Skip to main content
Select Source:



ETHNONYM: Cymry (pronounced kamrī)


Identification. The principality of Wales is one of the four "countries" constituting the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Though once ethnically homogeneous, Wales has had a steady influx of English-speaking settlers since the twelfth century. Prior to 1974 there were thirteen internal divisions or counties; in 1974 these were redrawn into eight counties.

Location. Wales is a wide peninsula that extends into the Irish Sea on the west coast of the island of Great Britain. The northern shore begins at the Dee Estuary and Liverpool Bay, the western shore borders on Saint George's Channel and the Irish Sea, and the south shore consists of the Severn Estuary and the Bristol Channel. The peninsula consists of four major regions. The interior plateaus and uplands are characterized by a shorter growing season, relatively infertile acid soils, and high rainfall. The northwestern and west coastal lowlands or "Welsh Heartland" has a milder climate, longer growing season, and better soils. The "Anglicized Lowlands" along the south coast and the English border have relatively good soils and a more productive agricultural economy. Finally, "Industrialized Wales" is centered in the hills, valleys, and coastal cities of the south.

The Welsh climate is part of the North Atlantic Maritime pattern with relatively heavy rainfall and high humidity throughout the year. Along the coast the amount of rainfall varies between 76 and 80.9 centimeters per year. The annual mean temperature is around 10.4° C with the January mean around 5° C and the July and August mean around 16° C. At times the higher uplands are subject to heavy winter snowstorms.

Demography. As of 1988 the population of Wales was estimated at 2,805,000, of which 76 percent was urban and 24 percent rural. Given the official status of both the English and Welsh languages and the differing degrees of bilingualism, it is impossible to determine the exact numbers of Individuals who ethnically identify as Welsh. The uplands, north, and west are relatively thinly populated. All the large cities (Cardiff, Swansea, and Newport) are in the relatively densely populated southern industrial belt.

Linguistic Affiliation. Both Welsh and English are official languages. During the past two centuries the percentage of Welsh speakers has continued to decline. In 1901 about half the people spoke Welsh; today this is about 20 percent. Welsh is one of the Celtic languages. It is closest to Breton in France. Other related languages are Irish and Scottish Gaelic. In recent years there has been an increasing recognition and use of Welsh in Wales.

History and Cultural Relations

The Celtic conquest of Wales occurred only a few centuries before the Roman conquest of Britain in AD. 70. The Romans withdrew in a.d. 383. This was followed by the arrival of Christian missionaries from Ireland and the Anglo-Saxon invasions from the east. After the seventh century the Welsh were increasingly isolated from the rest of Europe by the expanding Saxon kingdoms. From this time until the arrival of the Normans, Welsh history can be characterized as a complex pattern of internal disputes between its small kingdoms, shifting alliances between different factions, and a constant series of petty wars between these groups and the Saxon Kingdoms. During the ninth and tenth centuries, there was some success at unification, the establishment of a code of laws along with increasing Saxon legal and cultural influences. Between 1066 and the early twelfth century, Norman colonies, towns, and forts along the east and south further isolated the Welsh. In 1282 the Anglo-Norman conquest of Wales was completed, and between 1400 and 1410 the last Welsh revolt was suppressed. Finally in 1536 the Act of Union occurred whereby Wales was made a principality of England, English became the official language, and English law became dominant.

From about 1750 to 1900 much of Welsh life was greatly changed by the industrial revolution and the Methodist-Calvinist religious revivals. The development of coal and iron mining and smelting in the south resulted in massive movements of Welsh workers to the south. Large numbers of English workers also arrived. This division between the urban-industrial south and the rural-agrarian center and north still remains. The Wesleyan and nonconformist Religious movements stimulated a shift away from the established church and provided a new core of Welsh ethnic consciousness.


Traditionally, Wales was a land of dispersed homesteads and small hamlets. The medieval Code of Hywell Dda specified that a hamlet could consist of no more than nine houses or hearths. This pattern was a reflection of the old economy based upon subsistence farming and transhumance dairying with the winter base camp (hendre ) at a lower elevation and the summer camp (havod ) in the uplands. The earliest towns were those founded by the Normans in the south and the coastal strips. After the English conquest in 1292, county administrative and market towns were established, but these usually remained centers of English social life. During the industrialization of the south, larger towns and cities arose but the older rural pattern remained in the uplands and the north.

