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The top 10 best Welsh place names and their real meanings

28 Apr 2023 5 minute read
Betws Bledrws in Ceredigion

Wales’ place names have been the butt of many a joke – but of course, no language makes sense to people who can’t speak it.

However this mockery also hides the fact that there are quite a few amusing and excellent place names in Wales, and it has nothing to do with their length or lack of English consonants.

With the help of the Dictionary of Place-names in Wales, we looked up some of the most amusing Welsh place names to discover their origin.

A Sili place

10.) Sili

Sully in the Vale of Glamorgan, named after the family name ‘de Sully’, is brilliantly rendered in Welsh as ‘Sili’. It’s possible that it’s a name transferred from Sully in Normandy. Like the Court of Camelot – it is a silly place.

Philadelphia Chapel, Nantycaws

9.) Nant-y-Caws

Amusingly this place name translates as ‘River of the Cheese’. Apparently, this evocative name actually refers to the rich farmland in Carmarthenshire which is able to support a lot of dairy cattle, making this something of a hub for coagulated milk. Even better, there is a Philadelphia Chapel in Nant-y-caws.

Pant

8.) Pant

This one may be cheating a little bit as it’s not in Wales, but rather just over the border in Shropshire where Welsh was once commonly spoken. Pant means ‘hollow’ in Welsh, and appears quite frequently in place names like Pant-Glas and Pantpastynnog.

Here though, it’s just Pant. This is the place to go to work up a sweat.

It doesn’t look that bad – Pentregalar

7.) Pentregalar

This rather ominous settlement in Pembrokeshire translates as ‘Village of Grief’. It is not clear what tragedy befell this place to give it such a name.

The Dictionary of Welsh Place Names suggests that it might just mean ‘miserable’ as the village is in ‘an exposed, poor site on east-facing hill-slopes’ which comes across as a bit judgemental and also begs the question of why anyone would want to live there long enough to give it its moniker if they disliked it so much.

Perhaps it was a village of Mrs Doyles – people who like the misery. In truth though it is quite lovely.

Penisarwaun – jokes about the name are a small price to pay for such lovely views

6.) Penisarwaun

The name simply means ‘lower end of the moor’ and any other interpretation is simply the product of the reader’s dirty mind.

The jokes about the name are a small price to pay for its stunning location just north-west of Snowdon.

An attempt by the local hedge to censor the name of Three Cocks

5.) Three Cocks

As with Penisarwaun above, the explanation for this place name in Powys is entirely innocent. It was originally derived from the Three Cocks Inn. The three cocks themselves appear on the arms of the Williams family of Gwernyfed.

The name was passed on to the railway station Three Cocks Junction railway station, which closed in the 1960s. The railway station was known locally as ‘Lucky Man Junction’.

Beddgelert, Gwynedd

4.) Beddgelert

This name which translates as ‘The Grave of Gelert’ has quite a story behind it – or at least, a made-up one. It originally meant the grave of a man called Celert, perhaps a saint. But from the 16th century the myth arose that it referred to Prince Llywelyn’s faithful hound which he accidentally killed – thinking the dog had attacked his child. He later discovered that Gelert had been protecting his child from a wolf.

Beddgelert’s tourism wing has made much of this folk-tale, even erecting a headstone to the dog in the 18th century. You can still visit it today.

Haberson Street, Splott. Picture by Sionk (CC BY-SA 3.0).

3.) Splott

A suburb of Cardiff, up-and-coming Splott is one of the less expensive places to live in the city, but is no blot on the landscape. Y Sblot in Welsh, the name comes from the Middle English word for a patch of land, which is also quite common in the Vale of Glamorgan and Pembrokeshire.

Betws Bledrws

2.) Betws Bledrws

‘Beh-toos blid-roos’ – such a satisfying place name to say. This village between Lampeter and Llangybi, Ceredigion, simply means a church or prayer house dedicated to the Celtic saint Bledrws.

The church was also dedicated to St Michael, but I think we all agree that they made the right choice in calling it Betws Bledrws.

Plwmp

1.) Plwmp

The name of this place near the Ceredigion coast can’t help but raise a smile. It’s very satisfying to say – ‘Ploomp’.

The significance of the name however is a bit more prosaic – it comes from a farmhouse whose roadside pump provided water for travellers passing through. At some point the Welsh ‘pwmp’ (pump) became ‘Plwmp’. And it is all the better for it.

Plwmp!

Do you have suggestions of amusing Welsh place names we’ve missed? Just plwmp them in the comments below.


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Bill
Bill
9 months ago

Let’s see about English place names

Piddletrenthide and Piddlehinton
Pratt’s Bottom
Stiffkey (pronounced stewky)

Richard Thomas
Richard Thomas
9 months ago
Reply to  Bill

Presumably Nation.Cymru don’t think it’s their patch for some reason

Brechdan Wncomunco
9 months ago

.y great uncle told me there was a place called cnwch Goch. He was a miner who considered Plaid as crachach.

Frank
Frank
9 months ago

Your great uncle was correct. Cnwch Goch or Cnwch Coch is in Ceredigion.

GWYN W EVANS
GWYN W EVANS
9 months ago

“North West of Snowdon”!!!!! Clearly Rishi bach wrote this as he has taken time out.of his busy schedule to announce he WILL NOT use Bannau

Mike
Mike
9 months ago

Not a place name but the pub called The Black c**k Inn near Caerphilly certainly brings a smile to local girls and a few boys too!

Mike
Mike
9 months ago

Surely Mumbles (Ystum Llwynarth) deserves a place!

Wynford Jones
Wynford Jones
9 months ago
Reply to  Mike

I thought Ystum Llwynarth was a different place, subsequently corrupted to Oystermouth. Please correct me if I am wrong.

Welsh_Siôn
Welsh_Siôn
9 months ago
Reply to  Wynford Jones

Ystumllwynarth = Oystermouth
Mwbwls = Mumbles

Wynford Jones
Wynford Jones
9 months ago

Yes we are allowed to laugh at ourselves, our language and our culture, but how did this anglo-centric piece of nonsense get past the editor? Disappointed in nation.cymru on this occasion.

Welsh_Siôn
Welsh_Siôn
9 months ago

O le wyt ti’n dŵad, Arthur?

Weli di mod i o Bontrhythallt (jest i lawr y lôn o’r llun) o fy sylw cyntaf yma.

Simon J
Simon J
9 months ago

Favourite road signs:
Llanddewi-Brefi
Commins Coch
Libanus

Rhosddu
Rhosddu
9 months ago

This is fifth-form humour with zero comedic content. Waste of ink.

Ray Davies
Ray Davies
9 months ago

Melin y Wig in North Wales is an interesting name.

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