Main Menu - Misc. - Clothing/Textiles - Medieval Wales - Names - Other Medieval - Publications - Harpy Publications
This is a mini-article exploring the question of what we know about the names of people living in the Brythonic-speaking kingdoms in the north of Britain between the end of the Roman period and the final political absorption of those kingdoms by non-Brythonic-speaking dynasties.
(Throughout this article I have used the word "Brythonic" to refer to the language family as a whole, and "Brittonic" to refer to the language that was, loosely speaking, the common ancestor of that family. "Brittonic" was spoken roughly contemporarily with the Roman period in Britain, while "Brythonic" languages cover that time to the present. The Brythonic language spoken in the north of Britain is often called "Cumbric" after the point when it has diverged from the other branches, but because much of my linguistic evidence and discussion has come to us via Welsh, it seems misleading in this context to speak of particular linguistic forms as "Cumbric".)
In principle, the scope of this article would cover the period from ca. 400 (when direct Roman rule and support officially ended in Britain) until the absorption of Strathclyde around the early 11th century, but for practical purposes the data is drawn from the first three centuries of that period and dips slightly earlier in two cases. The chief political entities involved here are the kingdoms of Elmet (the southernmost of the group, roughly centering around modern Leeds) which maintained independent existence until 617; Rheged (roughly equivalent to modern Dumfries) whose absorption by Northumbria may coincide with the marriage of Rhieinfellt to Oswy ca. 635; Strathclyde (roughly equivalent to the modern region of that name) which may have retained independent political existence until the early 11th century; and Gododdin (extending roughly south from its capital at Edinburgh) which fell to the Anglians around 638, a generation after the defeat commemorated in the Aneirin's poem Y Gododdin. (For general historical background, see e.g. Jarman 1990, Snyder 1998, Duncan 1975.)
Our information sources for this period focus on two classes of people: the ruling nobility, and prominent religious figures. And contemporary evidence, in the strongest sense of the term, is virtually non-existent. For the most part, we must rely on materials composed centuries after the lives of the individuals in question and surviving only in manuscripts of even later date -- often after multiple layers of transmission, at each of which errors, modernizations, or even deliberate alterations may be introduced. The following are the major types of sources:
In the following discussions, I've provided all the known (to me) mentions of the women by name (at least in medieval material), as well as contextual information about who they are and how they were related. If there is significant doubt about the historic existence of the woman (or about the accuracy of the name as recorded) I have discussed that. On a much more speculative level, I have then attempted to offer linguistic reconstructions of how these women's names might have been written and pronounced during their own lifetimes. For these reconstructions I have been forced to treat the names as if they followed Welsh practice for the same period, as the independent evidence for Cumbric at the same period is too scanty to be useful. I have also taken the (lazy) short-cut of relying almost entirely on Jackson's Language and History in Early Britain for these reconstructions, even knowing that a number of his conclusions have been debated and revised by more recent work. (When John Koch's forthcoming book on Old Welsh comes out, I'll cheerfully switch to over-relying on him instead!) The reconstructed pronunciations are given in a common version of "ASCII-IPA" and also using a more English-based system with annotations.
I would like to emphasize that the reconstructions (both written and spoken) are EXTREMELY speculative, and that they are intended as a "better than nothing" offering for those who have reasons to want to use contemporary forms of these women's names, and not as works of strict scholarship. I'm working slightly out of my depth here, and if any of these names have been treated in a more rigorous fashion elsewhere, I would be delighted to be directed to relevant publications so that I can revise this article.
As noted above, the people we know about from this era tend to be drawn from important nobility and their immediate families, or saints and their immediate families. In defining "women of the Brythonic north", I've cast the net over both those born into families associated with the northern Brythonic kingdoms and those who married into those families (typically women originating in Wales). These are the mothers, wives, sisters, and daughters of kings. And, in one case, we have the remnant of an ancient goddess who has been turned into a "fairy-wife" and inserted into a historic genealogy. (In this case her name is a dead giveaway, but it raises the question of how many other names in the early genealogies are fictitious additions from legend.) The relationship of their names to those of non-noble women can only be guessed at. To the extent that we can answer the question, the Brythonic-speaking nobility of the north seem to have drawn from the same general name-pool as their contemporaries in Wales. In many cases, this impression is distorted by the fact that their names have been transmitted through Welsh-language sources, and we could expect any minor dialectal differences to have been normalized away in the process of transmission.
Although the Brythonic-speaking kingdoms in the immediately sub-Roman period (both in the north and in Wales) tended to view themselves as the heirs of Roman culture, very few linguistically Roman names seem to have made their way into the name pool. What evidence there is suggests that by 500 CE, the Roman influence on names lingering from the imperial period had pretty much faded away. The late 4th century (semi-legendary) Cunedda, who is said to have migrated from Manaw Gododdin to Gwynedd with a passel of sons (who all got kingdoms named after them) comes from a line of ancestors who all bear clearly Latin-origin names. But when you get to the multiple dozens of warriors mentioned in the Gododdin poem (ca. 600) only the personal name Rhufon is identifiable as of Latin origin -- the rest are all linguistically Brythonic. So, while it is extremely likely that the people in question here would have had their names written in a Latin format, it doesn't appear to be the case that they would have been using names of Latin origin.
Given that the surviving information about individuals from this region and time focuses almost exclusively on the ruling families (even the early saints that we know about tended to be born into ruling families), and given that these families tended to intermarry, it shouldn't come entirely as a surprise that the seventeen women discussed here can all be located on two pedigrees, and those two are linked via the biography of Saint Kentigern. (A little digging could probably turn up a genetic relationship as well.) The following genealogic tables (drawn almost entirely from Bartrum 1993) show these relationships as they are set out in the sometimes-contradictory literature.
Pedigree one (p.1) shows the lineage of Coel Hen, a northern king on the very edge of reliability. In addition to having a wife and daughter whose names are recorded, his descendants connect two of the other main family groups.
Pedigree two (p.2) shows the line centering around the prominent early 6th century figures Urien Rheged (king of Rheged) and his double-first-cousin Llywarch Hen. Both of these individuals figure in the earliest surviving "Welsh" poetry. "Welsh" is in scare-quotes here because, although the poems have come down to us via the Welsh language, if the northern associations are accurate, they may have been originally composed in an early version of Cumbric, a cousin of Welsh. Urien Rheged was a patron of the poet Taliesin and is mentioned in several of the poems considered to belong to the historic poet (as opposed to the mythic figure who took over his name). There is an entire poetic cycle associated with the name of Llywarch Hen, although it is now considered doubtful that Llywarch himself was the actual author of any of the material.