In the mining communities of the southern vales, slate-roofed and stone-walled row houses often stretch for miles along the valley slopes. Most of these were built in the late nineteenth century.


Subsistence and Commercial Activities . Since the 1830s, the Welsh economy developed into a bifurcated pattern between the rural uplands and the southern industrial Regions. In the uplands, the Welsh Heartland, and the north, the older self-sufficient agricultural, dairying, and sheepherding way of life was increasingly drawn into the larger Regional and national economic networks. The most important: agricultural products included wheat, barley, oats, dairy Products, beef, mutton, and lamb. Potatoes, poultry, vegetables, and fruits were important for household use and local Markets. In today's urban markets most of these are now supplied by English producers. Most dairy products are produced and marketed locally.

Beginning in the 1840s the Welsh economy increasingly shifted to coal mining, iron and steel production, and tin plating in the industrial south. Since 1950 these have drastically declined and are being replaced by light industry, plastics, and chemical- and electronic-equipment manufacturing. The recent development of the deep-water oil port, refinery, and petrochemical complex at Milford Haven has been the one major change. Slate mining remains important in the north.

Industrial Arts. Up to 1930 every locality had a wide range of local craftsmen such as blacksmiths, tanners, clog makers, coopers, etc. By the 1940s these were declining and by the 1950s they had virtually ceased to exist.

Trade. Today one finds a mixture of traditional shops, open-air markets, supermarkets, shopping centers, large department stores, and weekly farmers' open-air markets.

Division of Labor. In the rural areas women traditionally were in charge of food production, dairying activities, and care of the cattle and poultry, whereas men did the heavier work in the fields, pastures, and hedges. Cooperative Exchanges of labor, farm machinery, and farm laborers were essential. With the commercialization of dairying and poultry raising, women's labor load has increased. Modern machines have almost ended the labor exchanges. Costly machines are cooperatively purchased.

Land Tenure. Western and southern Wales was once a land of minor gentry; elsewhere there were small owneroccupied farms. Today the gentry is gone and the small farms predominate. A heavy turnover of ownership for small holdings is normal.


Kin Groups and Descent. The core kin group is the bilateral kindred. Within this group the household and relationships of the first degree (parents, siblings, and children) are the most important. Second-degree relationships (grandparents, uncles, aunts, first cousins, nieces, nephews, and grandchildren) are also important as are those of the third degree (siblings of grandparents and children of first cousins and of nieces and nephews). Both consanguineal and affinal links are important in tracing one's relationships to others in the locality and expressing "community solidarity," reciprocal obligations, and needs. Ideally, people should remain loyal; Otherwise, they risk social isolation. Interconnections between kindreds tend to bind everyone together into larger groups of "kin," which form the bases for local identity. Older Individuals can often trace interrelationships between everyone in a locality back 130-150 years. The kindred also influences membership in religious groups, political affiliation, marriage alliances, and general social interaction. Marriage between kin closer than second cousins is rare. The oldest son in a family is commonly named after the paternal grandfather, the second son after the father, and the first and second daughters after the grandmothers.

Kinship Terminology. Welsh kinship terminology follows a bifurcate-merging pattern as among the English. In some areas there are differing terms for consanguineal as opposed to affinal relatives. Personal or individual preferences often lead to stressing one side of the family as opposed to the other. Lifelong nicknames based upon negative or humorous traits are common.

Marriage and Family

Marriage. Traditionally, a son's marriage was his Important transition to independence and adulthood. This concluded his major economic obligations to his parents. At this time they provided him with a farm, the implements, and livestock. There was a tendency to marry within the local Community if possible. Sons usually married in their late twenties or early thirties and daughters in their mid-or late twenties. The percentage of bachelors was relatively high. Courtship tended to be very lengthy. Today the number of children per family generally ranges between one and three.

Domestic Unit. The basic domestic unit is the nuclear family, which consists of either the husband and wife or the parents and their children. In the latter case this often includes unmarried adult sons acting as unpaid farm workers. A widow or widower who gave up farming traditionally preferred to live with a married daughter. A chosen son, in most cases a younger son, commonly inherited the parental farm.

Inheritance. From medieval times to the present each child has been entitled to his/her share of inheritance. Older siblings usually receive their shares in the form of purchased land, furnishings, and other goods at the time of their Marriage; the chosen heir, often the youngest son, succeeds to the parental land. The sex of the children, movement to the city, and other circumstances can influence these inheritance patterns.

