The kick-start guide to Welsh

Published: Monday 18th May 2015

Written by: Powells Holiday Team

Crossing the border on your way to a Pembrokeshire cottage holiday destination might not call for the need to learn a new language, as there are very few Welsh nationals who cannot speak English, but the Welsh language is more available and vibrant in the country than it has been in years and you are sure to come across it at some point.

The reason for this? The United Kingdom has quickly learnt that we cannot let our historic languages die out, and Welsh is among the most traditional and interesting of them all. You may have picked up a familiar destination name or two after the Welsh government made it compulsory to begin replacing road signs for bilingual counterparts in the Welsh Language Scheme, but have you learnt your common greetings?

Here we take a look at Welsh translation and provide a few common courtesies that you could easily try out on your next holiday in Tenby, as well as a few colloquialisms that you might have heard before.

Basic Welsh

While most people will be able to speak perfect English when you visit Wales, it would never hurt to try out a few common greetings if you’re staying in a Welsh-speaking town. From morning greetings to asking questions in the local café, your pronunciation may not be perfect, but you’re sure to get a cwtch or two from the locals for the effort!

Welsh: Cymraeg

Pronunciation: kum-RAig


English: Saesneg

Pronunciation: SAY-sneg


Hello: Helo

Pronunciation: he-lo


Goodbye: Da boch chi

Pronunciation: da BO-khi


How are you?: S’mae?

Pronunciation: s-my? (north) shoo-my? (south)


Fine, thank you: iawn, diolch.

Pronunciation: yown, dee-ol'ch


Awful: Gwael

Pronunciation: gw-i-el


Thank you: Diolch

Pronunciation: dee-ol'ch


Please: Os gwelwch chi'n dda

Pronunciation: oss GWEL-oo-khin dha


What is your name?: Be' dy'ch enw chi?

Pronunciation: bay di'ch enoo ch'ee?


My name is…: … yw f'enw i

Pronunciation: … you ven-oo ee


I’m sorry: Mae'n ddrwg gen i (north) mae'n flin gyda fi (south)

Pronunciation: mine throog ghen ee (north) mine vleen geeda vee (south)


Welsh words that don’t translate

As with all languages there are often words that just can’t be easily translated. Welsh translation is no exception. Here we list some of our favourite Welsh words that we wish we could adopt.


Pronunication: cuh-tch

Taken to mean affectionate hug or cuddle in English.

Cwtch is one word that some may say is single-handedly keeping the Welsh language alive. Voted as the nation’s favourite Welsh word, as reported in this article, cwtch has even been known to cross the border, with many native English speakers using the word to describe an affectionate hug. Linguist Professor David Crystal said, “It's heart-warming to see that, despite all our daily pressures and worries, so many positive emotional words are turning up in this list,” with one couple even adopting the word into the vows, replacing ‘To love and to hold’ with ‘to love and to cwtch’.


Glas wen

Pronuciation: glass when

Literally translated as ‘blue smile’, it is taken to mean a smile that is either insincere or mocking. Featured in writer and illustrator Ella Frances Sanders’ charming illustrated book Lost in Translation among other untranslatable words from different languages around the world (such as the Swedish word for a third cup of coffee, which is ‘tretår’ in case you were interested), glas wen is one we hope makes it into English, or at least Wenglish in the near future.



Pronunciation: HEER-eyeth

While with no direct English interpretation, the University of Wales attempts to define ‘hiraeth’ as a kind of homesickness that is tinged with grief or sadness after the lost or departed. The word was used in the hymns of Wales’ most famous hymn writer William Williams Pantycelyn, as illustrated by Our Big Welsh Challenge, and summarises a nostalgic longing for home and the people and things connected with it, but in a uniquely Welsh way.


Colloquialisms/ ‘Wenglish’

Finally, the crossover between England and Wales has been strong for many years and, as a result, Welsh words and English words have filtered through to one another. This has formed what is now considered as Welsh English or Wenglish, where the dialects of English are spoken in Wales by Welsh people. In addition to this crossover of dialects, there are a few colloquialisms in contemporary Welsh that may be difficult for a native English speaker to understand.

Here we run through a few of the more common Welsh colloquialisms you might come across during your next holiday.

Colloquialism: Tidy

Meaning: Good

English interpretation: Neat


Colloquialism: Pop

Meaning: Fizzy drink

English interpretation: A sudden, explosive sound


Colloquialism: Flicks

Meaning: Cinema

English interpretation: To strike lightly with your finger


Colloquialism: Lush

Meaning: Very nice

English: Growing luxuriantly, normally in relation to green vegetation.


Colloquialism: Create/created

Meaning: Complain/complained

English interpretation: To make something


Colloquialism: Bach

Meaning: My dear

English interpretation: A German composer of the Baroque period


Colloquialism: Bathers

Meaning: Swimming costume

English: People who are bathing


Colloquialism: Butt

Meaning: Friend

English: A person’s derriere/bottom


Colloquialism: Swill

Meaning: Wash

English: Liquid given to swine


Colloquialism: Tea

Meaning: Evening meal

English: A caffeinated hot drink


Colloquialism: Buzzing

Meaning: Unpleasant

English: Low humming noise (or English colloquialism meaning excited)


This is just a small insight into the beautiful language that is Welsh, its colloquialisms and the almost hybrid way of speaking that comes from a Welsh/English crossover. Why not learn a few phrases for your next trip over the border and celebrate the language that is receiving a great modern revival?


This content was written by Ben Edwards. Please feel free to visit my Google+ Profile to read more stories.

Powells Holiday Team
Powells Holiday Team


Powells Cottage Holidays - Cottage holidays est. 1965


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