The Names of Welsh Coastal Features



The names of Welsh coastal features include the names of bays, beaches, rocks and whirlpools. Many of these have yet to be listed systematically, and it can be difficult to find information about them in the standard books on Welsh place-names. Of all the enquiries received by the Enwau Cymru on-line service, this is the class of names that seems to cause the most trouble for translators and bilingual administrators.

In order to start to fill this gap, the Language Technologies Unit in Canolfan Bedwyr, which is responsible for maintaining and developing the Enwau Cymru website, listed the task of researching into these names as one of the tasks they would complete with grant assistance from the Welsh Language Board during the 2008-2009 financial year. These names have now been added to the names already in the on-line database, and a certain amount of background information regarding the project is provided below.



The first stage in the project was the creation of a list of place-names connected with coastal geographical features in Wales. To this end, we turned to the 1:25 000 series of Ordnance Survey maps, the most accessible and complete source of coastal place-names available to us. The names in question and the relevant grid references were fed into an electronic database that would, at the end of the project, be added to the comprehensive existing place-name database that can be searched on-line through the Enwau Cymru website.

The second stage in the project was checking the correctness of the Welsh names with regard to orthography and the acceptability of the forms that were recorded. The criteria to which we adhered during the course of this work are outlined below.


Standardization of names: English forms

Extant Welsh forms weren’t listed for all of the coastal features named on the Ordnance Survey maps. In the absence of a Welsh name, the English name, along with its grid reference, was entered into the database unchanged. Additional research was done to ensure that corresponding Welsh names were recorded if they were to be found (see Standardization of names: geographical features with both a Welsh and an English name below).


Standardization of names: Welsh forms

When standardizing the Welsh names included in the database, we followed the guidelines adopted by the Welsh Language Board’s Place-Names Standardization Team.
A Gazetteer of Welsh Place-Names by Elwyn Davies includes a useful summary, in Welsh, of some of the current orthographical conventions that are especially relevant to place-names (see pp. xiii-xv).


Forms left unchanged.

Most of the Welsh names in the database conform to the current orthographical standards. There was no need to change them.


Standardization of accents.

A handful of the names that were added to the database included unconventional use of accents, and these were changed to conform to the current orthographical conventions in Welsh, in accordance with the Board’s guidelines. These names included the following:

Allt Gôch (SN2452) > Allt Goch
Bay Ogof Hen (SM7025) > Bae Ogof Hen
Ogof Gôch (SH1426) > Ogof Goch
Ogof y Ffôs (SM7724) > Ogof y Ffos
Porth Sûr (SH3271) > Porth Sur
Porth y Wrâch (SH1630) > Porth y Wrach
Traeth Bâch (SN1045, SH5736) > Traeth Bach


Standardization of word division and the use of hyphens.

The use of hyphens in Welsh place-names is especially problematic. In the case of names relating to villages, towns and cities, for example, the usual principle is to try to write place-names as one word, using hyphens to mark the position of the accent wherever necessary. However, in the case of geographical features, another orthographical principle is at work, namely that descriptive names, such as aber (‘estuary’), bae (‘bay’), carreg (‘rock’), craig (‘rock’), llech (‘slab’), maen (‘stone’), ogof (‘cave’), penrhyn (‘headland’), traeth (‘beach’), ynys (‘island’), are to be written as separate words when they are found as the initial element in the name of a geographical feature (A Gazetteer of Welsh Place-Names, p. xiii).

Considerable inconsistency was evident in the orthography of names relating to geographical features on the Ordnance Survey maps, with names such as Borth Wen/Borthwen a Porth Llong/Porth-llong being written both ways. These were made consistent in accordance with the principle of writing the names as two separate words. Therefore, for example, Borthwen (SH2774) was changed to Borth Wen and
Borth-wen (SH5283) was also changed to Borth Wen, whereas Borth Wen (SH2741) was left unchanged as it already conforms to the current orthographical standards. Carn Porth-llong (SM7228) was changed to Carn Porth Llong and Maen Porth-llong (SM7328) was changed to Maen Porth Llong, although, again, Porth Llong (SM7328) was left unchanged.



Standardization of accents and word division.

There were a few names that included non-standard use of both accents and hyphens. In such cases, both were corrected at the same time. For example:

Careg-fâch (SS5197) > Carreg Fach
Careg-y-Fran (SM9940) > Carreg y Frân
Pen Traeth-bâch (SN2651) > Pen Traeth Bach


Ensuring consistency with the recognized forms of other place-names.

If the name of a geographical feature included a non-standard form of a place-name that has already been included in the Enwau Cymru database, it was changed to ensure consistency with that name. For example:

Bae Abermaw (SH5914) > Bae Abermo


Standardization of names: geographical features with both a Welsh and an English name

A Welsh and an English name have been provided for a number of the geographical features that are named on Ordnance Survey maps. In such instances, both forms have been included in the database. There were a number of occasions where it was necessary to change the Welsh form to ensure that it conformed to current Welsh orthographical standards. For example:

Pen-Caer (Strumble Head) (SM8941) > Pen Caer

At the same time, it should be noted that there are a considerable number of Welsh names that haven’t been inclued on Ordnance Survey maps. We turned to A Gazetteer of Welsh Place-Names and The Welsh Academy English-Welsh Dictionary in order to attempt to fill some of these gaps.

In addition to this, we translated the elements relating to geographical features in English names where we felt it might be awkward for them to be left unchanged when using Welsh. These was mainly done with names that conform to the pattern name of coastal feature + place-name. For example:

Barafundle Bay > Bae Barafundle
Watwick Point > Trwyn Watwick

Port-Eynon Bay > Bae Port Einon
Tanybwlch Beach > Traeth Tan-y-bwlch

Barry Harbour > Harbwr y Barri
Manorbier Bay > Bae Maenorbŷr
Marros Sands > Traeth Marchros
Newgale Sands > Traeth Niwgwl



Davies, Elwyn, Rhestr o Enwau Lleoedd: A Gazetteer of Welsh Place-Names (Cardiff, 1967, re-issued 1989)
Griffiths, Bruce and Jones, Dafydd Glyn, Geiriadur yr Academi: The Welsh Academy English-Welsh Dictionary (Cardiff, 1995, 6th impression 2006)