Pedigree three (p.3) shows the relationship of three women, said to be daughters of Brychan (king of Brycheiniog in south Wales). Two of them married into the line of Rheged. A third married a man who appears to be associated with the region of Roxburgh in Scotland, however her date associations are about a century too late to be a sister to the other two. A vast and variable number of men and women appear in various lists of Brychan's children and it is certain that many of them were not actually his biological sons and daughters (simply based on dating problems) and some of these can be reliably identified as later inventions, scribal errors or doublets (one name turning into two people in slightly different variants), or unrelated individuals who have been given more genealogical cachet by being attached after the fact to Brychan's lineage.
Pedigree four (p.4) shows part of the royal family of Strathclyde, again centering around a prominent historic figure of the 6th century, Rhydderch Hael. He was a contemporary of Urien Rheged, and connects even more closely in the literature to Saint Kentigern who, according to some sources, was a grandson of Urien.
Pedigree five (p.5) shows part of the royal family of Elmet. According to the traditional genealogies, this line connects with pedigree #1 because Lleenog is a great-grandson of Coel Hen Gwodebog. This may, of course, be a political fiction.
(In the following pedigrees all women's names are in bold-face; women married, but not born, into the northern families are also in italics. Dates are, virtually always, approximate calculations based on assumptions about average generation-length, and correlated with known historic events.)
Pedigree 1 (p.1) -- the lineage of Coel Hen
Coel Hen m. Ystradwel d.o. Gadeon (ca. 360) |________________ | | Cenau (ca. 400) Gwawl (ca. 380) |_____________ | | Gwrgwst Maeswig Gloff | | Meirchion Gul Lleenog (see p.2) (see p.5)
Pedigree 2 (p.2) -- the dynasty of Rheged
Meirchion Gul (ca. 460) |________________________________ | | Cynfarch Oer (ca. 480) Elidir Llydanwyn m. m. Nyfain (d.o. Brychan see p.3) Gwawr (d.o. Brychan see p.3) | | |______(poss. diff. mother?)_ Llywarch Hen (ca. 520) | | (Peniarth 50) | twins_________ | | | | Urien Rheged Efrddyl Enynny (ca. 510) m. Eliffer Gosgorddfawr m. | Modron Ceindrech (or Arddun) + 2 brothers (triplets) (d.o. Afallach -- these two are legendary "otherworld" figures) | |____(poss. by a different mother)_____ | | (twins)__________ | | | | Owein (ca. (530 Morfudd Rhun (ca. 550) m. | Denw (d.o. Lleuddun Luyddog) | | | Cyndeyrn Garthwys Rhwyth (S. Kentigern) ca. 550 | (see also p.4 for contemporaries) | Rhieinfellt (ca. 615)
Pedigree 3 (p.3) -- the children of Brychan
Brychan Brycheiniog (either ca. 400 or ca. 470 -- these work with the later date), king of Brycheiniog in South Wales |_____________________________________ | | | Nyfain Gwawr Gwrygon m. m. Cynfarch Oer (see p.2) Elidir Llydanwyn (see p.2)
Pedigree 4 (p.4) -- the dynasty of Strathclyde
Rhydderch and Languoreth are contemporaries of S. Kentigern (see p.2) and appear in his biography.
Rhydderch Hael (king of Strathclyde) (ca. 540) m. Languoreth |_____________________ | | Gwladus Angharad Tonfelen
Pedigree 5 (p.5) -- the dynasty of Elmet
Lleenog | |___________________ | | Gwallog (ca. 500) Dwywai (ca. 500) | Onnen Grec
(I've presented them roughly in generational order, but grouping mothers and daughters together.)
YSTRADWEL (standardized modern form)
Ystradwel is said to be the wife of Coel Hen and mother of Gwawl (see following). She has a calculated date of ca. 360, which places her linguistically in the Brittonic period rather than anything that could yet be called Cumbric. The single source for her existence (although her name occurs in several manuscripts, in a variety of spellings) and the late date of the surviving mentions of her make any interpretation of her name very difficult.
She is mentioned in a text known as "Bonedd yr Arwyr" (see Bartrum EWGT), which occurs in a number of manuscript copies of the late 15th century and later.
Ystradwel -- several manuscripts dating from the late 15th c. and later
Stradweul -- ms. of the early 16th c.
Stratweul -- several mss. dating from the early 16th c. and later
Ystrawavl -- ms. of the mid 16th c.
I am hesitant to connect the name with a transparent reading of its elements. Welsh ystrad "valley" is a borrowing of Latin strata "road", and the presumed deuterotheme in the form -wel is reminiscent of that of names such as Gweirfyl (e.g., 13th c. Wervel, Morfyl (e.g. 13th c. Moruel), Erdudfyl. But these all resolved to an -fy- form, arguing against this interpretation in the present case. It's also hard to balance the arguments for -wel as the earliest surviving version, with -weul as the more widely spread version. The name appears to be a compound of ystrad+wel and as will be discussed for several names, a deuterotheme beginning with "w" has several possible origins. Combining these several uncertainties I'm not comfortable trying to project an early form. (If the protheme is, in fact, the same as the place-name element ystrad, it's also possible that this is a misinterpretation or reinterpretation of a place-name as a personal name -- see the discussion under Gwrygon below.)
GWAWL (standardized modern form)
Gwawl is given as a daughter of the 4th century northern king Coel Hen. Mention of her survives primarily because she is also said to be the wife (or, less reliably, the mother) of Cunedda Wledig. Since two daughters are attributed to Cunedda, this link might add more names to the list (even though Cunedda's children all have their associations with Wales proper). His children are problematic as a group, however. Each is linked to a major regional place-name in Wales (e.g. Meirion Meirionydd) and, while the names themselves may be valid, the associations with Cunedda may be a political fiction, designed to tie together a wide variety of local traditions. One of the supposed daughters, Tegeingl, is demonstrably fictitious, as the region allegedly named for her can be traced instead to the Brittonic tribal name Deceangli. This makes the northern connection doubtful enough that I've left them out.
Wawl - JC MS 20 written late 14th c., copied from ms ca. 1200 (the name occurs in a context calling for lenition, so this can be read as Gwawl)
Gwawl verch Goel - Bonedd yr Arwyr (see Bartrum EWGT), 15th c. and later mss
The name Gwawl also occurs as a masculine name in the Mabinogi.
There is no reason not to interpret her name as identical to the common noun gwawl "light, brightness, radiance, splendor". This would derive it from a Brittonic *uál- (GPC). The 4th century date places this name before the loss of final, inflectional syllables in Brittonic, so in addition to proposing a Latinized written form along the lines of Vala, we can suggest a spoken form along the lines of ['wa-la] (assuming an a-stem noun declension), or in English syllables "WAH-lah".
