Welsh Bardic Verse Glossary

Welsh Bardic Verse


Disclaimer: I am not a native Welsh speaker.  I am a member of y Cymreig gwasgaredig, the Welsh disapora.  I was born in the United States.  I learned some Welsh phrases from nain and tiad (grandma and grandpa).  With my father and sister, I took lessons as a young man from the local Welsh association.  I have visited family in Wales half a dozen times.  Each visit helped me to improve my Welsh.  I attended classes at Nant Gwrtheyn, the national Welsh language learners institute, in Pwlheli, Wales.  My spoken fluency is perhaps that of an advanced preschooler.  My reading level is somewhat higher, perhaps that of a middle-school student.  Of course, I have tried to be accurate in my translations, but I encourage interested parties to refer to native speakers


Awdl (“long poem”) An awdl, often elegiac in nature, may also be a narrative or a praise poem.  They often consist of different verse structures combined in one long poem.  Awdl sounds so much like the English word “ode” that the two have been accepted as translations of each other.  Maybe.  Words mean what people want them to mean, but awdl shares its origin with the Welsh word for rhyme, odl.  Awdl is made plural by adding au:  awdlau.


Ban (“loud”) In bardic use ban means “part of a verse”.


Byr (“short”) The plural form is byrion.


Cadwynog (“chained”) In poetry this refers to the intricate weaving together of words through the use of half-rhyme, internal rhyme and full rhyme.  The effect is rather like a literary version of the braided Celtic knotwork found in visual art forms.


Chwta (“save”) Perhaps the meaning is closer to “resolve”. 


Clogynarch (“craggy, rugged, clumsy”) The name of a type of verse.  The clogynarch is known for its driving yet uneven rhythm.  This stanza is well suited to light verse. 


Croes (“cross”) Used to describe different types of balanced alliterative cynghanedd. e.g. Spokane is some fun to speak in.

Crwca (“crooked”) When the expected order of lines in a verse is inverted, one may call the result crwca, or crooked.

Cyhydedd (“equal”) In bardic use, cyhydedd means lines of the same length.

Cynghanedd (“harmony”) Is a general term for a series of intricate poetic devices using alliteration, rhythm, and internal rhyme.  The resulting word-play is sometimes called “mouth music”.  It is a distinctive feature of Welsh bardic verse.  The numerous and complicated rules are very old.

Cyrch (“attack”) In the old days, before guns were widely used, a military officer would cry “Cyrch!” to order archers to loose their arrows.  The term is used in bardic verse to denote entry into a poetic theme.  In a versifying parlor game, one poet may begin an englyn by launching a paladr, an arrow, with a cyrch.  Another poet will finish the stanza by adding the appropriate esgyll, or wings.  Cyrch also refers to that portion of an englyn or thoddaid following the long dash. e.g. “now flute” in my englyn:

  Music Seed

My knife has carved a mellow reed – now flute.

  New flights of song are freed

   Music grew to meet my need

   From a sprouting bullrush seed.

       (Harp Strings p.8)

Cywydd (“thought, order, consistency, brightness”) For our poetic purpose, cywydd is a popular verse structure much used by Dafydd ap Gwilym. The plural form is cywyddau.

Dalgron The mutated form of talgron.  Please see talgron.

Deuair (‘two words”) Essentially, deuair means a rhyming couplet.

Englyn (“stanza”) Denotes several related antique verse structures.  Englynion (plural) are short, three or four lines each.  They may be used individually, to create haiku-like epigrams, or in combination, to build longer poems.   

Esgyll (“wing”) This is an old spelling of the modern Welsh word asgell.  It means “wing,” but has the connotation of the feathers on an arrow.  In poetry, an esgyll finishes an englyn.  In the cyrch, one poet shoots a paladr (shaft, or arrow).  A second poet finishes with esgyll.

Fer The mutated feminine form of byr. Please see byr.

Fyrion The mutated plural form of byr.  Please see byr.

Gadwynog The mutated form of cadwynog.  Please see cadwynog.

Gwawdodyn (“satire”) This verse may be used for praise as well as ridicule.

Gywydd The mutated form of cywydd.  Please see cywydd.

Hen (“old”) This is often used to indicate something ancient, such as hen gân werin (old folk song).  Hen may, however, be used to describe a senior citizen.  As a young bard I took the name Gruffydd Hirwallt (Long-haired Griffith).  More recently, I have become known as Hirwallt Hen (Old Long-hair).

Hir (“long”)

Hirion (“lengthened or prolonged”)

Llosgyrnog (“having a tail”)

Llusg (“trailing’) This describes an internal rhyme, linking the middle of a line with the penultimate syllable of the same line. e.g. I got a good tent in Renton.  Llusg may be seen with one “L” in the mutated form.

Lleddfbroeat (“minor key” or “plaintive”) This is the same term musicians use to describe a minor key, wherein the scale has a flatted third.

Milwr (“soldier”) The oldest englynion, from Y Gododdin, are military in nature, earning the title of englynion milwr.

Naw (“nine”)

Odl (“rhyme”)

Paladr (“shaft” also “spear” or “arrow”) In poetry, this refers to the first two lines of an englyn.

Penfyr (“short-headed”) In this compound word, pen is head and fyr is the mutated form of byr, meaning short.

Proest (“half-rhyme”) This involves the pairing of similar vowels (either long or short) and the same final consonant.  e.g. bike and rake.

Rhupunt A verse form rhyming multiple short lines.  The word seems to have some relationship to “roaring”.

Sain (“sound”) Used to describe a type of cynghanedd using internal rhyme and alliteration together. e.g. Dark rim of a dim mill dam.

Tawddgyrch A compound word. “Tawdd” means “blended,” or,“completed”.  Gyrch means “attack”.

Talgron (“rising diphthong”) Some poetry manuals translate this term as “round” but it really means “rising diphthong”.

Thoddaid The mutated form of toddaid.  Please see below:

Toddaid (“melted” or “mixture”) In bardic use, this describes a verse containing a line broken by a long-dash.  The portion after the dash rhymes with the middle of the next line.  It also has a cynghanedd relationship with the next line.  It is as if one line melts or mixes in with the next.

Unodl (“one rhyme”)

Union (“straight, precise, directly”)