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 Welsh names has fluctuated in the past. Early in the 20th Century it was common to give children English names, perhaps with the idea that it would be setting them up for greater success. As the century progressed, Welsh names started coming back into favor.
This list begins with the Welsh boy names which are currently the most popular. It provides some information about their history, in addition it includes a few older, historical and rarer 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 among the most widely known Welsh boy names. This name may have originated from the Welsh word “arth” which means “bear”, in which case this name may mean something along the lines of “strong as a bear”.
Athur is the name of a legendary King: the tales of King Arthur are thought to have largely taken place across the landmass that is now Wales (and West England).Osian
Osian is a Welsh name derived from the Irish name Oisín. In Irish, the word oisín means “fawn” (a young deer). Its etymology shows that it comes from “os”, a literary Irish word meaning “deer”, to which the diminutive suffix “-ín” has been added.
Celtic mythology, Oisín was a poet and warrior whose mother had been turned into a deer by a villainous druid named Fear Doirich.Dylan
Dylan is a name derived from the Welsh word “llanw” which means “ocean tide”. The Welsh prefix “dy-” (which can mean “together”) appears at the beginning of this name. As a result, the name Dylan is thought to mean “son of the wave” or “son of the sea”. The Welsh name Dylan and the Irish name Dillon are related.
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.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. This is a Welsh form of the name Harry, which is itself a form of the name 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 : This is 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 – these 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 like the names Reese or Rees, the correct Welsh pronunciation of the name 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 and Rhys ap Tewdur.
From this old naming convention the name Prys also evolved, which is where we also get the surname Price.
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 : This Welsh boy name is quite popular because of its simplicity and ease of pronunciation. In Welsh, the word 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 suffix “-wyn” means “white” or “radiant”. The prefix “car-” comes from the Welsh 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
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 used 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”.
Here are some others boys’ names, which have been popular on and off for the last few decades, that you might like to consider:
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:
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.