GWAWR (standardized modern form)
Gwawr, and her supposed sister Nyfain, are listed as daughters of Brychan, king of Brycheiniog, in the earliest (and presumably most reliable) lists of his children. However for all of Brychan's alleged children, even if the individual is historic, the specific relationship may have been invented for later dynastic purposes. Bartrum (WCD) gives the two women an approximate calculated date in the late 5th century (these calculated dates are based on standard generation-lengths from individuals who can be more solidly dated). Both appear in all the early lists of Brychan's children, although in one Nyfain's name is badly (and oddly) corrupted. Gwawr is said to have married Elidir Llydanwyn ap Meirchion Gul, and was the mother of Llywarch Hen. Her citations (Bartrum EWGT) are as follows. (In all of the following discussions, if I have failed to note my immediate source for a manuscript citation, it can be assumed to come from one or the other of Bartrum's works, as listed in the References section.)
Guaur - De Situ Brecheniauc (Cotton ms. Vespasian A xiv, fos. 10v-11v (ca. 1200) text perhaps a century earlier.
Gwawr - Cognacio Brychan (Cotton MS. Domitian I, fox. 157v-158v) ms. dated 1502-55, copied from a ms poss of the 13th c.
Gwawr - JC MS 20 written late 14th c., copied from ms ca. 1200
Gwawr - Plant Brychan
Other early examples of Gwawr as a personal name can be found in genealogical material and other sources, with variable levels of reliability.
There seems no reason not to accept that the personal name is linguistically identical to the common noun gwawr meaning "dawn". Given this, we can reconstruct a late Brittonic *uori- (based on GPC), and a probable Latinized written form Voria. A 5th century date places this before the complete loss of inflectional endings, but after their severe reduction. So the pronunciation might be something like: ['wor-j@]. Or, approximated by English syllables, "WOHR-yeh".
NYFAIN (standardized modern form)
For general background, see the comments on her supposed sister Gwawr above. Nyfain is said to have married Cynfarch Oer ap Meirchion Gul, and was the mother of the twins Urien Rheged and Efrddyl. (Cynfarch has other attributed children -- see e.g. Enynny below -- but Nyfain is not explicitly given as their mother.) Her name appears in early lists of Brychan's children in the following forms (Bartrum EWGT).
Neuein - De Situ Brecheniauc (Cotton ms. Vespasian A xiv, fos. 10v-11v (ca. 1200) text perhaps a century earlier
Nyuen - Cognacio Brychan (Cotton MS. Domitian I, fox. 157v-158v) ms. dated 1502-55, copied from a ms poss of the 13th c.
Drynwin - JC MS 20 written late 14th c., copied from ms ca. 1200, although the family relationships given for this person match those for Nyfain, it's hard to see how the name could be corrupted in this way
Nevyn - Plant Brychan
Another possible example of the name in South Wales (although there is no indication that it is for the same person) is the dedicatory saint of a place mentioned in the Book of Llandav as Villam Sancti Nuvien and Lann Uvien (presumably a reanalysis of Lan Nuvien?) (Bartrum WCD). The latter is from a charter given a tentative date in the late 8th century (Davies EWM). The same location is given in a 1336 document as Sancti Nyveyn al. Niveyn (Bartrum WCD).
Despite the variant form of the diphthong in the second syllable in some of the Llandav material, the evidence as a whole suggests a standardized form of Nyfain (Medieval Welsh standardized form Nyvein), with occasional reduction of the diphthong. None of the citations are early enough to reveal whether the radical underlying the f is m or b. It is tempting to try to connect the first syllable with *nem "heaven, sky" (GPC). It is tempting to try to connect this name with the second part of the masculine given name Ednywain. There are occasional examples of conversion between v/w (in both directions -- see further under Morfudd below), and the initial part of this name appears to derive from *Iud-, similarly to the names Idnerth/Iudnerth, Ithel/Iudhael, Iudnimet/Ednyfed et al. (Morgan & Morgan tentatively suggest that Ednywain derives instead from a cut-and-paste of Ednyfed and Owain, but this sort of recombination that cuts across known thematic elements is a very unsatisfactory hypothesis.) This connection, however, doesn't help in reconstructing an early form, as the masculine name survives only in medieval examples.
The ns may be taken as original, being astonishingly stable among all the changes of the language. If we take the original of the middle consonant as m without assuming a particular derivation, then the first syllable reconstructs as either *nem or *nim (Jackson p.278ff), but if the latter, then we would expect a change to nem by the 5th century. While the m would have begun lenition at this date, it was still strongly bilabial and nasal, but moving from being a stop to a fricative. The diphthong in the final syllable must arise from a simple vowel via some sort of vowel affection. The most likely candidate for this particular result appears to be something like -ani-. Inscriptional evidence suggests that this vowel affection was at work in pronunciation by the end of the 5th century, although it is only very rarely indicated in written forms at that time (Jackson p.579ff). If so, this would presumably derive originally from a feminine ia-stem declension, although Latinized written forms of this period appear to treat all feminine names as regular a-stem nouns. This woman lived roughly during the period when syllable loss was occurring, so we can assume that the inflectional ending would be much reduced, but perhaps still pronounced.
We can then suggest a Latinized written form of Nemania and a pronunciation something like ['neB~-ajn-j@]. Or, approximated by English syllables, "NEV-ine-yeh" but where the "v" is made with both lips and is nasalized.
GWRYGON GODDAU (standardized modern form)
Most of the lists of the children of Brychan Brycheiniog include a daughter Gwrygon, said to have married Cadrodd Calchfynydd, who is thought to be associated with the region around Roxburgh in what is now Scotland, placing her in our northern context. The dates calculated for her husband place him ca. 550, nearly a century later than the dates for the other two daughters of Brychan mentioned here. In general, the "core group" of Brychan's children fall in an early group and a late group, each of which could plausibly be contemporaries, but which are incompatible with each other.
Gurycon Codheu - De Situ Brecheniauc (Cotton ms. Vespasian A xiv, fos. 10v-11v (ca. 1200) text perhaps a century earlier
Grucon Guedu vxor Cradauc Calchuenit - Cognacio Brychan (Cotton MS. Domitian I, fox. 157v-158v) ms. dated 1502-55, copied from a ms poss of the 13th c.
[G]rugon - JC MS 20 written late 14th c., copied from ms ca. 1200
Gwrgon - Plant Brychan
Several of the sources for her name seem to confuse it somewhat with the masculine given name Gwrgan, and we should probably take the DSB form as the best base to work from. However the best linguistic connections for it cast some doubt on the historicity of this woman. Gwrygon is the Medieval Welsh evolution of the Romano-British place-name Viriconium (modern Wroxeter). The Old Welsh forms Guricon (Nennius) and Gureconn (in the poetry attributed to Llywarch Hen) are attested for the place. Jackson (LHEB p.601f) offers the Brittonic reconstruction *Uricono- for the place-name.