Socialization. Traditionally discipline was maintained through a combination of corporal punishment, moral example, and religious teachings and exhortations, especially in the context of the nonconformist chapels. These were reinforced by an emphasis on the importance of schooling and knowledge in general.

Sociopolitical Organization

Wales is a principality that is governed from Whitehall in London. Since 1964, when the position of Secretary of State for Wales was established, an increasing degree of administrative autonomy for Wales has evolved. AU British political parties are represented, although the Labor Party is strongest in the industrial south. The Welsh Nationalist Party (Plaid Cymru) and other separatist groups are small but vocal. Social Organization. Wales was and remains far less classconscious than England. After the Union of 1536, whereby authority was centralized in London, the aristocrats drifted away and Wales increasingly became a land of smallholders. The Acts of Enclosure were never applied in Wales. A large liberal-oriented working class and an egalitarian middle class have emerged in the industrial south.

Political Organization. In 1974 the internal political organization of Wales was simplified and Monmouthshire, now Gwent, was transferred to Wales. Sparsely populated counties in the north and central uplands were amalgamated and Glamorgan was divided into three new counties. The eight counties were subdivided into thirty-seven districts, and Cardiff retained its status as a city and capital of Wales. Each county and administrative district has its own elected council.

Social Control. On the local level gossip, religious values, and ethnic pride are the primary means of social control. Above this, the British court system prevails. Both English and Welsh are used in the courts.

Conflict. Welsh history was dominated by centuries of military and social conflict with the English and internal dissention. The nineteenth and twentieth centuries have seen the rise of a Welsh cultural revival and ethnic consciousness in the face of a decline in the use of the Welsh language. Much of this revival has centered around the musical and literary competitions of the Welsh eisteddfod, Welsh religiosity, literary societies, and the efforts to have Welsh recognized as one of the official languages in Wales.

Religion and Expressive Culture

Religious Beliefs. Various Protestant churches are dominant in Wales. In 1536 the Church of England became the official faith of the Welsh; by the early nineteenth century, the majority of the Welsh were nonconformists: Calvinist-Methodists, Congregationalists, Baptists, Presbyterians, Unitarians, etc. In 1914 the Church of England was declared no longer the official church of Wales, but the four ancient cathedrals retain their importance for all denominations.

Religious Practitioners. Ministers are respected leaders and moral exhorters in their individual parishes.

Ceremonies. The most important services are the weekly Sunday services and special evening prayer services. Others are Christmas eve and morning services, New Year's Eve, Palm Sunday, Easter, and Harvest Home. Saint David's Day (1 March) for the Patron Saint of Wales has increasingly become a secular holiday related to ethnic consciousness. Bible study, or Sunday schools with age-graded groups for young people and adults, have traditionally been important.

Arts. The local and national literary, musical, and cultural eisteddfods are the core of the Welsh arts. The Welsh poetic tradition remains uniquely strong even today.

Medicine. Medical beliefs and practices are basically the same as those in modern England (i.e., socialized medicine with physicians, surgeons, modern clinics, and hospitals).

Death and Afterlife. Death and the ensuing funeral, with the gathering of the kindred, were traditionally the great reminder of family unity. Every local household was expected to have at least one representative at the funeral and the feast provided for by the family of the deceased afterwards. In the past, careful note was made as to who was and was not there. In some areas the list from the funeral guest book was published in the local newspaper. The basic Protestant belief in the soul going either to heaven or hell was common among the Welsh.


Jenkins, David, Emrys Jones, T. Jones Hughes, and Trefor M. Owen (1962). Welsh Rural Communities. Cardiff: University of Wales Press.

Jenkins, J. Geraint (1976). Life and Tradition in Rural Wales. London: J. M. Dent & Sons.

Jones, R. Brinley, ed. (1972). Anatomy of Wales. Peterston-Super-Ely, Wales: Gwerin.

Owen, Trefor M. (1974). Welsh Folk Customs. 3rd ed. Cardiff: National Museum of Wales, Welsh Folk Museum.

Rees, Alwyn D. (1950). Life in a Welsh Countryside. Cardiff: University of Wales Press.


Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Welsh." Encyclopedia of World Cultures. . 15 Dec. 2017 <>.

"Welsh." Encyclopedia of World Cultures. . (December 15, 2017).

