Quick Glossary

Middle Welsh words and phrases useful for a better understanding of the Mabinogi. Place names and personal names which contain words. The links  open longer articles in the Encyclopedia.

Aber Menei2Port from which Matholwch set sail with his 13 ships to return to Ireland.
Aberffraw2Chief court of Gwynedd from the 6th to the 13th centuries.
Adar2Bird pl. adaryn. See Adar Rhiannon.
Adar Rhiannon23 Birds of Rhiannon, magically soothe the Seven Survivors of the Irish War by their singing, and are heard clearly even far away. No information here or elsewhere mentioned on type of bird.
Annwfn1, 3, 4A land of power, or a dimension of power. Its people are human but greater, richer, more beautiful. The name means deep, so Underworld fits, but not Hell. Otherworld is also used.
Arberth1, 3A chief court of Dyfed, where the royal entourage would stay on its circuit around the land. See also Gorsedd Arberth. Birthplace of Pryderi.
Arglwyd1High Lord, masc. of arglwyddes, high lady. Title used for a higher level of noble, a king, such as Arawn. The more general title between nobles is 'unben' - lord, or chieftain. See esp. dialogue Pwyll - Arawn.
ArglwyddesLady, fem. of Arglwydd, Lord.
AruchelHigh, great, noble, lofty, impressive, high status, big, very big.
BarddProfessional poet of the noble class. Plural beirdd.
Bardd teuluBard of the household.
BeirddBards, plural of bardd.
Beirdd y tywysogioPoets of the Princes. This also names a period in Welsh literature when Welsh independence meant princes could maintain their own bards, bardd teulu.
Blow, blows1A single blow is magical in the Pwyll- Hafgan duel. Pwyll later accepts the Gorsedd Arberth challenge which risks receiving blows. But the consequences are that Gwawl receives the blows.
BrenhinesQueen. The masc. is brenin.
Brenin King. The fem. in brenhines.
Caer Seint in Arfon2Branwen's starling found her bro. Bran here and he took her letter from its wing, telling how she was abused.
CaincBranch, of a tree. The four sections of the Mabinogi are called Branches which shows it s a united work.
Calan GaeafWinter Eve, halloween, a powerful traditional festival in Celtic lands which opened the hunting season.
Calan HafFirst day of Summer, Mayday. Like Calan Gaeaf, First Day of Winter, Halloween, Samhain.
Calan Mai1May Eve, a powerful traditional festival in Celtic lands. Pryderi is rescued by Teyrnon on this night. Also called Calan Haf, First Day of Summer.
Cantref1A measure of territory based on 100. Possibly a levy of 100 armed fighters. Dyfed originally had 7 cantrefs.
Ceredigion2North of Dyfed. 4 cantrefs of territory conquered and annexed by Pryderi for Dyfed. See also Ystrad Twyi.
ChwedlStory, anecdote; also chwedyl. ‘Chwedyl’ used in phrase about Pryd. when an infant.
ClaerwynShining, glittering, pale. Used to signal a creature of enchantment or Annwfn, such as Cwn Annwfn, Rhiannon's horse, and the boar in the Third Branch.
CoedForest, wood. Sing coeden, tree.
CoedenTree. Plur. coed, forest or wood.
Compensation1, 2The law codes and customs rely much more on compensation than mutilation or prison. When Pwyll offends Arawn, and Efnisien insults Matholwch, the recourse is negotiation, and gifts set at agreed levels. Pwyll and Rhiannon both do service to expiate their offences.
CwnHounds, sing. ci. Cwn Annwn appear to Pwyll with characteristic red ears and eyes, and shining white pelts.
Cwn Annwfn1Hounds of Annwfn. Pack of hounds of Arawn, appear to Pwyll. White, with red ears and eyes,
CyfarwyddStoryteller, bard who told stories. Either a popular but lower class of bard, or a role a poetic bard might adopt; which or both is unclear.
Cymraeg British, or Welsh language.
CynghorCounsel, advice, plan or course of action.
côchRed, mutates to goch. See LLyfr Coch.
Devastation of Dyfed3Magical disappearance of all people and stock, by Llwyd. Originates from Arberth.
DihenydA 'fitting death' as in Gwawl’s plea from the bag, after being beaten up in the badger -in -the -bag game in the First branch.
DwfnDeep, profound. Etymology of Annwfn.
Dyfed1, 3, 4Modern Pembs. one of the major realms of old Wales.
Eisted, sitting1, 3The magic of Gorsedd Arberth is set off by a noble deliberately sitting on it; thus Rhiannon appears to Pwyll, and the Devastation of Dyfed is caused. cf the modern National Eisteddfod, and a 'sitting' of Parliament.
