[Spellyans] The Cornish for All Saints' Day

nicholas williams njawilliams at gmail.com
Thu Feb 5 12:52:28 GMT 2009

Thank you for that. I am sorry to have missed it—and in Tregear too!
Mea culpa.
Curiously Nance doesn't give hollsens in his 1955 dictionary.

The word hollsens doesn't refer to the festival but to the saints  
It is also hollsens not ollsens.
The festival would be Degol an Hollsens.

In which case we can forget about Ollsens, which is clearly calqued on  

I am slightly perplexed by Tregear's in communyon an hollsens.
Elsewhere 'all the saints' is rendered by Oll an Sens, e.g.

banneth genogh oll an sens BM 578
mollath Chryst hag ol an syns! BK 3157.

Hollsens isn't the same as that, but looks like a collective noun.
The position of the article makes me think that (H)ollsens is a  
collective singular rather than a plural.


On 5 Feb 2009, at 12:28, Jon Mills wrote:

> SWF ollsens is from GKK ollsens. George gives Tregear as the source  
> of this item, "All Saints" as its translation equivalent, and labels  
> it "PL", plural. In Tregear (Homily 39) the phrase "communyon an  
> hollsens" translates Bonner's 'the communion of saynctes'.
> Jon
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: "nicholas williams"
> To: "Standard Cornish discussion list"
> Subject: [Spellyans] The Cornish for All Saints' Day
> Date: Thu, 5 Feb 2009 11:44:04 +0000
> 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 Cornowok.
> 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  
> Christmas',
> and neatly sidesteps any theological questions about Our Lady's  
> conception (for those anoraks who could care less).
> Nicholas
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> _____________________________________
> Dr. Jon Mills,
> School of European Culture and Languages,
> University of Kent
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