[Spellyans] Welsh

Hewitt, Stephen s.hewitt at unesco.org
Thu May 24 10:52:54 IST 2012

Absolutely excellent Jon,


Shows how the semantics of a root can evolve as it spreads from one language to another.


Pour la petite histoire, the Arabic word for Austria is nimsâ. Where on earth did they get that from? From Ottoman Turkish, who took the universal Slavic word nemcy lit. “deaf ones”, i.e. those with whom it is like talking to a brick wall, in other words, for most Slavs, “Germans”, from their nearest neighbours and for many centuries, vassals, the Bulgarians, who used it mainly for the Austrian Empire (their most immediate experience of German-speakers). Everyone is someone else’s basic foreigner…




From: spellyans-bounces at kernowek.net [mailto:spellyans-bounces at kernowek.net] On Behalf Of Jon Mills
Sent: 24 May 2012 11:38
To: Standard Cornish discussion list
Subject: Re: [Spellyans] Welsh


The Oxford English Dictionary gives the following etymology of Welsh.
Ol an gwella,

Etymology:  Cognate with Old Frisian walsk ‘French’ (rare), Old High German walesg , walisc , walahisc ‘Latin’, ‘Romance’ (Middle High German walhisch , welhisch , walsch , welsch ‘Italian’, ‘French’, ‘Romance’; German welsch , in the same senses), Middle Dutch walsc ‘French’, ‘Italian’, ‘Walloon’, ‘speaking a Romance language, especially French’ (Dutch waalsch ‘Walloon’, ‘speaking a Romance language, especially French’), Middle Low German Walsch , Wallesch ‘Romance, especially Italian’, Old Icelandic valskr ‘foreign, especially French’, Old Swedish valsker ‘French’, ‘Italian’, ‘from a southern country’, ‘foreign’ (Swedish välsk ), Danish vælsk ‘from a Romance-speaking country, especially Italian or (sometimes) French’, (also) ‘Welsh’ < the Germanic base of Old English Wealh , Walh (see note below) + Germanic base of -ish suffix1 <http://www.oed.com.chain.kent.ac.uk/view/Entry/99965#eid99244> . Compare post-classical Latin Waliscus , Walliscus (1086 in Domesday Book; c1114 in a Latin version of the early Old English Laws of Ine: compare quot. eOE at Welshman n. 1aα. <http://www.oed.com.chain.kent.ac.uk/view/Entry/227749#eid14613415> ), Anglo-Norman Waleis , Walais , Gualeis , Galays , etc., Old French galeis , galeis , (northern) walois , walesche (French gallois ) (adjective) ‘Welsh’ (c1170), (noun) ‘Welsh person’, ‘the Welsh language’ (both 1155), ‘the French language’ (c1283, only in Old French and Middle French in areas bordering Germanic speaking territories). Compare also post-classical Latin Wallensis , Gualensis , Galensis (from 1086 in British sources), Valicus , Wallicus (from 1252 in British sources), both adjectives in sense ‘Welsh’, Wallus , Guallus (adjective) ‘Welsh’, (noun) ‘Welshman’ (from a1142 in British sources), etc. Compare etymological notes at walnut n.1 <http://www.oed.com.chain.kent.ac.uk/view/Entry/225357#eid15282914>  and walsh-nut n. <http://www.oed.com.chain.kent.ac.uk/view/Entry/225370#eid15287668> ; compare also Welsh bean n. <http://www.oed.com.chain.kent.ac.uk/view/Entry/227741#eid14612868>  

(i) History of the parent noun.


Old English Wealh , (Anglian) Walh foreigner, Briton, Welsh person, slave, is cognate with Old High German Walh , Walah speaker of a Romance language (Middle High German Walch , Walhe foreigner, speaker of a Romance language, specifically Frenchman or Italian, German †Wahle ), Middle Dutch Wale speaker of a Romance language, specifically Walloon or Frenchman (Dutch Waal Walloon, speaker of a Romance language, especially French; compare the Old Dutch byname Wal , Walo ), Old Icelandic Valir (plural) inhabitants of northern France, probably < Gaulish Uolcae (recorded in classical Latin contexts), the name of several groups of Celtic people, especially a powerful one in southern Gaul, which (for Germanic-speakers in the west) came to be used as a generic term for speakers of non-Germanic languages (originally Gaulish, and after the Romanization of Gaul also Latin and subsequently Romance languages). For a parallel semantic development compare the borrowing into West Germanic of the name of the Slavonic people recorded in post-classical Latin as Veneti to denote Slavonic peoples more generally (see Wend n. <http://www.oed.com.chain.kent.ac.uk/view/Entry/227796#eid14622571> ). The further etymology of the name of the Uolcae is uncertain and disputed, perhaps < the same Indo-European base as classical Latin falcō falcon n. <http://www.oed.com.chain.kent.ac.uk/view/Entry/67800#eid4678743>  Compare Walloon n. <http://www.oed.com.chain.kent.ac.uk/view/Entry/225324#eid15275259> , and (with reference to Romance-speakers in south-east Europe) Walach n. <http://www.oed.com.chain.kent.ac.uk/view/Entry/225201#eid15242793>  and Vlach n. <http://www.oed.com.chain.kent.ac.uk/view/Entry/224249#eid15416654>   


(ii) The name of Wales. 