EurGold, golden.Also aur. Eurwisg f. gold cloth. Eureit (euraidd) gold, golden.
Eureit Golden, from the root 'eur' gold.
FawrGreat, big, the Great e.g. Llewellyn Fawr. Mutates to 'mawr.'
Feast1, 23 stages: food, carousing (see Alcohol), entertainment. Status controlled display by strict seating hierarchy. Witnessing marriage, community bonds. Lengthy preparations up to a year. Rhiannon says her wedding feasts under her authority. Pwyll refers to a feast lasting several days. As roleplaying beggar he explicitly refers to starvation.
GaeafWinter. As in Calan Gaeaf, Samhain Oct 31st. (Calan = First day. Gaeaf = Winter)
GalanasCompensation for killing.
Glyn Cuch1A large, deep, lengthy river valley running north-south in Dyfed (modern Pembrokeshire). Pwyll fatefully decided to hunt there, opening the events of the First Branch.
GorseddA sitting, a throne, a mound, a meeting or gathering. Mutates to 'orsedd.'
Gorsedd Arberth1, 3The Mound of Arberth, or Gathering-place of Arberth is the pivot of magical marvels. Pwyll sets out to hunt from Arberth court nearby. He accepts the challenge of the Gorsedd by sitting there, and meets Rhiannon. The Devastation of Dyfed is caused by another sitting by Pryderi, Cigfa, Rhiannon and Manawyddan. See Eisted.
Gwales2Modern Grassholm island. Sojourn II of Seven Survivors.
GwalltHair. Gwri Gwallt Euryn means Gwri Golden Hair.
GwasServant, boy, vassal. gwas ieuanc'. [ieuanc – young, unmarried]
Gwelw Pale, greyish white, light grey often of a horse. Trans. as pale-white in 1st Branch. Mutates to welynt.
Gwent, Gwent-Ys-Coed1White land below the wood. SE Wales, the name survives today as Went wood.
gwisgDress, garment, clothes, clothing. Also gwisc.
gwrMan as in her man/ husband, husband. Pl. gwyr.
GwreicWomanly, feminine, lady. Also gwreigaidd.
Gwyn, gwen1White. The colour of the coats of the Hounds of Annwfn, emphasised as dazziling in sharp contrast to the equally dazzling red of their ears and eyes. Pwyll sees this colouring on the Hounds when on his fateful hunt.
HafSummer. As in Calan Haf, Midsummer; and Hafga, Summer Lord.
HanesHistory. As in Hanes Taliesin.
Harlech2A chief court and port of Britain, in Gwynedd, where the Second Branch begins with 13 ships arriving from S. Ireland. Sojourn I of Seven Survivors, soothed by Adar Rhiannon, Birds of Rhiannon..
HudMagic, enchantment.
Island of the Mighty2See Ynys Y Kedeirn.
LlanEnclosure, enclosed space, sacred space, later a church/ church yard.
LlannerchClearing, glade.
LlathreitShining, glittering, blazing.
LlawHand, side. Plur. dwylaw.
Llundain2London. The capital city of Britain, Second Branch, according to mythical history when Britain was a unified realm under Brythonic rule.
LlyfrBook. Llyfr Gwyn Rhydderch and Llyfr Coch Hergest are the two main surviving manuscripts which contain the Mabinogi (and much else).
LLyfr CochLlyfr Coch Hergest, the later of the two main mediaeval manuscripts which survived, containing the Mabinogi. Named 'coch' red, after its cover.
LLyfr GwynLlyfr Gwyn Rhydderch, the earlier of the two main mediaeval manuscripts which survived, containing the Mabinogi. Named 'gwyn' white, after its cover.
Llys1, 2, 3, 4Court. A court was usually a mobile company of the lord's family, officers, courtiers, fighters, minstrels, and servants. It moved to different halls, also called courts, such as Arberth or Aberffraw. Gwynedd, Fourth Branch was exceptional as Math was immobilised so his nephews did the royal circuit for him.
Mab1, 2, 3, 4Root of the titles Mabinogi and Mabinogion, exact meaning unclear. 'Mab' in Welsh means a boy or youth. Theories: children's stories; training text for apprentice bards; young hero saga about Pryderi and Lleu.
MabYouth, boy, young.
Mabinogi1, 2, 3, 4Four units of stories, Pedair Cainc, the Four Branches. 1. Pwyll. 2. Branwen. 3. Manawyddan. 4. Math. They are part of the Mabinogion collection. The Four Branches are a closely interrelated whole, both mythology and fine literature.
