In terms of transition and transformation, Welsh surnames have had very significant changes over the years. Still, Welsh surnames enjoy huge attention and popularity even in the present day. Historically, the pattern of adopting surnames has seen great alteration from how they used to be. Presently, there abound Welsh surnames having their own peculiar inspiration and development.
Wales lies to the west of Great Britain Island and is part of the United Kingdom. Welsh surnames are often derived from the Welsh and English, and some even have Celtic origins. During the Middle Ages, they used to add prefixes such as ‘ap,’ ‘ab’ (meaning ‘son of’), and ‘ferch’ (meaning ‘daughter of’) in their surnames.
Also, other names were derived from nicknames, occupations, and some were also non-hereditary personal names. Let’s take a look at some popular Welsh surnames. At a point, 48 percent of Welsh names were patronymics and, in some parishes, over 70 percent. Patronymics could be extended with names of grandfathers and earlier ancestors, to perhaps the seventh generation.
However, the patronymic system was gradually replaced with fixed surnames, which continued into the 19th century and present. Areas, where England’s influence was strong, had abandoned patronymics earlier, as did town families and the wealthy. Hence, we want to take a look at Welsh surnames that are currently in vogue.
List of Notable Welsh Surnames and their Meanings
To observe the great shift from the patronymic naming system in Wales, let us consider these Welsh Surnames below.
Adam – A common biblical surname, it means “son of Adam”. The popular Welsh version of this name is Adda and Bathoe.
Ajax – A rare Welsh surnames, it seems to belong to only one family found in only one part of Cardiganshire.
Anwyl – Derived from the Welsh word annwy, which means “beloved”, “dear” or “favourite child”.
Astley – Derived from an English place name it is adopted by the Welsh. It means “eastern woodland clearing” in Old English.
Awbrey – The Norman name arrived in Wales after the Norman Conquest of the Wales region. The original bearer of the name was known to live in a place planted with elder trees, and it is also a derivation of Baptismal name meaning ‘son of Aubrey.’
Bach – It was used as a nickname for a short or small man, and is taken from the Welsh word, ‘bach’ meaning ‘little.’
Baughan – It is derived from the Welsh words ‘bychan,’ which mean little or small. This surname is also a family name in Oxfordshire in England.
Beavin – This is a patronymic name created from the Welsh name, Bevan that itself is derived from ‘ab-lefan’ or ‘ap-lefan.’ The prefix ‘ab’ or ‘ap’ means ‘son of,’ and thus the name means ‘son of lefan.’ The name ‘Lefan’ is likely the Welsh version of the name John.
Beddoe – It is a variant of the name ‘Bedo,’ which is the pet form of the Welsh name Meredith that means ‘sea lord’ or ‘protector of the sea’ in Welsh.
Benbow – Adopted from the English name Bendbow, this name moved to Wales from the midlands. It was originally given to an archer.
Bennion – It is the anglicized form of the name ‘ap Einion’ meaning the ‘son of Einion.’ The name Einion is the Welsh word for ‘anvil.’
Bethel – It is a patronymic surname and an anglicized form of Welsh name ‘ab Ithel’ or ‘son of Ithel’ meaning ‘bountiful Lord.’
Blayney – This is derived from the Welsh words ‘blaenau’ meaning ‘uplands’ or ‘blean’ meaning ‘a river source.’ The name is also associated with the place called Castleblayney in Ireland.
Breckon – It is a toponymic name for someone from the county of Brecon, also called Brecknockshire, in south Wales. The name is also said to be the name of a 6th century Welsh prince from the same place.
Caddell – This is derived from the Old Welsh personal name ‘Cadell’ that itself comes from the Welsh word ‘cad’ meaning ‘battle.’ The surname was popularly associated with the 7th-century saint Cadell ab Urien.
Cadogan – It is a derivative of Old Welsh family name Cadwgan where ‘cad’ means‘ battle’ and ‘gwgan’ means ‘glory.’ The surname thus means ‘glory in battle’ or ‘honor in battle.’
Cadwalader – A variant of the name Calwallader, it means “leader of the battle”. It is derived from the Welsh words cad, which means “battle” and gwaladr, which means “leader”.
Cardiff – It is a toponymic name for someone from the Welsh city of Cardiff. The name Cardiff comes from a combination of two Welsh words, namely ‘caer’ meaning ‘fort and ‘taf’ meaning ‘stream of water.’
Carew – It is a toponymic name for anyone from the several places of the same name in Wales, including a castle called Carew. The name is a combination of the Welsh words ‘caer’ meaning ‘fort’ and ‘rhiw’ meaning ‘hill’ or a ‘slope.’
Cecil – It is taken from the Old Welsh name ‘Seisyllt’ that is derived from the Latin name ‘Sextilius.’ The name ‘Sextilius’ comes from the Latin word ‘sextus’ meaning ‘sixth.’ The name ‘Cecil’ could also be the modified form of the Latin name ‘Caecilius,’ which is derived from ‘Caecus,’ the Latin word for ‘blind.’
Clocker – It is a Cornish surname that came to Wales with the mining families that migrated before 1800.