The name of the country in English is Wales (in Middle English also Walys , Walis ), derived from Old English Wealas (plural of Wealh ), often used to denote the Britons collectively and hence their lands (compare sense A. 1a <http://www.oed.com.chain.kent.ac.uk/viewdictionaryentry/Entry/227739#eid14610032> ). There was no unified polity in medieval western Britain, and the concept of Wales as a geographical, ethnic, or political unit was a very gradual development (compare sense A. 2 <http://www.oed.com.chain.kent.ac.uk/viewdictionaryentry/Entry/227739#eid14610235> ). Old English Wealas could refer to Britons in Cornwall, Wales, and northern Britain, and also historically to the inhabitants of other parts of Britain before the Anglo-Saxon settlement. Consequently, the name Wealas is sometimes qualified in order to denote a more specific application, e.g. Cornwealas Britons of Cornwall, Westwealas Britons of Cornwall and (in one instance) south-west Wales, Norðwealas Britons of (parts of) Wales (i.e. north of Cornwall), Stræcledwalas Strathclyde Britons (and also, in each case, their respective lands). These terms are common in the Anglo-Saxon Chron.The compound Brytwealas , usually denoting the early Britons (compare quot. eOE1 <http://www.oed.com.chain.kent.ac.uk/viewdictionaryentry/Entry/227739#eid199711398>  and Welsh Britain n. at Special uses 4 <http://www.oed.com.chain.kent.ac.uk/viewdictionaryentry/Entry/227739#eid199131814> , and also quot. 1610 at Welshman n. 1aβ. <http://www.oed.com.chain.kent.ac.uk/view/Entry/227749#eid182700359> ) is also used once in a homily to denote the Celtic lands of Britain (see quot. OE1 <http://www.oed.com.chain.kent.ac.uk/viewdictionaryentry/Entry/227739#eid199775346> ); it also has a derivative Brytwylisc (adjective) British (also as noun in sense ‘British, the Brittonic language of the Britons’: see quot. OE at sense B. 1a <http://www.oed.com.chain.kent.ac.uk/viewdictionaryentry/Entry/227739#eid14612341> ). Compare: 

eOE   Anglo-Saxon Chron. (Parker) anno 682,   On þissum geare Centwine gefliemde Bretwealas [OE Tiber. A.vi Bryttas] oþ sę.

eOE   Anglo-Saxon Chron. (Parker) anno 894,   On ðys gere for se here of Wirheale in on Norðwealas [sc. Wales or North Wales].

eOE   Anglo-Saxon Chron. <javascript:void(0)>  (Parker) anno 914,   On suþhealfe Sæfernmuþan, westan from Wealum [sc. Cornwall], east oþ Afene muþan.

OE   Homily: Sunnandæges Spell (Corpus Cambr. 419) in A. S. Napier Wulfstan <javascript:void(0)>  (1883) 205   Hit [sc. fyr] gefealð ærest on Sceotta land‥and hit þonne færð on Brytwealas.

OE   Anglo-Saxon Chron. <javascript:void(0)>  (Tiber. B.iv) anno 926,   Huwal Westwala cyning [i.e. Hywel Dda, king of Deheubarth in South Wales], & Cosstantin Scotta cyning, & Uwen Wenta cyning [= king of Gwent].

OE   Anglo-Saxon Chron. (Tiber. B.iv) anno 997,   Her‥ferde se here abutan Defenanscire into Sefernmuðan, & þær hergodon ægþær ge on Cornwealum & on Norðwealum [sc. Wales, with reference to southern Wales] & on Defenum.

lOE   Anglo-Saxon Chron. <javascript:void(0)>  (Laud) anno 1048,   Mann sette þa Oddan to eorle ofer Defenascire & ofer Sumersæton & ofer Dorseton & ofer Wealas [sc. Cornwall].


