Sunday 3 March 2019

Road Names and the Cornish Language

Trinity Street, St.Austell, Cornwall

Many street signs in Cornwall are gradually being altered to show the name in both the Cornish and English languages.

Street sign for Meadow Rise, St.Austell, Cornwall

Cornish isn't spoken generally but there seems to be a desire to keep the language alive. You may have read on my Mousehole Post that the last native speaker of the Cornish language is believed to have been a Dolly Pentreath. She lived in Mousehole and died in 1777.

There are night classes for the Cornish language locally - my son went to a few.

Bakery Close, St.Austell

For interest here are a few Cornish words that you may see if in Cornwall. Like Tre, for example, which means home. Many place names start with this (for example: Trethurgy, Tregony, Tresillian) - so it is easy to see how the names came about.

Here are a few more Cornish language words: 

Alls - cliff

Bod - a dwelling; Bownder - a lane; Brea - a mound; Bryn - hill

Carn - rock pile; Carrack - rock; Coombe - valley; Creek - burial ground

Dennis - fort; Dinnis - fort; Dowr - water

Eglos - church; Ennis - island

Forth - road

Garth - garden; Glas or Glaze - blue / green; Good - lowland  

Hayle - estuary; Hen - old; Huel - mine

Kelly - copse; Kynance - steep valley

Lan - church enclosure; Lys - court

Maen - stone;  Mor - sea; Mur - big

Nan - valley; Noon - lowland

Olds - cliff

Parc - field; Pen - head; Penwith - headland tip; Ponds - bridge; Porth - cove; Praze - meadow

Red - ford; Reeth - red; Ryn - steep slope

Sans - holy ground; Scath - boat; Sten - tin

Tewen - sand dune; Toll - hole; Tre - home; Treath - beach; Tren farmstead;  Ty - house

Vean - small; Veor - great

Wartha - upper; Wheal - mine; Win - white; Withen - tree; Woon - lowland

Yet - gateway

 Zawn - gorge.

I think that will do!


  1. Very interesting linguistics lesson, Mike! Thank you!

  2. Thank you Ann. Our lovely sunshine has gone now. February's temperatures were record breaking! This week though it's storms and lots of rain promised

  3. This list is most interesting Mike, especially if like me you read the odd book set in Cornwall. I've often wondered about the meanings of some of the more often used words. There are links, I believe, to Breton and Welsh? Perhaps in the Middle Ages everyone could understand more than today...
    I hope your weather week is better down there than ours here in Devon which has begun with a rather miserable wash-out! :))

    1. Hello Prue. Thanks. Cornwall, being a Celtic region, does have links with Brittany and other Celtic regions. Many of the Irish saints heading for Europe landed at Padstow. From here they walked to Fowey before sailing on to Brittany. There is a footpath today called the Saints Way, which is the same route. Seemingly the Saints landed at Padstow to avoid the rough seas around Lands End.

      As for the weather - winds and rain this morning!




  We had to make a short visit to Fowey so I snapped a few quick photos as we walked. The first two are views on the way from the Fowey car ...