Names give us a way to identify each other and ourselves. Often, they are family names that have special meaning for us. Welsh names are no exception.
To understand Welsh names, it helps to know a bit about the Welsh language. Welsh came from early Celtic people who settled in the area of Wales. Welsh is a phonetic language, and each letter must be pronounced; there are no silent letters. For example, the place name Coed (meaning “woods”) is pronounced ko’ed.
It’s also useful to know that w and y are vowels.
- W is pronounced “oo.”
- Y is pronounced “uh,” unless it is the last syllable of a word; then it is pronounced “ee.”
- F is pronounced as “v.”
- DD is pronounced as “th” in “the.”
- CH is pronounced as in the last letters in “Bach.”
Welsh Family Names
The Welsh form of patronymics—or giving the son the first name of his father as his surname—uses the prefix “ab” or “ap,” which is a contraction for the Welsh word for “son.”
For example, “Dafydd ap (or ab) Owen” would be “David, son of Owen.” Sometimes the “a” in “ap” was dropped, so David’s last name could have become “Bowen.” In another instance, “Dafydd ap Hywel” would be “David Powell.” See the FamilySearch wiki for more information on how the Welsh patronymic system worked.
The patronymic naming system started to fade in the 1500s, when the Act of Union in 1536 required all official documentation be in the English language. Some border towns used English given names for patronymic surnames. For example, John became Jones, William became Williams, and David became Davis. Some last names also came from nicknames or place-names.
Because of the legal conversion from Welsh to English, the number of Welsh surnames today is somewhat limited. The most common Welsh surnames are Jones, Evans, Williams, Davis, and Thomas.
Welsh Girl Names
Traditional girl names tend to be descriptive. For example, Mali means “wished-for child” and is the Welsh version of the name “Molly.”
Some of the most popular Welsh girl names are listed below:
- Seren means “star.”
- Megan is the equivalent of the English name “Margaret.”
- Ffion refers to the foxglove flower.
- Lowri is the equivalent of the English name “Laura.”
- Caron means “loving or kind-hearted.”
Other popular girl names include Nia, Cadi, Eria, Efa, and Elin.
Welsh Boy Names
Like girl names, Welsh boy names are also descriptive.
Some popular Welsh boy names include the following:
- Dylan means “son of the sea.”
- Owen means “young warrior.”
- Gavin is a derivative of the name “Gawain.”
- Kendrick means “hero” or “leader.”
- Vaughn means “small.”
Some other popular boy names are Bryson, Maddox, Rys, Marvin, and Trevor.
Now that you know the basics of Welsh names and how to pronounce them, look through your family tree to see if you have Welsh ancestry. Using the birth country feature makes this search easy! Enjoy learning more about your Welsh ancestors!