It is not at all unheard of for place-names to be transformed into personal names in the early Welsh tradition, either by inventing an eponym for which the place is said to have been named, or by mis-interpreting a reference to a place as a reference to a person. One of the most familiar examples of this is the creation of the name Myrddin (=Merlin) as a back-formation from the place-name Caerfyrddin, where we have clear evidence that the place-name derives from the Romano-British Moridunum "sea-fort". On the other hand, we also have rare examples where a name that clearly originates as a place-name somehow came into use as a personal name. A good example of this is the place-name Tegeingl, traceable to the British tribal name Deceangli, which Giraldus Cambrensis mentions as occurring as a woman's name (in fact, he offers a pun based on the name being both a woman's name and a place-name), and may also appear in the 1292 Lay Subsidy Roll for Skenefrith. So while co-existence as a place-name weakens the case for this as a valid personal name, it doesn't eliminate it entirely.
Following Jackson's derivation for the place-name, we can suggest a mid 6th century Latinized written form along the lines of Vricona, or following the earlier Latin forms of the place-name Viricona. This would correspond to a pronunciation along the lines of ['wri"-gon] or in English syllables "OORIH-gohn" but treating the first part as a single syllable, and where the "ih" vowel is more of a high schwa than the usual pronunciation of this sound.
I am uncertain enough about the possible derivation of the byname to hesitate to offer suggestions (since this is a side issue to the main thrust of the article). It may derive from the root cawdd (with variant codd depending on stress) with a meaning "anger, vexation, affliction", but while -au is a possible plural suffix, it is not the one normally found for this word.
EFRDDYL (standardized modern form)
While Nyfain and Gwawr married into the Rheged aristocracy, and so we can at best say that their names are ones that may have been used in that context, the two women in the next generation were born into that family, so we can postulate that their names represent ones current in that culture.
Efrddyl is said to be the twin sister of Urien Rheged, giving her a calculated date in the early 6th century. While it's true that twins sometimes run in families, enough pairs of twins are attributed to this particular royal line that some skepticism may be called for -- especially when other mythic elements appear. Efrddyl's three children are said to be triplets, including a daughter Ceindrech (or in one source, Arddun).
Euerdil - De Situ Brecheniauc (Cotton ms. Vespasian A xiv, fos. 10v-11v (ca. 1200) text perhaps a century earlier
Erduduyl - JC MS 20 written late 14th c., copied from ms ca. 1200; this is not so much a corruption of the name as a substitution of a similar-sounding name -- there are several examples of the feminine name Erdudfyl in legal records of the late 13th century (e.g., the 1292 Lay Subsidy Roll for Meirioneth and Cilgerran)
Evrddyl - Plant Brychan
She is mentioned in the triads (Bromwich TYP no. 70) as having one of the "three fair womb-burdens" of Britain. In various versions, her name is given as:
[...]dyl -- (the text is evidently incomplete) Peniarth Ms. 47 (15th c.)
Eurddel -- Peniarth Ms. 50 (first half of the 15th c.)
As Urien's sister, she also rates two mentions as mourning her brother's death in the poetry associated with Llywarch Hen (Williams CLH, Ford PLH). The text is from the Red Book of Hergest, created ca. 1375 but with material copied from earlier sources. Her name appears there as Euyrdyl and Eu[y]rdyl (i.e., in the text as Eurdyl for the second), which are consistent with the date of composition or the couple centuries previous.
This personal name also occurs for the mother of Saint Dubricius (second half of the 5th century). The Book of Llandav (Bartrum WCD) mentions several places named presumably after her, in documents tentatively dated around the 8th century:
insulam ebrdil (island p.76, charter 76a, dated ca. 575 but of questionable historicity)
Euirdil (river p.78, charter 77, dated ca. 625 but of questionable historicity)
euyrdil (river p.78, charter 77)
(as marginalia in charter 77, we also see Eurdila' with a t erased over the a, and Eurdila with a macron over the a where we might expect a Latin accusative ending in -m)
The life of Dubricius is in a 15th c. hand:
Ebrdil (dau. of Pepiau p.78-9, life of Dubricius, the b was later altered to u)
inis ebrdil (island p.79, 80, life of Dubricius)
(as marginalia on p.79 we also have ynys evrddyl)
Lann Efrdil (church p.159, charter 159a, dated ca. 685 but of questionable historicity)
(as marginalia on p.159 we also have llann eurdyl)
finnaun efrdil (river p.173, charter 171b, dated ca. 860)
Lann Ebrdil (church p.192, charter 192, dated ca. 745 but of questionable historicity)
aperfinnaun emrdil (river p.264, charter 264a, dated ca. 1030)
aper finnaun efrdil (river p.264, charter 264a, dated ca. 1030)
Here we have some nicely useful early forms. Despite the conflict between the b and m forms, the b strikes me as being the more reliable. The second syllable in the tri-syllabic forms is epenthetic and may be discounted when reconstructing. Furthermore, the r, dd, and l are relatively unproblematic in reconstruction. The initial vowel has several possible originals, partly dependent on the lost vowel in the first half of the name. (The existence of such a vowel is much more likely than that the cluster -brd- was original, although in theory it could occur either after the b or r.) If the lost vowel caused i-affection (Jackson p.579ff), then the initial vowel could have been any of a, e, u. If the lost vowel caused a-affection, then the initial could have been i (Jackson p.573ff). If the lost vowel caused no affection, then the original initial was presumably e. The only remotely similar Brittonic name that comes to mind is the Romano-British Eburacum (York), but there is no positive basis for assuming any sort of connection between the two names.
We can't dodge the question, because in this woman's lifetime, vowel loss would not have occurred yet in written forms (although it was likely well progressed in speech). So we're left with offering a number of incomplete possibilities for written forms (assuming the standard Latinate feminine ending -a):
*ebVrdila (where V=e, o, u)
*ebrVdila (where V=e, o, u)
For a spoken form, if we take an optimistic view of the earliness of syllable loss, and taking into account lenition, then the only real uncertainty is the initial vowel. Using, just as an example, the "e" possibility, we would get something like: ['EBr-DIl] or, in English syllables, "EVR-dhill" but where the "v" is made with both lips and the "dh" represents the initial sound of "then".