Makwyf1New young fighter. The makwyf was a newly trained fighter, part of the teulu/ warband, servicing his seniors. Pwyll sends one after Rhiannon to enquire her business. Teyrnon poss. makwyf to Pwyll's teulu when younger.
MarchHorse, charger, stallion, male horse. Mutates to uarch; Pl. meirch. 'uarch canwelw' is a pale-white horse seen with Rhiannon riding it.
MarchawgRider, horseman, male rider.
MarchogesRider, horsewoman, female rider.
MerchWoman, girl, daughter. Mutates to 'ferch.'
PaliSilk. Imported word from Norman French. Mutates to 'bali.'
Pedair CaincThe Four Branches (of the Mabinogi).
PenHead, top, chief. Can be part of a status title as in Pen Annwfn, or part of a place name, or ordinary word.
Pen AnnwfnTitle accorded to Pwyll at the end of the First Branch to recognise his position as the chief ally of Annwfn.
Pen Llwyn Diarwya1Pwyll set off to hunt in Glyn Cuch late in the day. He stayed overnight in Pen Llwyn Diarwya, then began actual hunting with his company early the next morning.
PencerddChief Poet. Chief of song cf. penn, pen: head, top, chief.
Pendaran Dyfed1High status noble of Dyfed. He assists Pwyll to confirm Rhiannon's naming of her son Pryderi, and becomes foster father. Unclear identity/ 'Pen' head, chief. 'Daran' thunder.
PendefigPrince. Pwyll Pendefig Dyfed, Pwyll Prince of Dyfed.
PenteuluChief of a warband.
PoenPunishment, penance.
Preseli, Preseli mountains1The nobles of Dyfed summon Pwyll to a formal meeting in the Preselis, the origin of the ancient bluestones. The same name is used today.
PrifFirst, primary.
Prif Rieni, High Matriarchs2Title accorded to Branwen, also in the Trioedd, Triads.
PrydeinBritain, or Ynys Prydain the Island of Britain. The name Pryderi, son of Rhiannon, has the same root.
Punishment1, 4Compensation is the main mode to deal with wrongdoing. Pwyll does service for Arawn. Rhiannon negotiates a 7 year penalty. Math marries Goewin and forces her rapists to undergo animal shapeshifts . But Rhiannon's maids express fear of burning or death, which is unusual.
Pwyll Pendefig DyfedPwyll Prince of Dyfed. Uses the root honorific Pen, as in Head, Chief, so Pendefig, Prince.
Ryuedawt1Marvel, wonder. Extraordinary event highly likely to be hud, magical, enchanted. See esp. advent of Rhiannon.
Seisyllwch17 cantrefs territory, conquered by Pryderi, prince of Dyfed.
Seven Survivors2Pryderi, Manawyddan and five others survive the Irish War. They sojourn in Harlech, then Gwales, then accompany Bran's decapitated head to London to bury it.
TeuluCompany or household, its trained fighters.
The Mabinogion1, 2, 3, 4Earliest prose literature of Britain. Collection of 11 tales, from 2 similar mediaeval manuscripts Llyfr Gwyn, Llyfr Coch. Written Middle Welsh, 14th /15thC, compiled c. 1100 from much earlier oral traditions. The name is a mistake, but established convenience.
Unben1Lord, chieftain. Title used between nobles of any rank, as courtesy. Also trans. 'chieftain.' The higher title is arglwyd, perhaps High Lord, for a king such as Arawn. See esp. dialogue Pwyll - Arawn.
Ynys Y Kedeirn, Island of the Mighty2Britain as a unified realm under Brythonic rule, in mythical history. Its capital is Llundain, London.
Ystrad Twyi 13 cantrefs territory, conquered by Pryderi, prince of Dyfed.
Ynys PrydeinThe Island of Britain.
PwyllPrudence, sense, wisdom cf. hanbwyllaf consider; hanbwyllaw.
Ryfedawt See a marvel.
SarhaedCompensation price for insult.
TairThree. Y Tair Rhamant / The Three Romances. Tair f. Tri m.
TêgFair, beautiful cf. Tylwyth Teg, the Fair Ones, which courtesy title compares to the Erinnyes of Greece, the Kindly Ones.
TreiglweithOnce upon a time ... Also treigylgwaith. Compare treigl, cycle. Suggests a cyclic view of time, a Dreamtime.
Tynged Destiny.
UchelwrNobles, the landowning class. The lower level of the nobility which became prominent after the independence and therefore patronage of the Princes ended.
welynt(gwelw) pale, greyish white, light grey often of a horse. Trans. as pale-white.
Ystoria Story, history.

Leave a Comment