In the Middle Ages, the Welsh territories consisted of several former kingdoms, subsequently ruled by princes (see prince n. 6 <http://www.oed.com.chain.kent.ac.uk/view/Entry/151403#eid28371890>  and the etymological note at that entry); in the 13th cent., Llywelyn ap Gruffudd, prince of Gwynedd, established overlordship over all remaining independent parts of Wales and was acknowledged as Prince of Wales by Henry III in 1267 (Treaty of Montgomery). His principality in turn was conquered by Edward I in 1282. Edward conferred the title Prince of Wales on his son and heir to consolidate this conquest (see prince n. 7 <http://www.oed.com.chain.kent.ac.uk/view/Entry/151403#eid28372084>  and compare Prince of Wales n. <http://www.oed.com.chain.kent.ac.uk/view/Entry/238191#eid13063094> ); compare post-classical Latin princeps Walliae (1306 or earlier denoting the heir to the English throne, 13th cent. with reference to the Welsh Princes, 1267 as a title given to Llywelyn ap Gruffudd), Anglo-Norman prince de Gales , prince de Wales (1307 or earlier denoting the heir to the English throne, 1271 or earlier with reference to Llywelyn ap Gruffudd; Middle French, French Prince de Galles ). Wales was formally incorporated into the English realm in 1536, and remains part of the United Kingdom, although granted partial self-government in 1999 (see Welsh Assembly Government at Special uses 4 <http://www.oed.com.chain.kent.ac.uk/viewdictionaryentry/Entry/227739#eid198132551> ). Compare the following early attestations of the place name in English, as a simplex denoting Wales (as is usual in Old English the name denotes both the people and their lands; compare note above): 

OE   Anglo-Saxon Chron. (Tiber. B.i) (Mercian register) anno 916,   Ðæs embe þreo niht sende Æþelflæd fyrde on Wealas & abræc Brecenanmere.

lOE   Anglo-Saxon Chron. <javascript:void(0)>  (Laud) (Peterborough contin.) anno 1123,   Ða‥ferde se ærcebiscop to Rome æfter his pallium, & mid him ferde se biscop Bernard of Wales [sc. of St. David's, now in Pembrokeshire].

c1275  (1200)    Laȝamon Brut <javascript:void(0)>  (Calig.) (1978) l. 14934   Inne Norð Wales wes a king, Cadwan þe kene; of Suð Wales, Margadud, monnen alre uæȝerest.

a1387   J. Trevisa tr. R. Higden Polychron. (St. John's Cambr.) II. 61   Schroysbury is a citee‥in þe marche of Engelond and of Wales [L. Cambriae].‥ Schroysbury was sometyme þe hede of Powys, þat streccheth forþ thwart ouer þe myddel of Wales [L. Walliae].

1485   Malory's Morte Darthur (Caxton) i. vii. sig. a.vv,   Arthur wan alle the north scotland, and‥Also walys.

1610   P. Holland tr. W. Camden Brit. <javascript:void(0)>  615,   I thinke‥to digresse a while and turne a little aside towards Wales, called in Latin Cambria, or Wallia [L. ad Walliam sive Cambriam], where the ancient Britans have yet their seat and abode.


With the place name compare post-classical Latin Wallia , Walia , Guallia , Gualia (12th cent.), Anglo-Norman Gales , Galis , Galleis , Gualles , Gwales , Wales , Wals , Walays , etc., Old French Vales , Gales (c1100; < Old English), and also Anglo-Norman terre de Gales , paijs de Gales (both 14th cent.; Middle French, French pays de Galles ). Post-classical Latin Wallia denotes only Wales, while the alternative name Cambria , with which it is often used interchangeably, can also be used to include (or sometimes exclusively denote) the British territories in northern Britain, e.g. Strathclyde and Cumbria (see Cambrian adj. <http://www.oed.com.chain.kent.ac.uk/view/Entry/26657#eid10244246> ). 


In Welsh, the name of Wales is Cymru , the self-designation of its inhabitants is Cymry (singular Cymro , masculine, and Cymraes , feminine: see Cymric adj. <http://www.oed.com.chain.kent.ac.uk/view/Entry/46625#eid7626062>  and the discussion at Cambrian adj. <http://www.oed.com.chain.kent.ac.uk/view/Entry/26657#eid10244246> ), and the corresponding adjective is Cymreig . The name of the language (and the corresponding adjective) is Cymraeg (see Cymraeg n. <http://www.oed.com.chain.kent.ac.uk/view/Entry/268935#eid115091118> ). 


(iii) Other uses of the Old English noun. 


In Old English Wealh and its compounds or derivatives are occasionally used of foreigners more generally, particularly in names referring to France or Gaul and their inhabitants (compare the use of the cognates of Wealh in other Germanic languages to refer to Romance-speakers); compare the Old English compounds Galwalas Gauls, (hence) Gaul, and also Rōmwalas , Rūmwalas Romans. The simplex is also (once) attested in the latter sense (rendering Latin Romanorum in the ultimate source of the gloss, Isidore Origines5. 9. 1): 

OE   Antwerp Gloss. <javascript:void(0)>  (1955) 63   Ius quiritum, weala sunderriht.


