Welsh Nickname Names: Iolo, Betsan and Llio
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 Bedo, Nanw 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.
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.
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 Williams. Iolyn is a variant form.
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.
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.
Llio (HLEE-?) – A diminutive of Gwenllian which, independently, has had a birth count of between 3 and 11 each year.
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.
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.