"Welsh." Encyclopedia of World Cultures. . Retrieved December 15, 2017 from




LOCATION: United Kingdom (Wales)

POPULATION: 2.8 million

LANGUAGE: English; Welsh

RELIGION: Methodism; Anglicanism; Presbyterianism; Roman Catholicism; small numbers of Jews, Muslims, Hindus, and Sikhs


Wales is one of the four countries of the United Kingdom. (The others are England, Scotland, and Northern Ireland.) The Welsh people are Celtic (central and western European) in origin and have their own language and cultural heritage. The southern part of Wales was colonized by Normans during the eleventh century ad. The last independent principalityGwynedd, made up of most of North and Central Waleswas conquered by Edward I of England in 1284. Edward's oldest son was given the title Prince of Wales. That title has been held by the oldest son of England's reigning monarch ever since. Wales was officially joined with England in 1707 by the Act of Union, which established the United Kingdom.

South Wales became heavily industrialized in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries with the development of coal and iron mining. In the twentieth century, much of the Welsh population has emigrated to England and other countries in search of better job opportunities. In recent decades there has been a renewal of Welsh nationalism (patriotism). Political and cultural groups have worked to strengthen a unique Welsh identity separate from a British identity.


Wales occupies the western part of the island of Great Britain. It is slightly smaller in size than the state of Massachusetts. It has such beautiful farmland, mountains, valleys, and rivers that one-fifth of the country is designated as national parkland. The country's vegetation is mostly grasslands and forests. The rugged Cambrian mountains dominate the northern two-thirds of the country. The central and southern parts of the country are made up of plateaus and valleys. Roughly 80 percent of the Welsh population live in cities. The most populous area is the south, an industrial region containing the cities of Swansea, Cardiff, and Newport.


Both English and Welsh are the official languages of Wales. The use of Welsh has declined gradually since the late eighteenth century. Almost all Welsh people speak English. Welsh is a Celtic language, closest to the Breton language spoken in a part of France. Welsh was recognized as an official language in 1966. Since the 1960s there has been a movement to increase the use and recognition of Welsh. It is now taught in schools, and there are Welsh radio and television broadcasting facilities.

Welsh is known for its long words, double consonants, and scarce vowels. English-speakers find the language quite difficult to pronounce. The Welsh language contains what is probably the longest place name in the world: Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch, a town name that means "Church of St. Mary in the Hollow by the White Aspen near the Rapid Whirlpool and Church of St. Tysilio by the Red Cave." (It is usually referred to as Llan-fair.)

English Welsh
church llan
small fach
big fawr
head blaen
rock craig
valley cwm
lake llyn
mountain mynydd
little (one) bach


Welsh culture is full of myths and legends. Even the country's national symbolthe dragonis a mythical beast. Almost every mountain, river, and lake, as well as many farms and villages, are associated with some legend of tylwyth teg (fairies), magical properties, or fearful beasts. The Welsh claim that the legendary British hero King Arthur, as well as his magician-counselor Merlin, were from Wales. Another popular subject of Welsh legend is the prince Madog ab Owain. He is said to have discovered America in the twelfth century ad.


Most of the Christian population of Wales is Methodist (also called Nonconformist). Wales also has an Anglican Church, a Presbyterian Church, and one Catholic province. The Welsh are generally quite strict about religious observance. Wales also has small numbers of Jews, Muslims (followers of Islam), Hindus, Sikhs (followers of a Hindu-Islam religion), and other religious minorities. These are concentrated mainly in the large cities of South Wales.


Legal holidays in Wales include New Year's Day (January 1), St. David's Day (March 1), Good Friday (March or April), Easter Monday (March or April), spring and summer bank holidays, Christmas (December 25), and Boxing Day (December 26). St. David's Day commemorates Wales' patron saint. On this day, daffodils are sold everywhere and are either worn on lapels or taken home to adorn houses. Every January, the Festival of St. Dwyhwon, the Welsh patron saint of lovers, takes place. However, it is gradually being replaced by St. Valentine's Day (February).


The Welsh live in a modern, industrialized, Christian country. Many of the rites of passage that young people undergo are religious rituals. These include baptism, first communion, confirmation, and marriage. In addition, a student's progress through the educational system is often marked with graduation parties.


The Welsh are known for their warmth and hospitality. People are friendly with their neighbors. Acquaintances always stop to chat when they encounter each other. Invitations to tea are readily offered and accepted.


