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The top 10 best words in the Welsh language

30 Jun 2022 4 minute read
The 10 best words in the Welsh language

We always knew that the Welsh language was precious. But this week has proven it as a company trademarked the words ‘cariad’ and ‘hiraeth’ – much to the annoyance of Welsh speakers.

But if you were to put a price on Welsh words, which ones would be the most valuable?

The Welsh language has hundreds of thousands of excellent words, but here are ten that are up there with the best.

A hamster – bochdew

1.) Bochdew

Bochdew translates as hamster. It may not sound like anything spectacular, until you know that boch + dew means ‘FAT CHEEKS’!

Yes, the Welsh word for a hamster is a fat-cheek. If you didn’t know this, you’re welcome.

Picture by Annie Mole (CC BY 2.0).

 2.) Pendwmpian

Some words are just extremely satisfying to say. Pen-dwmp-ian is the word for when you’re starting to nod off to sleep.

‘Head-bobbing’ perfectly describes how someone’s head will rise and fall up and down before finally giving in to the land of nod.

Chwyrligwgan. Picture by Epic Fireworks (CC BY 2.0).

 3.) Chwyrligwgan

This is the Welsh word for Catherine’s Wheel – the fiery, spinning firework you will most often see on a Guy Fawkes Night. It can also describe almost anything that’s spinning around, like a merry-go-round.

Chwyr-li-gw-gan is a word that’s extremely satisfying to say, and seems to have a kinetic energy all of its own. It always ranks highly when Welsh speakers are asked for the favourite word.

Gwdihŵ – an owl

4.) Gwdihŵ

An owl. It’s an excellent word because the sound it makes – ‘goody-hooooo!’ – is also very close to the sound an owl itself makes.

There’s another Welsh word for owl, tylluan, that’s a little less onomatopoeic but also very beautiful.

The ‘ych-a-fi’ look. Picture by David Goehring (CC BY 2.0).

5.) Ych-a-fi

It’s a little unclear whether this is just one Welsh word because of the hyphens in it, but it certainly comes out as one.

‘Ych-a-fi’ is essentially an exclamation that means ‘disgusting!’

It’s extremely useful when warning toddlers not to touch things and one of the first words a Welsh-speaking child will learn.

The ‘ch’ sound in ‘ych’ quite powerfully conveys that sense of utter repulsion.

It’s not easy being slebog. Picture by PxHere

6.) Slebog

Like ‘ych-a-fi’, this word really conveys a sense of disgust.

‘Slee-bog’ means someone dirty or somehow repulsive. A friend who has gone into ‘goblin mode’ perhaps.

As well as conveying beauty, the Welsh language can sound harsh when it wants to!

You can find a full top 12 list of Welsh language insults here.

Sws! Picture by Pxhere

7.) Sws

A word that very much sounds like the sound it makes. ‘Sws’ (pronounced soos) means ‘kiss’ and is very evocative of the sound made when someone plants a little peck on your cheek.

It’s just a cute little word in general, and so best used for the more platonic smooching.

Bendigedig! Picture by PxHere

8.) Bendigedig

It’s another word that just sounds great to say, which is apt because ‘bendigedig’ means ‘fantastic’. It’s one of those Welsh words that just tumbles out.

‘Ben-di-gedig’!

If you really want to emphasize how fantastic things are you can add a swear word in there: ‘Ben-di-blydi-gedig!’

Sboncen. Picture by User5757 (CC BY-SA 4.0).

9.) Sboncen

This is the Welsh word for squash, but quite frankly is much better.

The ball in a game of squash doesn’t make a ‘squash’ sound, it makes a ‘bonk’ sound.

So ‘sbonk-en’ it is.

Picture by Louisa Billeter (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0).

10.) Pendramwnwgl

Like Benidgedig, Pendwmpian and Chwyrligwgan, this is just one of those words that are so satisfying to say.

Pendramwnwgl means to tumble over headlong in a particularly dramatic way. If someone fell down the stairs they would fall ‘pen-dra-mwn-wgl’.

JRR Tolkien based the Sindarin language of the elves in the Lord of the Rings on the sound of the Welsh language. It was apparently seeing the word ‘adeiladwyd’ on a stone slab that he says ‘piereced his linguistc heart’.

Pen-dra-mwnw-gl very much has that same rhythm!


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Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
1 month ago

Bochdew my new name for Fat Shanks…Ych-a fi the feeling he gives me…Bendigedig is one word that will never describe him…Slebog is perfect however…Heddwch is mine, diolch i ti…

Stuart Cane
Stuart Cane
1 month ago

Twmpath is my favourite – multipurpose word meaning both a barn dance and a speed bump!

Tomas Ap Llew
Tomas Ap Llew
1 month ago

Tylluan = owl.
Gwdi hw = the noise a wood pigeon makes. So of course, it’s South Wales that use it.

Anything to make the language sound like baby talk or specifically to fill articles like this with nonsense.

Nonsense southerner
Nonsense southerner
1 month ago
Reply to  Tomas Ap Llew

Lmao who needs the English when we’ve got people like you to hate on us?

Tyfa lan, c**t

Quornby
Quornby
1 month ago

#1….. Annibyniaeth

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