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The Longest Welsh Word...is much too long for this title!
Taking a trip to Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch?
Actually, Llanfairpwllgwyngyll, as long as it already is, isn't the full name of this quaint Welsh town. The official name is Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch, which is roughly translated into "St. Mary's Church in the hollow of the white hazel near the rapid whirlpool and the church of St. Tysilio with a red cave." Unsurprisingly, the locals, for fear of wasting half of their life's breath on pronouncing the name, refer to it simply as Llanfair PG.
One cannot help but ponder the motivation behind giving a such small town such a long name. On this page, we will delve into the history of this fascinating town, how it came to possess the longest Welsh town name, and how it continues to thrive today.
Are you ready to set off on this historic Welsh adventure? Good. Let's get going then!
Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch Railway Station
Anyone who knows Peter, who is one half of the Holly22 team, will be aware of his love for all things railway. His main love is steam trains but he has a penchant for anything that relates to them. Case in study is the station of Llanfair PG which has now been lovingly restored with new signage and a modern platform. When Peter was a boy the name was made up of faded wooden slats nailed to a fence that stretched from one end of the platform to the other. This would have been in the dying days of steam but something he can still clearly recollect. The station also has a large emporium next door that is full of Welsh collectibles and souvenirs and yes model railway related products. Llanfair PG is not the most dramatic of Welsh towns but its name has certainly put it on the map where I am sure it will stay.
Have you ever visited Llanfairpwllgwyngyll?
The History of Llanfairpwllgwyngyll, Wales
Learn all about the history behind this lovely Welsh town
From the Neolithic age to the mid-1800s, Llanfairpwllgwyngyll was primarily a farming village, with 92% of its land owned by three individuals in the year 1844.
It was mainly thanks to the construction of Thomas Telford's new road and the development of the new railway crossing at Britannia Bridge in the lower town that Llanfairpwllgwyngyll became a booming commercial centre, with shopkeepers, tradesmen and other merchants moving in to set up shop.
With this economic boom, the population of Llanfairpwllgwyngyll also grew. In 1889, there were 961 residents as opposed to the mere 385 inhabitants in 1801. The current population now sits at around 3,100, making it one of the most largely populated towns on the Isle of Anglesey (known as Ynys Mon in Welsh).
You can find Llanfairpwllgwyngyll on the Island of Anglesey, just after crossing the Britannia Bridge and keeping to the left along the south side of the island.
Map of Llanfairpwllgwyngyll - Discover how to get to the Welsh town with the longest name
How did Llanfairpwllgwyngyll come to have the longest Welsh town name?
The history behind the longest Welsh town name!
There are two versions to the story of how Llanfairpwllgwyngyll was given the longer version of its name. According to the official town website, the name was bestowed upon the town by a local cobbler from Menai Bridge. Wikipedia, however, states that, according to Sir John Morris-Jones, the name was actually invented by a tailor, whose name remains unknown.
Where the two stories do agree is that the name was given as a publicity stunt to attract more 19th century British and Welsh tourists to the area as a means of increasing business and tourism. In fact, even to this day, tourists stop by to have their passports stamped, or to buy Llanfairpwllgwyngyll merchandise. Whoever invented the name turned the town into an unmissable Welsh tourist stop!
There has been extensive renovation of the area around the station and Llanfair PG now makes for a pleasant stop on the way to the Holyhead ferry.
The town's name has a total of 58 letters in the English alphabet! Slightly less in the Welsh Language because Ll and Ch are regarded as one letter.
How to pronounce the longest Welsh town name
Learn the pronunciation of Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch
To my dismay, I am still unable to pronounce Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch perfectly. Peter, on the other hand, loves to rub in the fact that he knows how to say it like a pro. (Well, he is taking Welsh classes after all!)
If you want to attempt pronouncing the longest Welsh town name, visit this site. You will find the name broken down into pronounceable syllables, a sound file to listen to and copy, and you can even participate in a "say the name" competition if you feel confident enough!
Note by Peter: This article was originally written by my daughter, Heather, and she passed it to me for caretaking. I rarely blow my own trumpet and I do not confess to being able to pronounce the name perfectly. Welsh is full of nuances and once you think you can say something you, you invariably find you are not correct. On top of this, Welsh has an incredible variety of dialects and words can very often take on very different pronunciations within the Welsh people themselves. Notwithstanding all this, I had some good Welsh friends when I was a teenager and they did make me practice it until it sounded about as good as an Englishman is ever going to pronounce Welsh. But the compliment is taken in the context that it was given.
What does the name mean in English
Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch does translate very literally into English. Llan is generally translated as church or chapel but it has an older meaning. When Christianity first came to this land it was introduced by wandering friars or saints who preached the word on any hill or dale where they could find a following. However many of these saints eventually settled in various locations in Wales and these places were their 'llans'. In other words the place where the saints settled is the original meaning of the word, the fact that most of these then became chapel locations gives the link to the modern meaning. Fair is a mutated form of Mair and the English Mary. Pwll is pool or hollow. Ger means near. Gwyn gyll means white hazel. Y Chwyrn Drobwll is the rapid whirlpool. Llantysilio is another saint, this time St Tysilio. G(er) ogo goch is the red cave, goch is the mutated form of coch or red. Please note Welsh is a language of poetry and sometimes the written word overides the spoken word. For example gwyn an adjective normally follows a noun, goger is literally near near. Cave is actually ogof. Its all about the music in the language.
Books about The History of Wales - Delve into the history of this magnificent country.
If there is one thing about Wales, it is that its history, culture, language and literature never cease to surprise and astound me. With these books, you will be able to take an even closer look at the history of Wales from its beginnings to the present day. Plus, I can guarantee there will even be a section about our dear Llanfairpwllgwyngyll!
Other Welsh Language Sites
- The World of Funny Welsh Words
Since enrolling in a local Welsh class five years ago we have come to realise that, although Welsh is an ancient language, it is still relevant today but like all languages has its own quirks.