Rural dwellers have traditionally lived in whitewashed stone cottages and farmhouses. In the past, many cottages consisted of only one or two rooms, plus a sleeping loft. Another type of traditional dwelling was the long-house, a single-story structure that housed the family at one end and livestock at the other. Housing in the coal-mining areas generally consists of row houses built in the nineteenth century. They have slate roofs, stone walls, and outside bathrooms. Much of the older housing lacks the modern amenities (such as central heating) that people in the United States take for granted. As recently as the 1970s, it was common for people living in older housing to use coal-fired stoves for heat. Fireplaces or electric heaters were used to heat rooms other than the kitchen.


Family and kinship are extremely important in Wales. The Welsh dote on their children. Special occasions are spent with members of one's extended family. When Welsh people first meet, they often ask each other questions to find out if they have relatives in common. The Welsh traditionally married late and had lengthy courtships. In farming communities, adult sons generally remain at home working on their parents' farms until they marry, and a younger son usually inherits the farm.

Most families today have between one and three children. Welsh families spend a lot of time at home. Life in rural areas tends to be very secluded, and a 20-mile (32-kilo-meter) trip to a neighboring village is considered a major undertaking. On Sunday, many attend church, which is followed by Sunday dinner, the most important meal of the week. After dinner, men often meet their friends at a pub (bar). In traditional working-class families, few women have traditionally been employed outside the home.


The Welsh wear typical Western-style clothing for ordinary casual and formal occasions. However, at festivals one can still see women wearing their traditional national costumes. These consist of long dresses, checkered aprons, white collars, and tall black hats (something like a witch's hat but less pointy and with a wider brim) worn over white kerchiefs. On such occasions, men may wear striped vests over white shirts and knee-length breeches with high white socks.


Traditional Welsh cuisine is simple, down-to-earth farmhouse cooking. Soups and stews are popular dishes, and the Welsh are known for the excellent quality of their lamb, fish, and seafood. The well-known Welsh Rarebit is a genuine Welsh dish. It consists of toast coated with a mixture of milk, eggs, cheese, and Worcestershire saucethe original toasted cheese sandwich. One dish that some visitors prefer to avoid is laverbread, a type of seaweed traditionally prepared with oatmeal and bacon. The Welsh bake a variety of hearty desserts including bara brith, a popular bread made with raisins and currants that have been soaked in tea overnight, and Welsh ginger-breadmade without ginger!


Welsh education follows the same pattern as that in England, with schooling required between the ages of five and sixteen. Students take an exam at age eleven. After that, they attend either middle schools that prepare them for college, comprehensive schools that provide a general education, or technical schools for vocational training.


Welsh-language literature is among the oldest continuous literary traditions in Europe, with some of its earliest masterpieces dating from the sixth century ad. Welsh poets have gained recognition in the English-speaking world since the seventeenth century. Wales' most illustrious modern poet was Dylan Thomas (191453), author of the beloved A Child's Christmas in Wales, the radio play Under Milk Wood, and many well-known poems.

The Welsh are a very musical people. Their choral tradition includes celebrated male choirs, a variety of soloists, and pop singers including Tom Jones. Rock bands like the Alarm and the Manic Street Preachers also come from Wales. Several famous actors are Welsh, the best-known being Anthony Hopkins and the late Richard Burton.


Between the mid-1800s and the mid-1900s, coal mining and iron and steel production flourished in Wales. However, workers suffered deprivation and harsh working conditions, as much of the wealth went to industrialists based outside the country. Other major Welsh industries included textiles and slate quarrying. Many Welsh emigrated to England in the early 1930s due to mass unemployment as a result of the Great Depression. Since World War II (193945), traditional Welsh industries have been replaced by light industry, plastics, chemicals, and electronics. Many people are employed in service industries including construction and power production. Dairy, cattle, and sheep farming still thrive, and the Welsh still fish in their traditional boatscalled coracles constructed from willow and hazel branches covered with hide. Workers in Wales' industries have a high level of unionization. Wales has recently experienced a significant increase in foreign investment. However, it remains economically behind the more prosperous regions of England.


Rugby is the most popular Welsh sport. It was introduced to Wales about a century ago from England, where it originated. International matches, especially those against England, generate great national spirit. They are accorded the same status as are the World Series or the Super Bowl in the United States. Soccer (called "football") and cricket are also widely played, and dog racing and pony racing are popular as well.


