Names in the Area

Below there is a list of names in the area together with an explanation provided by the Wales Place Names Society.

Afon Ogwen
The river Ogwen rises on Carnedd Dafydd and flows to Llyn Ogwen, through the Ogwen valley and into the Menai Strait at Aberogwen. It belongs to a classification of rivers named after creatures. It is likely that the first element ‘og’ means ‘rapid, acute’ (in contrast with its antonym ‘diog’ meaning lazy). Another suggestion is the Irish óg meaning ‘young’. The second element is ‘banw’, meaning a ‘piglet, small pig’, describing a river furrowing through the ground as a piglet would. It can be compared to Afon Hwch, meaning ‘sow’, in Llanberis, Afon Beinw (plural form of ‘banw’) in Dolwyddelan, and Afon Twrch (and old Welsh word for ‘boar’) on the Berwyn mountains.

There are two elements to the name. ‘Try’ is an element that intensifies meaning, and ‘ban’ meaning ‘summit, point, peak, horn’ (compare with the Welsh word for the Brecon Beacons, ‘Bannau Brycheiniog’, that contains the plural form ‘bannau’). Therefore ‘tryfan’ means a mountain with a clear summit or a sharp head. It is very different from Glyder Fawr which is an intidy heap besides it.

Glyder Fawr a Glyder Fach
‘Cluder’ or ‘cludair’ means ‘a heap or pile of wood or stones amassed together’. It is possible that the names refer to the piles of loose stones on the summits of the two mountains, or possibly, to those rocks that are in the teeth of the wind on the western side of the Glyder Fach summit. The same word is seen in ‘Dôl-y-gludair’ near Dolgellau.

Cwm Clud
A hanging valley below Y Garn. It is possible that the word ‘clud’ comes from the word ‘cludo’ meaning ‘to carry’ and that it refers to carried material that could be the loose stones on the slopes of Ro Wen above Llyn Clud. Another possibility is that the word here is ‘clyd’, meaning ‘sheltered, cosy’, describing the nature of the cwm. Nant Clud (the Cwm Clud river) flows from Llyn Clud to Llyn Idwal.

Y Garn
The meaning of ‘carn’ is ‘a pile of stones’. It occurs frequently in names of hills and mountains, for example Garn Fadryn, Llŷn, and Garn Dolbenmaen.

Cwm Cneifion (neu Gwm Cneifiau)
A hanging valley below Bwlch y Ddwy Glyder. ‘Cneifiau/cneifion’ (the plural of the noun ‘cnaif’) means ‘tufts of sheared wool’. It is possible that the name refers to the conspicuous white stones on the slopes, reminscent of new tufts of sheared wool (as farmers would be shearing outside on the mountain in the old days).

Y Foel Goch
Y Foel Goch is located above Nant Ffrancon. The meaning of ‘moel’ as an adjective is ‘naked’. As a noun, it is a word for a barren hill or mountain (for example Moel Faban). ‘Coch’ (red) refers to the rock colour.

Nant Ffrancon
‘Nant’ can mean ‘valley’ or ‘stream’. It is possible that ‘ffranc’ (plural ‘ffrancon’) denotes a ‘foreign mercenary’ or that it derives from the Old English ‘franca’ meaning ‘spear’, and that it is a description of the stream’s mighty flow, similar to the sharp weapon, or from the prickly rocks of Braich Tŷ Du.

Castell y Gwynt
Castell y Gwynt (‘the windy castle’) on the western side of Glyder Fach, is in the teeth of the wind. Castle is an appropriate name for the rugged rocks on a mountain crest, like high defence towers. Castell y Geifr (‘castle of the goats’) by the edge of Y Garn is another example.

Place names can also reveal more of our more recent history to us.

One of these examples is the influence of the Princes Llywelyn Fawr, and his son Dafydd on the local people. It is believed that Carnedd Dafydd and Carnedd Llywelyn mountains were first named in tribute poetry by one of the medieval poets of the nobility, Rhys Goch Eryri. These princes must have been held in very high esteem to have kept their names on two of the highest mountains in the area.