As it happens, there is also a common noun in Medieval Welsh of the form efrddyl, the irregular plural of an apparently rare word afrddwl meaning "sad, unfortunate", or as a noun "disappointment, misfortune" (GPC). It would be precipitate to conclude that the personal name actually derives from this word, however it offers a way of resolving some of the multiple possibilities. The derivation offered for afrddwl suggests a Brittonic *ab(a)r-dall- and for the plural *ab(a)r-dalli. There are some problems with this reconstruction if the (a) is included, so we shall omit it. This would give us a 5th c. written form of Abrdalli and a pronunciation along the lines of ['aBr-Di"l], or in English syllables "AHVR-dhi"l" where i" represents a vowel like schwa but higher in the mouth, and v as above.
CEINDRECH (standardized modern form)
In the triads, Efrddyl (q.v.) is said to have borne triplets (one of the "three fair womb-burdens"), given a calculated date ca. 530, that included the sons Gwrgi and Peredur (who figure in the poem Y Gododdin) and a daughter Ceindrech.
Ceindrech's name is given in Peniarth Ms. 50 as Ceindrech Pen Askell "C. wing-headed" but in one case as Ardun (in Peniarth Ms. 47, probably due to confusion with a woman bearing the same byname in the previous century) (Bromwich TYP).
Bartrum (WCD) lists several other women of a similar era, of variable levels of historic reliability, named Ceindrech, although in one case this name has been erroneously substituted for another.
A straightforward linguistic interpretation of the name would understand it as cain "beautiful" + drych "appearance, image". (In all cases, the forms of the name available reflect medieval-era spellings.) If this is so, then the reconstructions of these words found in the GPC and in Falileyev can be greatly helpful, suggesting a Brittonic *kanio-drikk-. In the early 6th century, this would be expected to give us a Latinized written form Caniodricca with a pronunciation along the lines of ['kan-I-DrIx], or in English syllables "KAHN-ih-dhrikh", where "dh" represents the initial sound of "this" and "kh" the "hard" ch of Scottish "loch".
ENYNNY (standardized modern form)
In the same generation as Urien and Efrddyl, also described as a daughter of Cynfarch Oer, but with no identification of the mother, is Enynny, the mother of Meurig, who figures in the Life of Saint Cadog. There is a certain amount of difficulty in reconciling the dates and geography involved. The events involving Cadog are located around Gwynllwg in the south-east of Wales -- although the re-location from the North might reasonably be explained by a marriage. Bartrum (WCD) assigns Cadog a date ca. 495 (and his Life mentions enough historic personages that he may be considered reasonably pinned down) and Meurig a questionable date ca. 470 although it isn't at all clear what this calculation is based on. Assuming Enynny is accurately identified as a sister of Urien Rheged, that gives her a date ca. 500, and while Meurig's father is mysteriously absent from most references to him, in at least one place he is identified as Caradog Freichfras, who is assigned a calculated date ca. 470. The most likely explanation is that multiple people have been conflated in some fashion here, but sorting them out is probably impossible. It appears that all the information about the name Enynny comes via the S. Cadog connection, so even if this is a different woman than the possible northern woman, it is the evidence we must examine. (Bartrum WCD & EWGT)
Enhinti Life of S. Cadog (Cotton Ms. Vespasian A xiv (ca. 1200), written ca. 1100)
Enynny (Peniarth Ms. 131, ca. 1475; other versions of this text have less reliable forms such as Efynny Cardiff Ms. 25 1640; Enyni Peniarth Ms. 131 before 1547)
a mis-copied form can be seen in:
Emminni JC Ms. 20 written late 14th c., copied from ms ca. 1200
and we can safely ignore the very corrupt, later forms:
Henfyn (Harleian Ms. 2414 fo. 59v; Mostyn 212b p.59, both late 16th c.)
With the exception of the possible conflation of more than one woman of the name here, I know of no other examples of this name.
The profusion of forms for this name is less of a problem for reconstruction than some inherent ambiguities. Both nh and nt appear in Old and Medieval Welsh for original *nt (the precise nature of the sound could depend on various positional factors, so the appearance of both in Enhinti need not be a problem). Borrowings into English in the 6th century show that the pronunciation of *nt was still firmly [nt] at this time. However nh could also derive from nVs if the s began the second element of a compound (Jackson p.514), and this h would have been lost by late Medieval Welsh, just as one deriving from nt would. So we can set up two avenues to explore:
_nt_nt_ (with the underscores filled in by vowels)
This s at the beginning of second elements shifted to being pronounced [h] and written h probably some time during the first half of the 6th century, and direct evidence is lacking for the date of this woman's life. So even if we lean towards that explanation, we're still left with uncertainty about the expected forms at our desired date.
The initial vowel has many of the same problems as that of Efrddyl -- by the 7th century we could assume that it has assumed the form e, but before that we have a number of possible origins. The other vowels seem likely to be original, but there must have been some entire syllable lost at the end in order to preserve the final vowel (i.e., we aren't dealing with an original -ntia losing an inflectional ending, but rather with an original -nti_a with the space filled with a consonant or semi-vowel). One possibility here would be -ntiga, and another might be -ntiia (= [-ntija]), but there may be other possibilities as well.
If etymological connections could be made with other names, it might be possible to narrow down the suggestions here, but as it stands, they multiply too rapidly to be manageable. After the syllable loss and sound-shifts leading up to the 7th century, it would be reasonable to suggest Entintia or Enhintia as a Latinate written form, and ['En-hIn-hi] as a pronunciation (or, in English syllables, "EN-hinn-hee"), whatever the origins. But I will decline to try a form earlier than the 7th century.
MODRON (standardized modern form)
Of the women discussed here, only Modron is clearly a mythological addition to an otherwise historic context. Peniarth Ms. 147 (1556) includes a legend that Urien Rheged had twins by "the daughter of the king of Annwn" (the Welsh underworld), and this mother is specifically identified in the triads as Modron verch Afallach (Bromwich TYP no. 70 ). Elsewhere in medieval Welsh literature, Modron appears as the mother of Mabon, a pair generally considered to preserve a divine mother and child (the names Modron and Mabon derive from roots meaning "mother" and "son" with the suffix -on typically found in divine or semi-divine names). Afallach generally appears as a son of the legendary Beli Mawr, and the namesake of Ynys Afallach, an alternate name for the island of Avallon. The story of Urien's encounter with Modron further enhances the other-worldly aspects: Modron has a destiny laid on her that she must wash at a ford until she has a son by a Christian. (The otherworldly woman washing at the ford is a repeating motif in both Welsh and Irish legend.)
The children of this encounter were Owein and Morfudd, and while we must exempt Modron from our list of plausible women's names for this period, the children have names that are otherwise unexceptionable in this context, and there is no reason to assume that they are spurious.
