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Old Welsh
Hen Gymraeg
Spoken in Wales
Language extinction Evolved into Middle Welsh about the 12th century
Language family Indo-European
Writing system Latin
Language codes
ISO 639-1 None
ISO 639-2 cel
ISO 639-3 owl

Old Welsh (Welsh: Hen Gymraeg) is the label attached to the Welsh language from about 800 AD until the early 12th century when it developed into Middle Welsh.[1] The preceding period, from the time Welsh became distinct from the British language around 550, has been called "Primitive Welsh".[1]

Many poems and some prose have been preserved from this period, although some are in later manuscripts, for example the text of Y Gododdin. The oldest surviving text entirely in Old Welsh is probably that on a gravestone now in Tywyn church, thought to date from the early 8th century. A text in the Book of St. Chad called the Surexit Memorandum is thought to have been written in the late 8th or the 9th century but may be a copy of a text from the 6th or 7th centuries.

Old Welsh is only intelligible to a modern-day Welsh speaker with the aid of extensive notes.


Old Welsh texts


Surexit Memorandum


tutbulc filius liuit hagener tutri dierchi tir telih haioid ilau elcu filius gelhig haluidt iuguret amgucant pel amtanndi ho diued diprotant gener tutri o guir imguodant ir degion guragon tagc rodesit elcu guetig equs tres uache, tres uache nouidligi namin ir ni be cas igridu dimedichat guetig hit did braut grefiat guetig nis minn tutbulc hai cenetl in ois oisau


Tudfwlch son of Llywyd and son-in-law of Tudri arose to claim the land of Telych, which was in the hand of Elgu son of Gelli and the tribe of Idwared. They disputed long about it; in the end they disjudge Tudri's son-in-law by law. The goodmen said to each other 'Let us make peace'. Elgu gave afterwards a horse, three cows, three cows newly calved, in order that there might not be hatred between them from the ruling afterwards till the Day of Judgement. Tudfwlch and his kin will not want it for ever and ever.


  • The text shows many of the early spelling conventions of Welsh, when the basic Latin alphabet was used to represent the phonology of Old Welsh. At this stage, the use of ll to represent the lateral fricative /ɬ/ (liuit > Llywyd) and dd to represent /ð/ (did > dydd) had not been developed. The Latin letter u was used to represent the diverse sounds /ʉ/, /ʊ/ and /v/, which became u, w and f, v respectively, by the medieval period.
  • initial mutations, a major feature of all Insular Celtic languages, do not appear to have been represented orthographically at this point
  • In some cases, the language used in the Memorandum has become obsolete, but other words are relatively unchanged in modern Welsh:
Old Welsh Modern Welsh English
tir tir land
lau llaw hand
diued diwedd end
ir yr, y the
nouid newydd new
guetig gwedy after
cas cas hatred
hit hyd until
did dydd day
braut brawd judgement
in ois oisou yn oes oesoedd for ever and ever

See also


  1. ^ a b Koch, p. 1757.
  • Price, Glanville (1985). The Languages of Britain. London: Edward Arnold. ISBN 0-7131-6452-2.  
  • Koch, John T. (2006). Celtic Culture: A Historical Encyclopedia. ABC-CLIO.  


Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary


Proper noun

Old Welsh


Old Welsh

Wikipedia has an article on:


  1. The Welsh language as it existed from about 800 until the early twelfth century (when it developed into Middle Welsh), not readily intelligible to modern Welsh speakers.

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