In their spare time, Welsh people enjoy movies and television. Many people participate in some type of music-making. Choral singing is especially popular. Men commonly spend many of their leisure hours socializing in neighborhood pubs (bars). Women's circles with weekly meetings are widespread in rural Wales, as are young farmers' clubs. In Welsh-speaking areas, the youth organization Urdd gobaith Cymru (The Order of Hope of Wales) organizes summer camps, recreational outings, and musical and dramatic productions, and carries a message of peace to world youth. Popular outdoor activities include hunting, fishing, mountain climbing, pony trekking, (horseback riding) golf, swimming, rock climbing, and hang-gliding.


Such traditional crafts as blacksmithing, tanning, clog-making, and copperworking had virtually disappeared by the 1950s. Woodwork, metalwork and pottery remain strong, however. The use of ancient Celtic designs is popular with many artisans.

The Welsh have a great tradition of choral singing. Their musical and poetic traditions are preserved through a series of competitive folk festivals throughout the nation. The culmination is the Royal National Eisteddfod, an annual contest for poets and musicians attended by tens of thousands of people every August. The festival includes folk dancing and all types of music, from brass bands to Welsh rock groups. Competitions also take place in the fields of poetry, literature, drama, theater, and the visual arts. Events are conducted in Welsh with instantaneous English translation. The festival functions as a major force for the preservation of Welsh cultural identity. The International Eisteddfod at Llangollen, held every July, invites competitors from all over the world to compete for prizes in traditional singing and dancing. The event attracts a wide variety of participants. Another competition is the Cardiff Singer of the Year, which attracts some of the brightest young talent in the opera world. Its prestige has launched a number of highly successful careers.


Unemployment, especially in rural areas, is a serious problem in Wales. Like Scotland, Wales has had a high level of emigration by people seeking better employment opportunities abroad. Concern exists on many fronts about the preservation of Welsh culture. Many are worried that English values and culture will increasingly dominate, and that indigenous values and traditions will be lost. Even with the success of the movement to promote the use of the Welsh language, there is still concern about the survival of rural communities in which the language thrives. Conflicts of interest between monolingual English-speakers and bilingual Welsh-speakers are becoming important issues in many areas.


Fuller, Barbara. Britain. Cultures of the World. London, England: Marshall Cavendish, 1994.

Illustrated Encyclopedia of Mankind. London: Marshall Cavendish, 1978.

Moss, Joyce, and George Wilson. Peoples of the World: Western Europeans. Gale Research, 1993.

Sutherland, Dorothy. Wales. Enchantment of the World Series. Chicago: Children's Press, 1994.

Theodoratus, Robert B. "Welsh." Encyclopedia of World Cultures (Europe). Boston: G. K. Hall, 1992.

Thomas, Ruth. South Wales. New York: Arco Publishing, 1977.


British Council. [Online] Available, 1998.

British Information Service. United Kingdom. [Online] Available, 1998.

British Tourist Authority. [Online] Available, 1998.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Welsh." Junior Worldmark Encyclopedia of World Cultures. . 15 Dec. 2017 <>.

"Welsh." Junior Worldmark Encyclopedia of World Cultures. . (December 15, 2017).

"Welsh." Junior Worldmark Encyclopedia of World Cultures. . Retrieved December 15, 2017 from


1. An adjective relating to Wales, a principality in south—western Britain and part of the United Kingdom. It also relates to its people, and is used elliptically for the nation: the Welsh.

2. The Celtic language of Wales, known to its speakers as Cymraeg. Welsh and Breton are the only surviving members of the ancient British or Brythonic subdivision of the Celtic language family. The original British language was highly inflected, but its descendant, Modern Welsh, has lost some of these inflections. Once the principal language of Wales and a literary language since the 6c, Welsh has been in decline since the accession of the partly Welsh Henry Tudor ( Henry VII) to the English throne in 1485. There are now few monolingual speakers of Welsh, and some 500,000 of the people of Wales are bilingual: that is, 25% of the population. The condition of Welsh at the end of the 20c is relatively stable, and it is being learnt by non-Welsh-speaking Welsh people and others, including immigrants from England. It is taught in all schools and is a medium of instruction in some. In the northern county of Gwynedd it is a language of local government and appears with English on road signs. Language activists, however, consider that much remains to be done.

