Welsh Place Names around Bala, Wales

Places names around Bala:

  • Bala: the outflow from the lake or an isthmus between two lakes (the lake was larger in the past and therefore could have been seperated into two lakes)
  • Cwm Hirnant: valley of the long stream (Cwm is also used for a corrie)
  • Frongoch: red (russet) hillside – coloured by withered bracken in winter
  • Llyn Tegid: Lake Bala – Tegid derives from the prince featured in the “Legend of Bala Lake.” Another possible derivation from “Tacitus,” a Roman general.
  • Llanuwchllyn: Church above the lake
  • Llangower or Llangywair: The church of Saint Cywair
  • Llanycil: The church in a sheltered enclave or retreat
  • Llandderfel: The church of Saint Derfel
  • Llandrillo: The church of Saint Trillo
  • Llanfor: (Llan + mawr) The principal church of Penllyn at one time
  • Llangwm: The church in the valley
  • Cefnddwysarn: The hillside of the two roads. “Sarn” from Latin “strata” (road)
  • Sarnau: plural form of “sarn” – the Roman roads
  • Penllyn: The upper (Dee) valley area around the lake
  • Rhosygwaliau: Rhos (heath) + gwaliau (walls or enclosures)

What exactly is a Llan?
Over 430 places in Wales start with 'Llan'. A 'Llan' was a piece of land, usually circular, enclosed by a wooden fence within which would be a church and, occasionally a Christian community. Each 'Llan' was established around the 6th century by various Celtic saints after whom many (but not all) of the sites were named.

Local mountains:

  • Aran Benllyn: The Aran nearest to Penllyn
  • Aran Fawddwy: The Aran nearest to Mawddwy
  • Arenig: Diminutive form of Aran
  • Arenig Fawr: greater (Arenig)
  • Arenig Fach: lesser (Arenig)
  • Berwyn: The white hills
  • Moel Emoel: The bare rounded hill of Emoel (could be a personal name)

The following vocabulary gives the English equivalent

Water related features:

  • aber: confluence or river mouth
  • afon: river
  • cymer: confluence or meeting of rivers
  • ffos: ditch
  • glan y mor: seaside
  • glan: river bank or lakeside
  • llyn: lake
  • merddwr: still or “dead water” in bogland
  • mor: sea
  • morfa: coastal marsh
  • nant: stream
  • pont/bont: bridge
  • porth: port
  • pwll: pool
  • rhaeadr: waterfall
  • rhyd: ford
  • traeth: beach
  • ynys: island


  • caer/gaer: camp or fortified settlement
  • capel: chapel
  • castell: castle
  • dinas: hill-fort, city
  • eglwys: church usually Anglican
  • fford: road
  • hafod: summer-pasture dwelling
  • hendre: winter dwelling, the permanent homebase
  • llan: church village or parish
  • llys: hall or court
  • melin: mill
  • pandy: a fulling mill
  • pentre: village, hamlet
  • plas: mansion
  • stryd: street (from Roman “strata”)
  • tre, tref: town: also found in cartref (family home)
  • tŷ: house
  • ysgol: school

Land related:

  • bedw/fedw: birch
  • blaen: head, source
  • clawdd: earth-wall or dyke (often topped by hedge or fence)
  • coed: wood
  • derw: oak
  • garth: enclosure
  • ffin: boundary
  • ffridd: hillside rough pasture
  • gwaun/waen: heath, moor
  • heol: road
  • llwyn grove: bush
  • masarn: sycamore
  • onnen/ynn: ash
  • pant: hollow
  • rhos: moor/ heath
  • sarn: causeway, old Roman road
  • wal: stone- wall


  • allt: steep hillside (usually wooded)
  • ban/fan: summit, peak, crest
  • blaen: head, source
  • bryn (bryniau pl.): hill(s)
  • bwlch: pass
  • carn/garn: cairn
  • carreg: stone, rock
  • cefn: ridge
  • craig/graig: rock or cliff
  • crib: crest, summit, ridge
  • cwm: upland valley or cirque (an example of a Welsh word being adopted internationally after 1953 Everest Expedition)
  • dyffryn: valley – usually broad and fertile
  • glyn: steep-sided deep valley (glen)
  • maen: stone
  • moel/foel: bare hill
  • mynydd, fynydd: mountain
  • pant: hollow, depression
  • twyn:  hill
  • ystrad: from Latin “strata” - road

Position/size related (often used in building/place names):

  • bach/fach: small
  • canol/ganol: middle
  • isa/isaf: lower/est
  • mawr/fawr great, big
  • pen: head/top or end
  • ucha/uchaf: higher/highest


  • coch/goch: red
  • du/ddu: black
  • glas: blue (can also mean “green” in older Welsh)
  • gwyn/wyn: white
  • gwyrdd: green
  • melyn: yellow

More Information: