Gorgeous Welsh Words about Spring

Glaw Tyfu - 'Growing rain' - and other amazing Spring terms from the Welsh language.

It's April - spring is in full bloom.  I love spring, and to me, it marks the start of the new year more than January 1st does.

But the weather has been - how could be put it - rather un-spring like?

However don't worry, I am sure the sun is around the corner, and for now, here are a list of wonderful Welsh words about spring to get you smiling and looking forward to the long summer to come. 

Y Gwanwyn:  Meaning 'the Spring', or the first season; celebrating renewal, growth, and creativity. This is related to the Cornish 'Gwenton' (Spring) - so likely has a common origin. Not to be confused with Gwenwyn which means poison or venom (the Welsh for bee is Gwenynen).

Hirlwm:  The 'hungry gap' - the period of time in late winter and early spring when supplies are diminishing and sustenance is scarce. The coming of spring marks the end of this harsh season.

Glas, or Glesni:  Traditionally used to mean blue or green, the term also has more general connotations of freshness – like fresh green grass, verdant foliage or 'freshers' (first year college students), so a great word to use in Spring!

Glaw Tyfu / Tyfiant:  Means light April rain conducive to growth (literally 'growing rain') - I love the positive spin on all this spring drizzle.

Glaw (mis) Mai:  A term originating potentially from North Wales, meaning first May rain (reputed to be good for weak eyes and also for killing lice in cattle). So that's helpful!

Pasg:  Welsh for Easter - Pasg Hapus is Happy Easter.

Oen Bach:  Newborn lamb, or little lamb. Spring is an important time on the farming calendar and it feels like newborn lambs can be seen on nearly every hillside in Wales right now! Understandably there are lots of words relating to lambing, including oen llydnes (a ewe's first lamb), oen llaw(f)aeth (hand reared, orphaned, or pet lamb), wyna (lambing), tymor wyna (lambing season), ci defaid (sheep-dog).

Pili pala:  The beautiful Welsh word for butterfly and completely lovely to say.  Pronounced 'pil-ee pal-ah'.

Blodyn:  Flowers, or blossom. Can also be used as a term of endearment, as in "helo blodyn" ("hello flower").  My favourite is the affectionate nickname 'blodyn tatws' or potato flowers (potentially used more in North Wales)! Blodwen is a girls name and means white flower.

Blodeuwedd:  In the Welsh stories of Mabinogion, Blodeuwedd was a woman created by two wizards out of flowers. Some say this was so that she could always look at the sun. The name literally translates to 'flower face' or 'flower form' and she is considered by some to be a character representing spring.

Buwch Goch Gota:  Literally translates to 'Little Red Cow' - or ladybird of course!

Enfys: Rainbow (very appropriate given all those April showers) - also used as a lovely girl's name.

Gwennol:  Swallow. The return of this bird is a symbol of the start of spring for many. Interestingly the word 'Gwennol' is also used to refer to the fast moving shuttle in the Welsh woollen mills we use (gwennol gwehydd, literally 'weavers swallow'.

Cnocell y Coed:  Literally knocker of the wood - or woodpecker! The 'drumming' is a familiar sound in our woodlands at this time of year; mostly used to mark territories and to display in spring.

Gwcw - Cuckoo. The 14th April is the traditional date when it is said the first cuckoo is often heard; following their return from Africa. There is a traditional Welsh song called 'Gwcw Fach' (Little Cuckoo) which has this wonderful verse:

Gwcw fach os yno gweli
Rywun wyla’r dwr yn heli
Cana gân y gwanwyn iddo
Cân o obaith i’w gysuro.

Little cuckoo, if you see there
Someone weeping salty tears
Sing to him the song of spring
A song of hope to comfort him.

Cenhinen Pedr or Cennin Pedr:  Daffodil; literally 'Peter's Leeks'. These flowers have also been sometimes called croeso(’r) gwanwyn - 'Spring's Welcome'.

Hafod:  ‘Summer dwelling’. Specifically referring to the spring time home of a household and its livestock. They traditionally moved from a lowland winter pasture to a higher summer grazing pasture in May.

Calan Mai:  May Day, 1st May. There might be some dancing around a Bedwen Fai (Maypole).

Gwaedu’r gwanwyn:  Spring time blood-letting! A now very out-of-date medical practice whereby it was deemed healthy after a long winter to 'let blood' to clean the body, as a kind of spring tonic. Although happily distantly in the past, perhaps there are parallels with our tradition of spring cleaning - dusting off the old and decluttering the unwanted?

Gwawr Gwanwyn:  The spring dawn. No spring is complete without an early climb up a hill, facing eastwards, to sit with a hot drink and watch the dawn. A must do to chase away the winter blues.

That's it on our tour of Welsh spring words.  If you have any others that you love, do email me kim@welshotter.co.uk.

Thank you for reading - until 21st April we have 15% off our 'Welsh Rain on Blossom Collection - here is the link (discount code is gwanwyn15)