The spoken language consists of several dialects, and has had a significant influence on the English language as used in Wales, but has had little impact on English at large. The most characteristic sounds of Welsh are the voiceless alveolar lateral fricative (spelt ll as in Llanelli), the voiceless alveolar roll /r̥/ (spelt rh as in Rhondda), and the velar fricative (represented as in Scots and German by ch, as in Llywarch). As in all Celtic languages, grammatical mutations occur, as in the noun ci (dog), where the initial sound is affected by the modifier, as in dy gi your dog, fy nghi my dog, ei chi her dog, and tri chi three dogs. See BORROWING CELTIC LANGUAGES, CUMBRIC, WELSH ENGLISH.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"WELSH." Concise Oxford Companion to the English Language. . 15 Dec. 2017 <>.

"WELSH." Concise Oxford Companion to the English Language. . (December 15, 2017).

"WELSH." Concise Oxford Companion to the English Language. . Retrieved December 15, 2017 from


Welsh of or relating to Wales, its people, or their Celtic language. Old English Welisc, Wælisc comes from a Germanic word meaning ‘foreigner’, from Latin Volcae, the name of a Celtic people; the Welsh name for Wales is Cymru and for its people, Cymry.
Welsh dragon a red heraldic dragon as the emblem of Wales.
Welsh harp another name for the triple harp, a large harp without pedals and with three rows of strings, the middle row providing sharps and flats; the name is recorded from the mid 17th century.
Welsh rarebit a dish of melted and seasoned cheese on toast, sometimes with other ingredients; the term is a late 18th century alteration of the earlier Welsh rabbit (early 18th century), but the reason for the use of rabbit is unknown.
Welsh Wizard a nickname for the Welsh politician and British Prime Minister David Lloyd George (1863–1945).

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Welsh." The Oxford Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. . 15 Dec. 2017 <>.

"Welsh." The Oxford Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. . (December 15, 2017).

"Welsh." The Oxford Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. . Retrieved December 15, 2017 from


Welsh / welsh/ • adj. of or relating to Wales, its people, or their Celtic language. • n. 1. the Celtic language of Wales, spoken by about 500,000 people (mainly bilingual in English). Descended from the Brythonic language spoken in most of Roman Britain, it has been strongly revived after a long decline. 2. [as pl. n.] (the Welsh) the people of Wales collectively. DERIVATIVES: Welsh·ness n.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Welsh." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . 15 Dec. 2017 <>.

"Welsh." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . (December 15, 2017).

"Welsh." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Retrieved December 15, 2017 from


welsh / welsh/ (also welch) • v. [intr.] (welsh on) fail to honor (a debt or obligation incurred through a promise or agreement): banks began welshing on their agreement not to convert dollar reserves into gold. DERIVATIVES: welsh·er n.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"welsh." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . 15 Dec. 2017 <>.

"welsh." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . (December 15, 2017).

"welsh." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Retrieved December 15, 2017 from


welsh swindle out of money laid as a bet. XIX.
Hence welsher (-ER1) XIX. of unkn. orig.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"welsh." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology. . 15 Dec. 2017 <>.

"welsh." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology. . (December 15, 2017).

"welsh." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology. . Retrieved December 15, 2017 from


Welsh pert. to the native British population as opp. to the Anglo-Saxons, (hence) pert. to Wales. OE. (Angl.) Wē̌lisċ, Wǣ̌lisċ, (WS.) Wī̌lisċ, Wȳlisċ, *Wī̌elisċ, corr. to OHG. wal(a)hisc, walesc (G. wälsch, welsch) Roman, Italian, French, Du. waalsch Walloon, ON. valskr Gaulish, French; f. OE. W(e)alh, corr. to OHG. Wal(a)h, ON. *Valr, pl. Valir :- Gmc. *walχaz foreign (Celtic or Roman) — L. Volcæ (pl.) name of a Celtic people, of unkn. orig.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Welsh." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology. . 15 Dec. 2017 <>.

"Welsh." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology. . (December 15, 2017).

"Welsh." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology. . Retrieved December 15, 2017 from


Welsh. See arch.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Welsh." A Dictionary of Architecture and Landscape Architecture. . 15 Dec. 2017 <>.

"Welsh." A Dictionary of Architecture and Landscape Architecture. . (December 15, 2017).

"Welsh." A Dictionary of Architecture and Landscape Architecture. . Retrieved December 15, 2017 from


welsh •welsh • milch • Walsh • mulch

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"welsh." Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes. . 15 Dec. 2017 <>.

"welsh." Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes. . (December 15, 2017).

"welsh." Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes. . Retrieved December 15, 2017 from