English words with a Welsh origin

Published 9th October 2013
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As I was eating my melted cheese on toast this morning, I recalled a conversation with one of my Welsh friends about all things Welsh, among which the traditional Welsh rarebit. In case you don’t know, rarebit, a corruption of the word ‘rabbit’, isn’t rabbit at all but cheese melted with ale or beer served over toast.

Sadly enough for foodies out there, this blog is not going to be an account of rich breakfast recipes, but rather a collection of English words which are thought to have Welsh origins:

The cardigan sweater was named for the Seventh Earl of Cardigan, James Thomas Brudenell. The Earl, says the Online Etymology Dictionary, “set the style, in one account supposedly wearing such a jacket while leading the Charge of the Light Brigade at Balaclava.”
However, Cardigan is believed to be an anglicisation of the Welsh Ceredigion, “Ceredig’s land.” Ceredig was an ancient Welsh king.

It’s not surprising that the corgi, also known as the Welsh corgi, is Welsh in origin. The original Welsh, corci, translates as ‘dwarf dog’.
Another English word related to the Welsh corgi is coracle, a small rounded boat made of hides stretched over a wicker frame. It comes from the Welsh corwgl, which may be translated as small boat.

The word flannel may come from the Welsh gwlanen, woolen cloth. Other lesser known definitions of flannel include “a warming drink; hot gin and beer seasoned with nutmeg, sugar, etc.”; “a person of homely or uncouth dress, exterior, or manners”; “nonsense or hot air”; or “insincere flattery or praise”. A ‘flannelmouth’ is an empty talker, a braggart or flatterer.

The earliest meaning of flummery was “a sweet gelatinous pudding made by straining boiled oatmeal or flour” and later also referred to “any of several soft, sweet, bland foods, such as custard”, says the Online Etylology Dictionary. Its figurative meanings, “deceptive language or humbug”, and “trifles, useless trappings or ornaments” came about in 1749 and 1879, respectively.
The word comes from the Welsh llymru, “soft jelly from sour oatmeal”.

A pendragon is a chief leader or a king; a head; a dictator; — a title assumed by the ancient British chiefs when called to lead other chiefs. The word is now mainly known in the Arthurian Uther Pendragon, says the Online Etymology Dictionary. Uther Pendragon is the father of King Arthur and mentioned in Old Welsh poems.
The word pendragon is only half-Welsh. While pen comes from the Welsh word for head, dragon comes from the Latin draco, “large serpent.”

Penguin is the best English word with a possibly Welsh origin. Like pendragon, it comes from the Welsh pen (head), while -guin comes from the Welsh word for white, gwyn.
But wait, you might be saying, penguins don’t have white heads. According to World Wide Words, the word might have “first applied to the Great Auk, a flightless seabird now extinct which, like the penguin, used its wings to swim underwater.” It also kind of looks like a penguin. But the Great Auk apparently didn’t have a white head either. However, it did have a white patch between the bill and the eye and this must have made it very visible.

Information taken from Wordnik

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