The word “Wales” comes from the Anglo-Saxon root “walh”, which originally meant “outsiders” or “that bunch of softies over there”. This term was used to indicate the Celtic populations who inhabited the British regions not yet occupied by the Anglo-Saxons. Over time, the term “walh” has evolved, taking on the meaning of “foreigner” or “foreigners”.
The Brythoniaid and the evolution of the term “Welsh”
Initially, the inhabitants of the region known as Wales called themselves “Brythoniaid”, a term which embraced all speakers of the Celtic language, which later developed into the Welsh and Cornish languages. However, around AD 600, the Welsh began to identify themselves as ‘Cymry’, meaning ‘fellows’ or simply ‘we’. This choice of self-designation reflected Welsh pride and sense of community, highlighting their cultural and linguistic ties.
The use of the terms “Wales” and “Welsh”
After the introduction of the term “Cymry”, both “Cymry” and “Wales” were used in parallel to refer to the people and the country. However, by about 1150, the term “Cymry” had taken over as the most common form of reference. Even today, the term “Cymry” is widely used by the Welsh to define themselves, indicating a sense of belonging and national identity.
On the other hand, the term “Wales” has been retained in the English language to refer to the Welsh nation. This use of the term is still present and well established, especially outside Wales. However, it is important to note that while ‘Wales’ is the more internationally known term, the preference among the Welsh remains the term ‘Cymru’.
Today’s meaning of “Cymru” and “Cymry”
Today, the term ‘Cymru’ is universally accepted as a form of reference for Wales in the Welsh language. It embodies the sense of identity, pride and togetherness among the Welsh, representing the rich history and culture of this fascinating nation. The term “Cymry” is used to refer to its inhabitants, reflecting the unity and diversity of a people who recognize themselves in their language and heritage.