Welsh words normally have a tendency to keep to themselves, but every once in a while, they go viral.
Take, for example, Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch. This is a real town in northern Wales, and its name is 58 characters long, making it the second longest official one-word place name in the world (and the longest in Europe).
It’s essentially a scrunched-together amalgamation of several shorter words, and it translates roughly to “St Mary’s Church in the hollow of the white hazel near a rapid whirlpool and the Church of St. Tysilio near the red cave.” The name was actually developed in the 1860s to draw tourists, and the PR stunt seems to have worked. A couple years ago, it made internet history when a U.K. weatherman casually rolled it off his tongue without so much as a stammer.
Though exceptional in its length, this moniker is hardly the only place name in Wales that essentially looks like the end result of someone mashing their keyboard with their fists.
- Gorsafawddachaidraigodanheddogleddollonpenrhynareurdraethceredigion: A train station in Wales
- Llanhyfryddawelllehynafolybarcudprindanfygythiadtrienusyrhafnauole: The unofficial name of a village in Wales
And apparently, these convoluted-sounding places are actually creating a bit of a road hazard in Wales.
You can’t fault Welsh words for being overly long or staggering to look at, though. Welsh is one of the oldest living languages in Europe (up to 4,000 years old), so of course it’s going to sound pretty different to us and confound our English-acculturated eyes, which are used to seeing discernible vowels.
Sadly, Welsh is dying out. It was spoken by 90 percent of Wales until 1850. That number dipped to 18.6 percent in 1991.
The Industrial Revolution brought a mass migration of English speakers into Wales, which led to English eventually becoming the default language (but not without some pushback over the years).
After some political activism aimed at restoring the status of the Welsh language, the Welsh Language Bill passed in 1993, which gave Welsh equal status with English in the public sector. And recently, an initiative to double the number of Welsh speakers to 1 million by 2050 was announced.
Without further ado, here are nine shorter Welsh words that are still sure to tickle your fancy.
Ling di long: Lackadaisical
Cwtch: Cuddle or hiding place
Jiw jiw!: Goodness gracious