In relation to this specific figure, the name appears as:
[M]odron merch Auallach - Peniarth Ms. 47
Modron ferch Avallach - Peniarth Ms. 50
The mythological figure of Modron can be found in many other contexts, presumably going even as far back as Gallo-Latin references to the matrones in dedicatory inscriptions.
Because this name is not being recommended as a plausible human name, no reconstructed written and spoken forms are offered.
MORFUDD (standardized modern form)
Morfudd is the twin sister of Owein ap Urien Rheged, both said to be children of the otherworld-mother Modron. This would give her the same calculated date of ca. 530. Morfudd also makes a walk-on appearance in the tale of Culhwch and Olwen, while her brother Owein, in addition to numerous reasonably historic references, is inserted by Geoffrey of Monmouth into the Matter of Britain and eventually gets his own Arthurian romance, as Yvain.
Morud - JC MS 20 written late 14th c., copied from ms ca. 1200 (this is a slightly corrupted form)
Moruud - Peniarth Ms. 47
Morwyd - Peniarth Ms. 50
Moruyd - White Book of Rhydderch (fictional) (from Bromwich TYP)
Moruud - Red Book of Hergest (fictional) (from Bromwich TYP)
While this woman appears to be the only reliable early Morfudd (Bartrum WCD lists another who is purely legendary), the name is reasonably common in the later medieval period. The lack of early examples, however, makes historic reconstruction difficult.
If this name is understood as a typical dithematic compound, then the first element can be isolated fairly confidently as Mor-, an element that has two possible origins in Brythonic names: *Mori- "sea" and *Maro- "large, great". But by the mid 6th century, both of these would appear as Mor-.
Despite the appearance of f at the beginning of the second element in the standardized form of the name, early medieval examples alternate the more conservative u/v and the slightly later w, arguing for an underlying second element beginning with gw. (There are several names that show this same ambiguity, with apparent shifts in both directions from w to f and the reverse. See e.g. the discussion by Williams (1930) "Anawfedd, Blodeuwedd, -medd".)
This interpretation takes us back to an Old Welsh *guid for the second element, probably from Brittonic *ued-, for which we'd expect a mid 6th c. form vid. So for a mid 6th century Latinized written form, we can postulate Morvida, and a pronunciation along the lines of ['mor-wi"D] or, in English syllables, "MOHR-wi"dh" where i" represents a vowel like schwa but higher in the mouth, and "dh" represents the initial sound of "this".
DEN(Y)W (standardized modern form)
Morfudd's brother Owein married a woman named Den(y)w (as we shall see, her name is recorded in a vast variety of forms) for whom we have a fair amount of data since her son was Cyndeyrn Garthwys, better known as Saint Kentigern, a prominent early saint of the north of Britain. Her family connections, especially her son, place her in the early-mid 6th century. Trying to pin her name down must begin with assembling the wildly varying evidence. (All citations from Bartrum EWGT unless otherwise noted.)
The genealogical tract Bonedd y Seint (lineage of the saints) appears in several manuscripts and includes her in the following forms:
Denw Peniarth Ms. 16, third quarter of the 13th c.She is given as Taneu and Tannu in the two manuscripts of Jocelin's Life of Kentigern (ca. 1185) and Thaney in an anonymous life of the saint (ca. 1150) (Forbes 1874). In the Aberdeen Breviary (whose precise date I have not yet been able to track down) she is mentioned twice, as Teneuu and Theneuu (although Bartrum has used different editions of this manuscript in his entries for Denw and Cyndeyrn, and in the latter the name is transcribed as Tenew).
Denyw Peniarth Ms. 45, late 13th c.
Dyfuyr Peniarth Ms. 12, ca. 1320 (this may be a substitution of a different name, or influenced by some other word, rather than a simple corruption)
Dinw Hafod Ms. 2, second half of the 14th c.
Dynw Llanstephan Ms. 28 ca. 1475
Dwywai Peniarth Ms. 27 last quarter of the 15th c. & Peniarth Ms. 182 ca. 1510 (this is a substitution of an entirely different name with northern associations, see below)
Dunwl Peniarth Ms. 182, 1514 (this appears to be largely a scribal corruption)
Just to tie things together neatly, Languoreth (q.v.) and her husband Rhydderch Hael feature in the Life of Saint Kentigern.
Reconciling the forms of this name found in Welsh sources with those in the Scottish biographies might appear to be impossible, but if we assume that the name is of Brythonic origin (which the context of the story implies) then some of the variation can be dealt with. Initial Th in a Latin context is a relatively free variant of T with the same sound quality as the latter. Furthermore, certain aspects of the Brythonic pronunciation of initial voiced stops tended to cause them to be interpreted as voiceless by speakers of other languages, and so an interpretation of underlying d as t seems likely. A final w after a consonant tended to attract epenthetic vowels in Welsh, and would have enough of a vocalic quality in speech that non-Brythonic speakers would tend to interpret it as a vowel, albeit one of uncertain quality. One example from the medieval period is the name Goronwy, which appears in variants such as Gronw and Grono; or the group Cadwy/Cadw/Cado (Bartrum EWGT) found in forms such as Catovii, Cado, Cattw, Gadw, Gadwy. The majority of forms of the name under consideration seem more consistent with a final -nw. Final w after a consonant most commonly derives from a consonantal u (i.e. [w]), less commonly from m. Following the more common possibility, we would expect to find this written with u in the mid 6th century.
This leaves us with the question of the vowel in the first syllable. The earliest Welsh sources seem to agree on e, while the Scottish Lives of Kentigern agree on a. The other northern source, the Aberdeen Breviary, agrees with the Welsh sources, having e. (The later Welsh sources with y and i may be overcompensating for the tendency in some medieval Welsh texts to spell the sound of "y" with e, and may be "correcting" an earlier Denw to Dynw.) I'm inclined to follow the majority here. If this is correct, it's tempting to try to connect the name with the root den- meaning "to attract, allure", but this is pure speculation.
At any rate, we can now suggest reconstructing a mid 6th c. Latinized written form Denua, pronounced something like ['dEn-w@] or, in English syllables, "DEN-weh".
Having already written the above, I discovered that Koch (1997) discusses the name briefly and prioritizes the hagiographical material over the later Welsh genealogical tradition. He equates the name with the common adjective teneu "thin, slender" and suggests a reconstructed pronunciation that, in the 6th century, would be ['tan-ey], or in English syllables something like "TAH-nayw". A corresponding Latinized written form would presumably be something like Taneua. (I could wish that Koch had explicitly discussed the Welsh genealogical material in offering this derivation. Given that the adjective teneu was in common use, and given that the same element was transmitted without significant distortion in the byname Gwrtheneu attributed to Vortigern, the significant changes resulting in the form Den(y)w seem to require a major disruption in the Brythonic transmission of the name.)