Compare also the following passages from the Anglo-Saxon Chron., all having reference to events of 1051 (despite the ostensible dates of the annals), which refer to foreigners from northern France (favoured by King Edward the Confessor and regarded with resentment by the English) variously as ‘Welsh’ , ‘French’, and ‘Norman’, so that Welsh adj. <http://www.oed.com.chain.kent.ac.uk/viewdictionaryentry/Entry/227739#eid14610028>  in this context could imply either generally ‘foreign’ or specifically ‘French’ (compare sense A. 3 <http://www.oed.com.chain.kent.ac.uk/viewdictionaryentry/Entry/227739#eid180799561> ): 

OE   Anglo-Saxon Chron. <javascript:void(0)>  (Tiber. B.iv) anno 1052,   Ealle gearwe to wige ongean þone cyng, buton man ageafe Eustatsius & his men heom to hand sceofe, & eac þa Frencyscan þe on þam castelle wæron.

lOE   Anglo-Saxon Chron. <javascript:void(0)>  (Domitian A.viii) anno 1050,   Þa wæran ða‥[text erased; prob. read wælisce men] æror mid ðan cinge [L. Tunc quidam de Normannis qui cum rege erant uenerunt ad regem].

lOE   Anglo-Saxon Chron. <javascript:void(0)>  (Laud) anno 1048,   Þa hæfdon þa welisce menn gewroht ænne castel on Herefordscire‥. Ða wæron þa wælisce menn ætforan mid þam cynge.


In southern England, Old English wealh was also sometimes used as a common noun to denote a slave or serf, probably on account of many slaves being of British origin in the Anglo-Saxon period (compare sense A. 1b <http://www.oed.com.chain.kent.ac.uk/viewdictionaryentry/Entry/227739#eid202770568> , and for a parallel semantic development compare slave n.1 <http://www.oed.com.chain.kent.ac.uk/view/Entry/181477#eid22495876> ). A feminine derivative Old English wielen , wiln ‘female slave’ ( < wealh + -en suffix2 <http://www.oed.com.chain.kent.ac.uk/view/Entry/61502#eid5555061> ) shows i-mutation (compare α. forms <http://www.oed.com.chain.kent.ac.uk/viewdictionaryentry/Entry/227739#eid14609763>  of the adjective), indicating that this word form is relatively early; see further D. A. E. Pelteret Slavery in Early Mediaeval Eng.(1995) 319–22, 325–8, A. Lutz in Eng. Lang. & Linguistics13(2009) 239-44. Compare: 

OE   Ælfric Gram. <javascript:void(0)>  (St. John's Oxf.) 101   O mea ancilla, esto utilis eala ðu min wyln, beo nytwyrðe‥. O meum mancipium, sere bene eala ðu min weal, saw wel.

OE   Ælfric Old Eng. Hexateuch: Gen. <javascript:void(0)>  (Claud.) xx. 14   Þa genam Abimalech oxan & scep, wealas & wylna [L. servos et ancillas].

OE   West Saxon Gospels: Matt. <javascript:void(0)>  (Corpus Cambr.) xxiv. 50   Þonne cymþ ðæs weles [L. servi] hlaford on þam dæge ðe he na ne wenþ.


The place-name element Wal- ( < Old English Wealh , Anglian Walh ) is common in names dating from the Anglo-Saxon period. In early names and in names from border areas this probably denotes settlements of Celtic Britons; however, the nature of the evidence makes it difficult to identify early formations. In later formations it is more likely that it refers to foreign settlers from the continent. It has also been suggested that it may sometimes denote settlements of serfs. Compare e.g. (on) Wealadene Hertfordshire (c1000; now St. Paul's Walden), Wealtun , Suffolk (a1016; now Walton), Walecford , Herefordshire (1086; now Walford), Wealawyrð , Surrey (11th cent.; now Walworth). In some cases, the element Wal- may represent a personal name, especially where it occurs in the genitive singular or where it combines with a derivative suffix such as -ing suffix3 <http://www.oed.com.chain.kent.ac.uk/view/Entry/95705#eid432608> , compare Welengaford , Berkshire (c925 or earlier; now Wallingford), Waleshale , Staffordshire (c1100, now Walsall). As a personal name Wealh is attested both as simplex (compare Old High German Walh , Walah (8th cent.)) and as name element (in e.g. Æðelwealh ; compare Old High German Adalwalah ).

Dr. Jon Mills, 
University of Kent 

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