-AHN-un)
RHONWEN
SIAN (SHAN)–Welsh form of Jane
TEGAN
TELERI (the-AYR-ee)
WINIFRED

BOYS

ALUN
ALWYN
ANEIRIN (an-EYE-rin)
ARVEL
BEVAN/BEVIN
BRYN
CADWELLEN
DAFYDD (DAY-veth)
DEWI
DRYSTAN
DYLAN
ELIAN
ELLIS
SMYR
EVAN
GARETH
GRIFFIN
GRIFFITH
GWILYM (GWIL-um)
GWYN
HUW/HEW/HUGH
IAON (ee-oo-an)
IOLO (YOH-lo)
JEVAN
KYNAN
LLEU
LLEWELLYN
LLOYD
MADDOX
MARCH
MORGAN
NYE
PADRIG (PAHD-rig)
PARRY
RHYS
SIAM (SHAM)–Welsh form of James
SIARL (SHARL)–Welsh form of Charles
SIOR (SHOR)–Welsh form of George
SULIEN (SIL-yen)
TALIESIN (tahl-YES-in)
TEILO (TAY-lo)
TUDOR
VAUGHAN

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18 Responses to “WELSH NAMES: Beyond Gwyneth and Griffin”

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Emmy Jo Says:

April 1st, 2009 at 1:14 am

These are lovely names! Favorites are Gwendolen, Carys, and Eira. On the boys’ list, I’m drawn to Drystan, and I’ve always loved Gareth.

Do you really think Iola is hopelessly out? With the popularity of Violet, Ella, and Isla, it seems like a reasonable choice.

Lola Says:

April 1st, 2009 at 8:39 am

Gwendolen, Anwen, Bronwen & Winifred are firm favorites for girls. For boys, Ellis, Gareth, Hugh, Llewellyn, Padrig, Morgan, Rhys, Parry & Taliesin (I know one, he says Tal-yeah-es-in) are favorites.

Gareth seems to me, to be a perfect way to honor a Grandpa Gary! (and I have a gew freidns named Gary who are looking at Grandpa- hood soon!)

Lovely, lovely Welsh names. As usual, I like fewer girls than guys. And my favorite of all is Llewellyn, he’s in my long standing “not sure if I can live with it but I really like it” combo: Arthur Henry Llewellyn. I think he’s rather snazzy with an old-timey colonial vibe. Very cool Llewellyn is.

Abby Says:

April 1st, 2009 at 10:23 am

Great list! I had a Great Aunt Olwen – the only sibling to receive a traditional family name. I understand she didn’t much care for it, but I’ve considered tucking it in the middle spot.

I love Elari and Rhys. And Gareth is great, but my husband veto’d it after the character on the original version of The Office.

Lola, Arthur Henry Llewellyn is snazzy!

linda Says:

April 1st, 2009 at 12:41 pm

Emmy Jo–\No, I think there is hope for Iola, especially pronounced the Welsh way rather than the eye-OH-la way.

Emz Says:

April 1st, 2009 at 4:23 pm

Lovely list, but puzzled that Ffion (not Ffiona – never come across that before. Very odd) and Seren aren’t listed – they’re both top ten in Wales. Nia seems like a strange omission too.

I have some Welsh ancestry – my grandfather’s middle name was Llewellyn (I live in Scotland). I’ve always fancied using a Welsh name for that reason – seems a nice little nod in his direction.

realpraise Says:

April 1st, 2009 at 5:40 pm

I’d be happy to bring Iola back. I do so hope there is a chance for it!

moonshiness Says:

April 1st, 2009 at 9:59 pm

I’ve adored the look and sound of Llewellyn forever. I don’t know why it’s so catchy. Llewellyn and Peregrine are completely my guilty pleasures in terms of boys names.

As a side note, Llio is beautiful. I like it.

linda Says:

April 2nd, 2009 at 2:09 am

Thanks—I added all three.