RHIEINFELLT (standardized modern form)
Urien Rheged is credited with a large number of other sons besides Owein, mentioned above. One of these lines gave rise to the latest woman in our list. The contexts in which she is mentioned give a relatively high confidence-level for her historic existence. She was probably the daughter of the last Brythonic king of Rheged (Rhwyth son of Rhun son of Urien Rheged), and she is said to have married Oswy of Bernicia, possibly signaling a relatively peaceable absorption of Rheged into the English kingdom of Bernicia. Oswy was born ca. 613 (Bartrum WCD) and P.C. Bartrum suggests an approximately similar birth date for Rhieinfellt ca. 615 (ibid). She may also be mentioned in a list of queens in the Durham Liber Vitae (see below).
Nennius, wrote in Latin, roughly around 800, but he was almost certainly fluent in a Brythonic language and not only records Brythonic names in spellings that reflect familiarity with literate spelling traditions, but he sometimes records English names with Brythonic-style spellings. (For example, he writes Oswy as Osguid, and Oswald as Osguald, treating the word-internal w as if it followed Brythonic historical phonology.) He records the woman's name as Rieinmelth filia Royth filii Rum. Her grandfather's name was most likely actually Rhun (if the final nasal had, at some point in transmission, been written with a nasal suspension mark, the substitution would be understandable), and he most likely was the Rhun mentioned elsewhere by Nennius who was the son of the Urien Rheged who is honored by several poems in the Book of Taliesin (and who also figures in the context for Nyfain, Efrddyl, and Modron elsewhere in this list, q.v.) (Bartrum WCD).
The Durham Liber Vitae lists a queen named Rægnmæld (following a more English spelling system) who is likely the same woman (the identification is suggested by H.M. and N.K. Chadwick, as cited in Bartrum WCD). Jackson (LHEB p.59) dates the Liber Vitae to ca. 840, and says of some Welsh names recorded in it, "They were clearly written down for the most part by an English scribe as he heard them pronounced, and not by the owners of the names themselves as they would have spelt them." This description seems apt for Rægnmæld as well, although we must assume that both the Liber Vitae scribe and Nennius were working from existing written records, to some extent.
The name is almost certainly dithematic, with the first element equivalent to modern rhiain "maiden, queen" -- a prototheme that appears in other early feminine names, such as Rhieinwylydd (which is explicitly glossed, in a medieval text, with the Latin regina "queen"). This element originates from *riganti- (Jackson LHEB p.453). During the late 5th century lenitions, the g became a fricative (but would not be entirely lost in this context until around the 9th century). Nennius's spelling reflects its eventual loss, but this would have happened after the woman's lifetime, and in the 7th century, the g would still have been written, as we see in stone inscriptions from this period.
Similarly, we see that by the time of both written forms, the original nt had reduced completely to n. The pronunciation of this combination shifted to [nh] (or, in some contexts, a voiceless [n]) somewhere around the 8th century (Jackson LHEB p.506), but written forms in Welsh may retain nt even later. A 7th century form, however, would be expected to be written nt and quite probably to retain the full pronunciation as well.
The 7th century is roughly when we start seeing syncope (the loss of unstressed syllables) reflected in written forms (the syllables had been lost in pronunciation earlier). So we can propose a 7th century written form Rigant- and pronunciation ['ri-Gant] for the prototheme.
The deuterotheme is not as obviously identifiable, but there is a strong resemblance to the common noun mellt "lightning".
When the word-internal lenitions took place in the later part of the 5th century, m first changed to a nasalized bilabial fricative -- and was still regularly perceived as a nasal by English speakers as late as the 10th or 11th century (although it was also rendered as v starting around the 7th century), so the use of "m" in Rægnmæld doesn't undermine understanding the sound as having changed from [m]. (Similarly, Brythonic spelling traditions retained the radical when it began a distinct morpheme until a similar date.)
Both records indicate an alveolar stop at the end of the deuterotheme. Nennius's use of h may even be an attempt to include a fricative nature to the L in some way, but if so it would be among the earliest attempts to do so. This sound is more commonly believed to have developed relatively late, perhaps as late as the 10-11th century, so we need not consider it here. So we can propose a 7th century written form -melt and pronunciation roughly [B~Elt].
Thus we can suggest a Latinized written form Rigantmelta although at this point we sometimes see non-Latin names written without inflectional endings in Latin documents, so Rigantmelt is also possible. The pronunciation would be something like ['ri-Gant-'B~Elt]. Describing this in terms of English sounds is relatively difficult. Starting with something like "REE-ghahnt-VELT", the "gh" is a voiced version of the "hard ch" of Scottish "loch", the V in this case should be made with both lips and nasalized.
Koch (1997) briefly discusses this name and suggests the alternate possibility that the final -lth, rather than being a mere orthographic variant, may represent a particularly Cumbric sound-change to [lT].
LANGUORETH (this is not a modernized form)
As mentioned above in the discussion on Den(y)w, her son S. Kentigern interacted (according to his biographers) with Rhydderch Hael, king of Strathclyde, and his wife Languoreth. Rhydderch is given a calculated date of ca. 540.
As far as I have been able to discover, the only mention of this woman by name is in Jocelyn's Life of S. Kentigern (written ca. 1185) -- the fragmentary anonymous Life of Kentigern does not include this episode. Jocelyn's work survives in two early manuscripts and the name appears in slightly different forms (Forbes 1874).
Languoreth - British Museum Ms. Cotton Vitellius C. viii.
Languueth, Langueth - Archbishop Marsh Ms. V.3.4.16 (Dublin)
An unscientific survey indicates that Languoreth is preferred by most modern scholars.
The linguistic forms found in Jocelyn's work preserve certain spelling features that suggest a source around the 7-8th century. Assuming the name here is a typical dithematic compound, we may separate it into Lan + guoreth. The first element is not easy to find parallels for in personal names. For the second element, it is strongly tempting to read the final th as an orthographic variant for t as in Thaney/Taneu, and then to connect guoret with the second element of the masculine given name Tegwared, and possibly also to a word meaning "deliverance, redemption, help". The first part of the name is unlikely to be identical to the common noun llan "enclosure, esp. a church" unless the name is somehow an allegorical phrase "the redemption of the church". But the phonetics of the first element don't present any significant ambiguities. In the mid 6th century, we'd expect a Latinized written form along the lines of Lanuoret and a pronunciation along the lines of ['lan-wor-Ed] or, using English syllables, "LAHN-wohr-ed".
