Snowdon or Yr Wyddfa; what’s in a name?

By Baldmichael Theresoluteprotector’sson

28th August, 2022

Snowdon from northwest
Snowdon from Moel Siabod

I gather John Pughe Roberts, a county councillor, called for the Snowdonia National Park Authority to refer to the mountain only by its Welsh name and also to drop “Snowdonia” in favour of the Welsh Eryri. This was back in 2021 according to this article.

Well, I am English with some Welsh roots and I love Wales or Cymru as it is known in Welsh. I have visited Wales on holiday for many years and love the mountains.

But I am not convinced that trying to refer only to Snowdon by its Welsh name only will be necessary. It should not be lost from maps, but its English name is still going to be used by many. As long as we don’t lose the history, I don’t think the Welsh should be too concerned.

In any event, I am aware even the Welsh are not too sure about its meaning anyway. I made the following comment on this website with which I am unaffiliated. I don’t know the site author’s name but having walked the horseshoe myself it is well worth reading the whole article.

“As regards the name Yr Wyddfa, they never seem to be very sure about it. There is a lot of romance in the mountains, the Welsh are very poetic and in fact the mountains can tell a story which no doubt kept people entertained when the TV and radio were not invented.

I consider that Yr Wyddfa is the wide father, rather as in the phonetics of the words. It is after all wide and it is the father of the mountains, the highest of Snowdonia.

As regards not calling it Snowdon, well it does see the snow in winter and it is the don, or lord of the mountains. Thus it is the snow lord in winter. You can even say it gets snowed on or snow’d on!”

I think that is very reasonable.

Interestingly an anagram of wyddfa is ‘dad fwy’. Fwy can stand for freeway which is a wide road. The Llanberis route up to the top of Snowdon is rather like a freeway nowadays as so many use it. As it is on the whole an easy walk, weather permitting, I consider this reinforces my point.

So in my books it is dad’s freeway, the free way to the father of the mountains in Snowdonia (or Eryri if you prefer).

As regards Eryri the Guardian article says this.

Eryri (pronounced Eh-ruh-ree) had long been thought to refer to the Welsh name for eagle – eryr – but is now believed to originate from the Latin oriri, meaning to rise.

The thing is the word is very close to eyrie meaning among other things the nest of an eagle or any high isolated position or place. The latter is due to the high place being aerie or even airy, plenty of air or wind for an eagle’s wings to gain lift.

Snowdonia is airy, a wonderful landscape of high, airy hills where you can have the cobwebs blown away as it were and where you can think away from the smoke and stir of the city.

All these words are good and should not be lost. But there is no need to be too legalistic about it. Just make sure people understand the meaning and poetry of the words. I hope the Welsh would be happy about that.

P.S. If you haven’t seen this link of mine and have an interest in Wales why not take a look.

W is for…..Wales