[Spellyans] The Cornish for All Saints' Day

nicholas williams njawilliams at gmail.com
Thu Feb 5 11:44:04 GMT 2009

In his dictionary of the SWF Dan has Ollsens 'All Hallows'. This has  
been borrowed from Breton Hollsent.
Dan gives the word as plural. This is not, I think, correct. In Breton  
it is singular.
The sense is 'All Saints' Day', and refers to the feast day rather  
than 'all the saints'. I think pl. should be
changed to masc. sing. here.
Breton an Hollsent is itself a calque on French la Toussaint, which is  
feminine singular.

The only attested word for 'All Saints' Day' in Cornish is (in KS  
spelling) De Halan Gwâv. This occurs in the
famous entry of 1572 in the Exeter Consistory Court depositions:

Wm Hawysche, of Lelant, tynner, from birth resident, aged 40, sayeth  
that upon Dew Whallan Gwa Metten in
Eglos De Lalant, viz. upon all hallow day late paste about the mydds  
of the service in the parish church of Lalant
Moryshe David’s wife and Cicely James came into the church of Lalant  
together and in chiding with words together
Cycely called Agnes Davey whore and whore bitch in English and not in  

All Saints' Day is the first of November and was a way of  
Christianising the beginning of the pagan Celtic winter.
In my own dictionary under All Saints I give De Halan Gwaf (UCR) first  
and Ollsens second.

The attested De Halann Gwav (?*Dy'Halann Gwav) does not appear to be  
in the Gerlyvrik but
the unattested Ollsens is. And it is wrongly given as plural.

Incidentally the foreword to Alys in Pow an Anethow I dated Degol  
Maria kyns Nadelyk, i.e. the
feast of the Conception of the BVM (this latter is the English name in  
the Book of Common Prayer). The festival is
celebrated on the 8th December. The Cornish version is my calque on  
Irish Lá Fhéile Muire roimh Nollaig 'the festival of the BVM before  
and neatly sidesteps any theological questions about Our Lady's  
conception (for those anoraks who could care less).


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