ANGHARAD (standardized modern form)
According to the triads (Bromwich TYP no. 79), Rhydderch Hael had a daughter Angharad Tonfelen (the byname appears to mean "yellow wave", possibly in reference to hair); whether she was the daughter of Languoreth is not mentioned specifically (although a son is specifically attributed to her). Based on Rhydderch's assigned date, she would presumably belong roughly to the late-mid 6th century.
Excluding individuals with purely legendary connections, she appears to be the earliest known instance of the name Angharad, although Bartrum (WCD) lists a near explosion of women with the name in the 9-10th century, and it was extremely popular in the later medieval period.
Angharat Ton Velen -- Peniarth Ms. 47
The earliest example of the name itself that I can locate is:
hancarate (a Latin genitive -- the root would be hancarat) -- in a ca. 9th c. marginal note in the Book of Chad (Jackson LHEB)
This name is generally agreed to derive from an intensive prefix an plus an element based on the root car "love", with a composite meaning "well-loved". Taking this derivation as accurate, the 9th c. form in the Book of Chad seems likely to be good for the late-mid 6th c. as well: Ancarata, pronounced something like [aN-'kar-ad] or, in English syllables, "ang-KAHR-ahd". (Normally, we'd expect the accent at this date to fall on the first syllable, but here the first syllable is a grammatical prefix that would likely not take the primary accent.
GWLADUS (standardized modern form)
A late addition to the "Hanesyn Hen" genealogical tract, appearing in only a few versions of it, mentions another daughter of Rhydderch Hael named Gwladus, who presumably would have a similar calculated date to her sister, i.e. late-mid 6th c.
Gladus - Cardiff Ms. 25, 1640
Wladvs - Peniarth Ms. 129, ca. 1500 (and other mss. of later date)
Given the late date at which this was inserted into an existing tract, the historic reliability is uncertain. Bartrum (WCD), however, lists other women with this name of a similar era. Among the "core group" of Brychan Brycheiniog's children (ca. late 5th c.) is a Gwladus, mentioned variously as:
Gladus - De Situ Brecheniauc (Cotton ms. Vespasian A xiv, fos. 10v-11v (ca. 1200) text perhaps a century earlier
Gluadus - Cognacio Brychan (Cotton MS. Domitian I, fox. 157v-158v) ms. dated 1502-55, copied from a ms poss of the 13th c. (presumably a scribal error for Guladus
Gwladus - JC MS 20 written late 14th c., copied from ms ca. 1200
Gwladvs - Plant Brychan
In addition, Llywarch Hen is said to have had a daughter by this name, but she appears only in a late addition to his material (ca. 1600) (Bartrum EWGT).
Although the name Gwladus is sometimes equated with Latin Claudia, there is unlikely to be any linguistic connection. Rather we should look for connections with the element gwlad "land, country" in other personal names, perhaps including the feminine name Gwledyr, as well as common nouns such as gwledig "ruler" etc. The most simple analysis of Gwladus would suffix this root with an adjectival ending -us (originally occurring in borrowings from Latin with -osus, but then reanalyzed as a productive suffix in Welsh), alternatively there is later evidence for -ws as a diminutive suffix and the early forms with u would be consistent with this, although later retention of u argues against it.
If we accept the derivation from gwlad and the adjectival suffix, then we can postulate a mid 6th century Latinized written form Vlatusa and a spoken form something like ['ul-ad-us] or, in English syllables, "OOL-ahd-oos".
DWYWAI (standardized modern form)
The poem Y Gododdin includes a reference to "the son of Dwywai" in a context where it has been interpreted as a metronym for the poet Aneirin (Williams 1990, Koch 1997). This Dwywai has also been associated with Dwywai, daughter of Lleenog, mother of Saint Deiniol, and sister of Gwallog the king of Elmet. On a chronological basis, this equation is certainly plausible, with both women having a calculated date ca. 500. Whether or not it is historically true, both women clearly have northern associations.
Dwywei -- the B1 text of the Book of Aneirin (while the text itself was probably composed around the 7th century, the spellings reflect a more recent revision, perhaps as late as the 11th century)
Dwywei -- Bonedd y Seint (Bartrum EWGT), mss. dating to the 13th c. and later
Koch (1997) discusses this name in detail, deriving it from a Brittonic root meaning "god", although he notes that the name could have arisen either in the context of a pre-Christian tradition (from *Deweia "Goddess-like") or a Christian tradition (with a meaning along the lines of "belonging to God"). He reconstructs a Primitive Welsh form Deue, representing a pronunciation ['de-we].
This would suggest a plausible 6th c. Latinized written form along the lines of Deuea. In English syllables, the pronunciation would be something like "DAY-way".
ONNEN GREG (standardized modern form)
In one genealogical source, Gwallog ap Lleenog (the brother of Dwywai above) is given a daughter Onnen Greg. This would presumably give her a calculated date ca. 520. Some modern writers have interpreted the two elements as a single name "Onnengreg" while others have interpreted it as a given name and byname.
Onnen grec uerch Wallawc - Bonedd y Seint (Bartrum EWGT), from one 14th c. and some later mss (plus other, more corrupt, variants)
If the second part is taken as a byname and interpreted straightforwardly, it would be a lenited form of creg, the feminine form of cryg, an adjective meaning "hoarse, stammering". This is found as a byname in various records of the 13-15th century. The GPC doesn't offer a derivation of the word, but a straightforward interpretation based on the vowel alternation in the masculine and feminine forms would derive it from Brittonic *cricos / *crica. This would produce an early 6th century *crec. In the radical form, this would likely show up as a Latinized written form Creca with a pronunciation along the lines of ['krEg-@], or in English syllbles, "KREG-eh". At this period, the word would be lenited as a feminine byname, but this lenition would not normally be reflected in the written form. So, used as a woman's byname, the written form would still be Creca but the pronunciation would be ['grEg-@], or "GREG-eh".
The transparent interpretation of the given name as being identical to the common noun onnen "ash tree" seems a bit less likely on a logical basis, but provides the only avenue for pursuing a reconstructed form. The tree name derives from the Celtic root *onno- (found, for example, as Gaulish onno) which occurs in Welsh as a plural onn "ash trees". The suffix -en creates a singular form. I haven't yet been able to track down a discussion of the historic derivation of the singulative suffixes -en (feminine) and -yn (masculine), but their forms suggest evolution from Brittonic *-ina and *-inos respectively. This would suggest reconstructing a Latinized written form Onnena and a pronunciation along the lines of ['on-En-@], or in English syllables "OHN-en-eh" (although the final syllable would be nearly entirely lost at this point).
This site belongs to Heather Rose Jones. Contact me regarding anything beyond personal, individual use of this material.
Unless otherwise noted, all contents are copyright by Heather Rose Jones, all rights reserved.