JustADad Says:

April 2nd, 2009 at 8:24 am

I am of Welsh descent and I think these names are really attractive. Surprised not to see Kai on the list for boys, that’s still a popular name (so I thought) in Wales.

linda Says:

April 2nd, 2009 at 10:50 am

I kinew a Peregrine once who had a sister named Pandora. Brits, of course.

Elea Says:

July 29th, 2009 at 5:42 am

Why is Jevan on the list? There is no ‘j’ in the Welsh alphabet :/

Bethan Says:

August 17th, 2009 at 11:07 am

what about Glyn for a boy?
isn’t that welsh? i know it sounds like an old coffin dodger but anyhoo.
Love them all 🙂
WALES FOREVER 😀
xxxx

Ail blentyn Says:

May 21st, 2010 at 7:21 pm

The name is correctly spelled “Llywelyn”. “Llewelyn” is an old mistake, and “Lewellyn” is a newer mistake. But “Llywelyn” is what’s correct. And it’s a great name!

Bethan D Says:

April 2nd, 2011 at 11:45 am

I love Bethan (for obvious reasons) and i am glad it is a rare name :]

iluvry Says:

May 26th, 2013 at 12:43 pm

My grandma is Welsh and she named my aunt Glenys and my uncle Elwyn, and she has a sister named Gwen. Cool but different.

Lumille Says:

August 19th, 2016 at 4:46 pm

A fair few errors in this post – but no Gethin?

SarahSmith83 Says:

August 25th, 2016 at 4:12 pm

As a Welsh-speaking Welsh person, I’m really glad to see interest in Welsh names? But I also feel like – on the offchance anyone actually uses this post to pick a name and reads the comments…I have to point out this is just full of errors. Please, if you’re thinking of using any of these names for your child, and they’re actually ever likely to go to Wales, double-check them.

Like, at first glance I note the following:

Girl’s Names:

Auron – not a Welsh name
Bryn – not a unisex name, this is a boy’s name
Kendall – not a Welsh name at all. Wales has no “K” in its alphabet and a double “L” is pronounced totally differently.
Llio – pronounciation is completely off – that’s not how you pronounce a double L.
Rhiannon – pronunciation isn’t totally off but isn’t right – it’s the Anglicised version not the Welsh version.
Tegan – yeah, okay, actually technically this is a Welsh girl’s name but it’s nearly never used because it’s also the Welsh word for “toy”. Not like…etymologically – it just literally is like naming your daughter “Toy.”
Teleri – pronunciation is totally wrong.

Boy’s Names:

Aneirin – English pronunciation given.
Arvel – I’ve never heard of this and there’s no “V” in Welsh. Is it supposed to be “Arwel”?
Dafydd – one of the most common Welsh names for boys but somehow the pronunciation guide is completely wrong.
Drystan – not a Welsh name. Perhaps the author means Trystan?
Smyr – this doesn’t even look Welsh to me… I have no idea what this is.
Gwilym – again, an English pronunciation that would make most Welsh people cringe.
Huw/Hew/Hugh – the middle one is a common mispronunciation of the first, not an actual name! The last one is English.
Iaon – incorrect pronunciation and also mispelled – should be Ioan.
Jevan – I have no idea where this comes from but as there’s no J or V in the Welsh alphabet I’m confident it’s not from Wales.
Kynan – should be spelled Cynan.
Maddox – not a Welsh name – is it a modernisation of Madog, perhaps?
Padrig – this looks Irish to me. It’s not Welsh.
Tudor – this is English, the Welsh version of the name is Tudur.

And that’s not counting a few names that I, personally, am not familiar with, but look like they at least could be obscure Welsh names. Like, these are just the mistakes I’m confident about.

Seriously, if you like any of the names I’ve noted, then that’s totally cool, give your kid a name you think is awesome. Just…be aware that people may be confused when you tell them it’s Welsh, or may think you’re mispronouncing it or what have you.

linda Says:

August 25th, 2016 at 4:43 pm

Thanks so much for this, Sarah! We will work on correcting this. In the meantime, would you have any interest in providing the correct pronunciations, which came from sources we thought were reliable.

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