Welsh Boy Names Explained: the detailed guide

Are you looking for a Welsh name for your baby boy? Or perhaps you’re interested in the history of your own name? Whatever the reason you’re interested in learning about Welsh boy names, we’ve got you covered!

Learning about the origins and history of Welsh names can help you get a greater feel for the history, stories, culture and language of Wales. If you’re learning Welsh, it can also help to deepen your understanding and appreciation of the language..

In Wales, the popularity of giving your child a Welsh name has ebbed and flowed over the past few decades. For example, around the early 20th Century it was common to give your child an English name, perhaps with an idea that you would be setting them up for greater success. However, as the century progressed, Welsh names started coming back into favour.

This list aims to begin with the most popular current Welsh boy names along with some information about their history, but will also include a few older, historical and rare names. We hope you find something you like!

Most Popular Welsh Boy Names

The following list is taken from the Office of National Statistics' list of the top 100 names for baby boys in Wales.

Non-Welsh names do largely populate the list: Noah, Oliver, Leo, Theo and Finley are the top five. However, for this list, names that are not of a Welsh origin have been excluded.

Arthur

Arthur is name that probably doesn’t need much introduction; the tales of King Arthur are thought to have largely taken place across the landmass that is now Wales (and West England).

The word “arth” is Welsh for “bear”, with the name thought to mean “strong as a bear”.

Osian

Osian – Deviating from the Irish Gaelic name Oisín, perhaps meaning “little deer”. Oisín was a legendary Irish poet and warrior.

Dylan

Dylan - In the Mabinogi (a collection of tales from early Welsh literature), Dylan ail Don is the son of Aranrhod, commonly interpreted as a Welsh sea-god.

This name contains the word “llanw”, which means the ocean tide, so the name is thought to mean something like “son of the sea” or “born of the ocean”.

Morgan

Morgan - Derived from Old Celtic “morcant”; the first part may refer to “môr” ("sea"), and "cant" (the circle) or "gen" (come / origin) – similar to Dylan, the meaning may be "sea chief", "sea protector", "born of the sea”.

Morgan is currently a popular name for girls in the US, but its origins stem from a different place (the Irish mythological figure Morrígan). In Wales, Morgan remains a popular boy’s name.

Cai

Cai - A Celtic form of the Latin “Gaius”, the Welsh name Cai means to rejoice, although some also associate it with a Celtic word meaning spear bearer/thrower.

The name Cai also exists as a female name in Chinese (meaning colourful) or Vietnamese (meaning girl) and is a popular boy’s name in Sweden. In Arthurian legend, Sir Kay is Arthur’s foster brother and later a Knight of the Round Table.

Hari

Hari – Alternatively, Harri. A Welsh form of Harry, which is itself a form of Henry, which originally derives from Henricus - haim (home) + ric (ruler) in Germainic.

The Kings known as Henry are referred to as Hari in Welsh, making this a name with many regal associations.

Macsen

Macsen – Most famously the Welsh name of Roman ruler Magnus Maximus – in Welsh, Macsen Wledig.

Macsen Wledig famously dreamt of a mysterious, distant island where he met the most beautiful woman he had ever seen. Fixated on his dream, he sent his men to search for the land and the woman – who turned out to be the isle of Anglesey (Mona) and the woman Elen.

The Welsh name Macsen is similar to the name Max, from the same root as “maximum” – the greatest.

Ioan

Ioan is a Welsh form of the name John that is also found in Russian and Romanian.

Also popular in Wales are the names Jon, Iwan, Ifan, or Evan. The meaning of the name is “gift of God”.

Rhys

Rhys – often pronounced more similarly to the name Reese or Rees, the correct Welsh pronunciation of Rhys requires a little practice.

The meaning of this Welsh boy name is “ardent” or “fire” and it has been borne by many famous Welsh kings and noblemen, notably Rhys ap Grufydd or Rhys ap Tewdur.

From this old naming convention the name Prys also evolved, which is where we also get the surname Price.

More Popular Welsh Boy Names

Looking more broadly at names that have been popular over the last thirty years or so, here you can learn more traditionally male Welsh names.

You have probably started noticing a fair few Welsh versions of what seem to be English names – but keep in mind that it is sometimes English names that have been inspired from other sources.

Arwyn

Arwyn – a masculine form of the name Arwen, the prefix “ar” acts as an intensifier for “wyn”, coming from gwyn, or white.

So, this Welsh boy name could mean 'bright white', 'brilliant', or 'radiant light'.

The name Arwyn may also be connected to the name Awen, which refers to the muse or connection to the divine source of inspiration and creation.

Bryn

Bryn – a Welsh boy name that is quite popular for its simplicity and ease of pronunciation. In Welsh, Bryn simply means “hill”.

Famous singers such as Bryn Terfel and Bryn Fôn have increased the popularity of the name. In the US, the name has become popular as a girl’s name, sometimes with the spelling Brynn.

Carwyn

Carwyn – As with the rhyming name Arwyn, the “wyn” refers to white or radiant, which the “car” is from the word “cariad”, meaning love. The name could also mean fair, loved, or blessed.

Dafydd

The name Dafydd is often described as simply being the Welsh form of the name David, which itself means “beloved” and has Biblical origins.

However, the name Dafydd could also be seen as a combination of two Welsh words:

The name has many historical associations, for example Dafydd ab Owain Gwynedd, Prince of Gwynedd in the 12th century.

