Pronunciation of Celtic Names

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Last Updated: Tuesday, September 16, 2003

There are six dialects of Celtic still in existance. They are Irish, Welsh, Scot, Manx, Cornish, and Breton. They pronounce the same words slightly differently. The god names below use mainly Irish or Welsh pronunciations. I have seen sites where Dagba is pronounced DAG ba but of course it is not. Dagba is pronounced Dah Dah and yes it does mean father.

Spelling of Irish names in English was clearly done by the same group who gave us the spellings for words like though, through, sought, thorough all of which are pronounced differently. My mothers middle name was Seosaimhin (shO SA fEn which is Josephine in English). Need I say more?

Stress and Other Issues
Stress in Welsh is easy. In any word longer than one syllable, the emphasis is always on the next-to-last syllable.
There are lots of regional variations in the pronunciation of Welsh, and many variations in spelling between medieval and modern usage. However, this guide should be enough to help you understand how the sound patterns given in the examples behave.

The majority of Welsh consonants are pronounced exactly like their English equivalents. There are some exceptions, and several consonants unique to Welsh. What follows is a list of consonants and their pronunciations.
b: As in English.
c: Always hard, as in cut.
d: As in English. However, in medieval Welsh orthography, d was sometimes used to represent dd, below.
dd: Pronounced like the th in then.
f: Pronounced like English v.
ff: Pronounced like English f.
g: Always hard, as in get.
ng: Always pronounced as in English sing.
h: As in English.
k: Occasionally encountered in place of c, but usually only in words borrowed from English.
l: As in English.
ll: This letter is probably the most intimidating to non- Welsh speakers -- but it's really not so hard. Put the tip of your tongue against your hard palate and the back of your top teeth, as if you were saying an l. Breathe out over the sides. It sounds like a cross between an l and the th of thick.
m: As in English.
n: As in English.
p: As in English.
ph: Rare, but as ff, above.
r: As in English, with a bit of a flip to it.
rh: An aspirated r. The closest approximation in English would be to assume it were written hr.
s: As in English.
si: Pronounced like English sh.
t: As in English.
th: Always pronounced as in English "thing."
v: As in English; as in earlier English orthography, v and u can be used interchangeably. Thus "deuair" (in "cywydd deuair hirion") is pronounced "DEH-vire," and the man's name Ieuan is pronounced YEH-vahn.
There are a few consonant clusters that may be difficult for English speakers.
mh, nh, ngh: Are pronounced about as they look.
Welsh has seven vowels: a, e, i, o, u, w, and y.
The pronunciation of each vowel varies depending on whether it is long or short.
Continuing with the pronunciation of vowels then:
a: Long: as in "father." Short: as in "mat."
e: Long: as in the a in "flame" or "chaos." Short: as in "pen."
i: Long: as in "machine." Short: as in "pit."
o: Long: as in the Biblical Job. Short: as in "pop."
u: This is perhaps the trickiest vowel for English-speakers to remember. Long: as in the English long ee (as in "see"); in North Wales, it's closer to the German u-umlaut. Short: something like the i in "pit."
w: Long: like the oo in "food." Short: like the oo in "book." Between a consonant and another vowel, it behaves like the English consonant w.
y: y has two distinct pronunciations, depending on the vowel's position in a word.
Long: like u, above. Short: similar to the short i .
The schwa sound, like the u in "but."

Welsh makes great use of diphthongs. Some versions of half-rhyme (see Part II) require them.
ae, ai: As in English "eye."
au: Similar to ae or ai. Most modern Welsh speakers pronounce it like a long e (as the a in "flame" or "chaos."
aw: A combination of short ah and short oo ; not quite like "crowd," more like German "blau."
ei, eu: In modern Welsh, these have become pronounced like the ee in "see" or like English "eye," but they were originally pronounced as in English "say."
ew: A combination of a short eh with a short oo.
iw, uw, yw: Like a very British pronunciation of "dew."
oi, oe: As in English "oil."
ow: As in "owe" or the name Owen.
yw: In the middle of a word, this is the "obscure" (schwa) y sound combined with a short oo.
wy: A short
oo followed by a very short, less emphatic ee. A bit tricky for English speakers, but not too hard to learn. Generally after g, this combination sounds like the English consonant w followed by a short ih (as in the man's name Gwyn).
The pronounciation rules for reading the names below are these: