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The top 10 best animal names in the Welsh language

11 Jul 2022 4 minute read
Y Wiwer. Picture by Joachim Dobler (CC BY-ND 2.0).

It’s that time of year when we all have the opportunity to get out to the great outdoors and come across all of the varied wildlife that Wales has to offer.

But did you know that some of the most common creatures in Wales have some pretty incredible names?

These Welsh language animal names have been passed down to us over thousands of years. Who knows who coined them, but they’ve stuck around – and they’re pretty cool.

Thanks to Jason Morgan’s World Cup of Welsh animal names for inspiring some of these entries.

Sigl-di-gwt

Sigl-di-gwt

Pied wagtail is a name you may remember if you’re into birdwatching. But you’ll never forget the Welsh name – sigl-di-gwt – which literally translated as shake-your-tail!

C’mon and let me see you shake that tailfeather! A big fan of Ray Charles, is this bird.

Wil Wyllt

Wil Wyllt

We have no idea why, but the spiny spider crab in Welsh is called Wil Wyllt – literally, Crazy Will.

We must admit that we don’t come across many spider crabs in the wild so have not heard this name being used in everyday speech. But hey, it’s in the dictionary so it must be true.

If you’re on the beach, or out fishing on the sea, watch out for Crazy Will and his crazy claws!

Iâr fach yr haf

Iâr Fach yr Haf

A butterfly in Welsh has a few different names, each of which is quite awesome – from pili-pala (close to papillon in French) to glöyn byw (living ember).

But the best of all in our opinion is iâr fach yr haf – little summer hen.

Môr-lawes

Môr-lawes

The name literally means ‘sea sleeve’.

We must admit that being attacked by a giant sea sleeve sounds far less frightening than being attacked by a giant squid.

So if you do find yourself being dragged down into the briny deep, just have a little chuckle that you’re about to be swallowed by the ‘sea sleeve’ and feel a bit better about your predicament.

Buwch goch gota

Buwch Goch Gota

While the English name ladybird is lovely, we think that the Welsh name – buwch goch gota, or little red cow – is in a field of its own.

While cute, it does presumably, and terrifyingly, it implies the existence of a fully-sized red cow, which doesn’t bear thinking about.

Badger picture by Pixabay

Mochyn Daear

If you’re feeling slightly badgered, why not refer to them by their Welsh name – the earth pig!

The earth pig sounds like it needs its own theme music, like the Simspons’ spider pig.

Sgrech y Coed. Picture by Luc Viatour (CC BY-SA 3.0).

Sgrech y Coed

The rather boringly named Eurasian Jay has a much more evocative name in Welsh – Sgrech y Coed, or The Scream of the Woods, which sounds more like a sequel to the Blair Witch Project than a bird.

Don’t go down to the woods alone in case the Scream of the Woods finds you. Arrrgh!

Bochdew

Bochdew

As mentioned before on Nation.Cymru, this is one of the best Welsh words in general, not just animal names.

The Welsh word for Hamster is ‘fat cheek’! Awww… look at those little cheeks.

Red squirrel on snow by Torange.biz (CC BY 4.0)

Gwiwer

The name squirrel is itself one of the best animal names in the English language. The Welsh name ‘gwiwer’ (goo-wew-er) is equally good, capturing something on the nimbleness and speed of the squirrel as it hops from tree to tree.

Dragonfly – Gwas y Neidr

Gwas y Neidr

The Dragonfly is already blessed with an extremely cool name in English. Its name in Welsh is Gwas y Neidr, or Servant of the Snake, which sounds like some kind of dark wizard from Harry Potter.

Which snake is being attended to in this instance we have no idea. Are they all serving the same snake or a different one? What foul deeds are they doing for this snake?

The answers to these questions are lost to the mists of time, but it remains a cool name even if, or perhaps because, we’re a bit hazy on the details.


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Androw Bennett
Androw Bennett
1 month ago

My favourite is “Tinwen” (White arse). The English name “Wheatear” is a puritanical cleansing of the accurately descriptive name in Cymraeg.

Geoffrey ap.
Geoffrey ap.
1 month ago

The one I like is Titw Thomos Las. Blue t*t in English.

arthur owen
1 month ago

I think gloyn byw is the best name for a butterfly.Also there is a kind of jellyfish called c**t y mor.I presume the name is meant to be moral rather than sexual.

Lennon
Lennon
1 month ago

My favourites are cwningen (rabbit) – cos it sounds so bouncy 🐇 and chwaden (duck) cos you sound like a duck when you say it 🦆

Michael William Voyce
Michael William Voyce
1 month ago

Pysgod wibbly wobley!

Rhosddu
Rhosddu
1 month ago

Fy hoff enw : bronwen y dwr (dipper). But, frankly, most Welsh animal names sound lovely.

Noel Sheehan
Noel Sheehan
29 days ago

Gwdihŵ

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