Emyr

Emyr – The Welsh boy name 'Emyr' is a variant of the older, less popular name Ynyr, and means “ruler” or “king”.

Gareth / Geraint

Gareth / Geraint – The Welsh name Gareth has been associated with a few meanings, for example “gentle”.

It is thought that the name may originate from the also popular Geraint, which derives from the Latin Gerontius (meaning “old man”).

In Arthurian legend, Geraint was king of Dumnonia, while Sir Gareth was one of the Knights of the Round Table.

Glyn

Glyn – This welsh boy name is closely related to the word “glen”, which refers to a valley or body of water.

The most famous instance of the name Glyn might appear in the name of Owain Glyndŵr (Anglicised as Owen Glendower), a Welsh hero and prince who fought to end English rule in Wales in the late 14th and early 15th Century.

Gruffydd

Gruffydd – Variations include Griffydd, Gruffudd, which can also be surnames, or as a first name we can also find the shortened form Griff (and even Griffin).

The element “udd” means “lord” or “prince”, although could also relate to the Welsh word “ffydd”, or faith.

While the Griffin is a mythical creature (coming from the Greek Gryphon) with the body of a lion and the head and wings of an eagle, so the origin of the name could be connected.

Huw

Huw – One explanation is that Huw is the Welsh form of the name Hugh, which comes from the Germanic word “hug”, meaning heart, mind or spirit.

Others argue that it originates from Hywel, which means “prominent” or “visible”; a name borne by Hywel Dda (Howel the Good), a highly esteemed king who ruled most of Wales in the 10th century and codified Welsh Law.

Idris

Idris – An interesting name as it is not only Welsh, but also Arabic.

In Welsh the name is connected to the word “udd” (lord or prince) and “ris” (enthusiastic or impulsive).

In addition to being a boy name, it is also the name of a moutain: 'Cadair Idris' is a mountain that lies at the end of Snowdonia National Park.

Iorwerth

Iorwerth – from the Welsh word “iôr” meaning God or Lord, and “berth” meaning handsome or more likely “gwerth” meaning value or worth.

This welsh boy name is thought to mean “worthy leader” or “handsome lord” and can be shortened to Iolo, a name enjoying a new-found popularity thanks to the modern phrase YOLO (You Only Live Once).

Llewelyn

Llewelyn – A popular Welsh name and surname, sometimes spelled Llewellyn (more commonly outside of Wales), and often shortened to Llew, which is the Welsh for “lion”, or sometimes Lleu.

However, the origins of the name are thought to actually stretch much further back to an Old Celtic form of Lugobelinos.

Llewelyn is a Welsh name with a lot of historical significance, bringing to mind Llewelyn Fawr (the Great) and Llywelyn ein Llyw Olaf (Llywelyn the Last) – two princes who fought for Welsh independence.

Llŷr

Llŷr – not an easy name for non-Welsh speakers to pronounce, it is thought that Shakespeare’s “King Lear” could have been an anglicised version of the name.

In Welsh mythology, Llŷr is a God of the sea or the leader of the Children of Llŷr, who possess the powers of darkness and are at war with the Children of Dôn, who have the powers of light. He is also the father of Branwen, Bran and Manawyddan, found in the Mabinogion.

Rhodri

Rhodri – Rhodri comes from an Old Welsh name made up of the elements “rhod” (wheel) + “rhi” (ruler). However, it also can bring to mind the word “rhodd”, meaning gift. Rhodri ap Idwal, King of Gwynedd, and Rhodri ap Merfyn or “Rhodri Mawr” are two famous noble bearers of the name.

Owain

Owain – This Welsh boy name is closely related to the name Owen, which is also a name in Scottish and Greek.

Its meaning is associated with the yew tree, as well as meanings of “noble”, “youthful” or “well-born”, although many linguists disagree on the origin of the name.

This name is perhaps made most famous by Owain Glyndŵr. Owain is also a historical knight associated with King Arthur, whose story can be found in the White Book of Rhydderch or the Red Book of Hergest.

Tudur

Tudur - Often Tudur is thought to be the Welsh form of “Tudor”, referring to the House of Tudor who ruled Britain from 1485 to 1603, who did have Welsh origins.

However, linguists argue that the origins of this Welsh name go much further back to the Old Celtic word 'Teutorix', whose elements mean “people” or “tribe” and “ruler/king”.

Other Welsh Boy Names

Here are some others boys’ names, which have been popular on and off for the last few decades, that you might like to consider:

Rare or Older Welsh boy names

You may prefer names that are rarer or have fallen out of use. Many of these names have interesting historical origins, which you might like to look up if you feel an affinity with one of them.

Here is a list of rare or older Welsh boy names:

Conclusion

Welsh is one of the most spoken Celtic languages and is a treasure chest of Celtic names. While this article has focused on Welsh boy names, we have published another article devoted to Welsh girl names.

Traditionally Welsh names have waxed and waned in popularity, with the majority of popular boys’ names in Wales being of non-Welsh origin.

However, the number of Welsh speakers is increasing, and there is no reason why mythological and historical names can’t make a comeback.

We hope that this guide has given you some inspiration, whether you are looking for a Welsh name for your child, trying to name a character in a work of fiction, or just curious to learn about Welsh names.

Editor's note: You can use our free language tool to make your own vocabulary lists, and record your own phrases.