Collins – This surname is derived from ‘Collen,’ which is a Welsh word for hazel or a hazel grove. Hazel is a shrub and the source of hazelnut. This surname likely has English and Irish origins.
Coslett – This is a variant name of Corslett or Cosslett that is considered to have migrated to Wales from Germany. The exact origin of the name is unknown. The surname is common in northern Wales and around Liverpool in England.
Craddock – This is a derivative of the Welsh personal name, Caradoc which traces its origin to the ancient Celtic name ‘Caratacos.’ The Celtic name comes from the Celtic word ‘car’ meaning ‘love.’
Dacus – This name is an English or anglicized version of the Welsh personal name Deicws. It is also a pet or short form of “Dafydd”, the Welsh form of “David”.
Davies – It is the Welsh variant of the name ‘Davis’ that means ‘son of David.’ The name ‘David’ itself comes from Hebrew and means ‘beloved.’
Dee – It is derived from the Welsh word ‘Du’ meaning black or dark. The name ‘Dee’ likely started as a nickname for a person with a dark complexion or dark skin color. Another origin could be the River Dee in Wales. In this case, the name could be a toponymic one referring to those who lived along the banks of the Dee River.
Deiniol – A Welsh variant of Daniel, this biblical name means “God is my judge”.
Devonald – It is derived from the Welsh surnames Devenallt and Dyfnallt. It means “deep hill”.
Dew – It is considered to be one of the new names that migrated to England after the Norman Conquest. The name means ‘treasured one’ in Welsh
Edris – It is a variant of the Welsh personal name Idris that is made of two Welsh elements, namely ‘uud’ meaning ‘lord’ and ‘ris’ meaning ‘impulsive’ or ‘ardent.’
Edwards – It is a patronymic name that means ‘son of Edward.’ The name Edward itself comes from Old English words ‘ead’ meaning ‘wealth’ or ‘fortune,’ and ‘weard’ that means ‘guard.’ The name Edward thus means ‘rich guard.’
Elijah – The name means ‘my god is Yahweh’ or ‘my god is lord’ in Hebrew. Elijah has been the name of several saints in the past.
Ellis – It is a derivative of the Welsh personal name ‘Elisedd’ that is derived from the Welsh word ‘elus’ meaning ‘kind’ or ‘benevolent.’ This surname has been the name of a few kings that ruled over Wales.
Evans – It is a patronymic name that means ‘son of Evan.’ The name Evan is the anglicized version of ‘lefan,’ which is the Welsh version of the name John.
Eynon – This is a derivative of the Welsh personal name ‘Enion’ that comes from the Welsh word ‘Einion’ meaning ‘anvil.’
Flint – It is a toponymic name for someone from the place called Flint in the Flintshire county of Wales. The place is famous for its castle, that is called Flint Castle.
Flower – It is an anglicized form of the Welsh personal name ‘Llywarch’ that has an unexplainable origin. The surname may be of English origin where it refers to a blossoming flower or a derivative of Old French word ‘flur’ meaning ‘flower.’
Floyd – It is a variant of the surname Lloyd that is a derivative of the Welsh word ‘llwyd’ meaning ‘gray.’ The word ‘llwyd’ is also used to refer to the color ‘brown.’ The name may have been a reference to a young man.
Gadarn – The name is derived from the forest deity “Hu Gadarn”.
Games – A Welsh surname derived from the Welsh words gam or cam, which means “crooked” or “bent”.
Gaynor – It is a variant of the feminine name ‘Gaenor’ that came from ‘Gwenhwyfar,’ a compound of Welsh elements ‘gwen’ meaning‘fair,’ ‘wyf’ meaning ‘smooth,’ and ‘fawr’ meaning ‘large.’ A few variants of the name Gaynor are Guinevere, and Jennifer, which is a popular feminine name.
Geonor – An occupational name for the one who built walls and medieval machines. It also means “engineer”.
Gethin – It is derived from the Welsh name ‘Cethin’ meaning ‘ugly’ or ‘hideous.’ The name would have likely begun as a nickname.
Glace – It is the anglicized form of Welsh word ‘Glas’ that means ‘green’ or can even refer to ‘silver-gray.’ The name could have originally been a nickname.
Goff – It is a variant of the English name Gough that comes from the Welsh word coch, which means “red”. Again it could be a nickname for someone with red hair or a reddish complexion.
Gower – It is a toponymic name for someone from the Gower peninsula, which lies to the south-west of Wales.
Griffiths – It means ‘son of Gruffudd.’ The name Gruffudd comes from the Old Welsh name ‘Griphiud’ meaning ‘chief’ or ‘lord.’
Guild – It is an anglicized form of Welsh surname ‘Gwyllt,’ a nickname that means ‘wild’ in Welsh.
Gwalchmai – It is derived from two Welsh elements, ‘gwalch’ meaning ‘hawk and ‘mai’ meaning ‘field.’ It is also the name of a village in Anglesey, an island off the north-western coast of Wales.
Gynne – This name is derived from the Welsh word Gwyn, which means “blessed”.
Hanmer – This surname is likely a toponymic one, referring to a place called Hanmer , which is a place within the Wrexham County of Wales. The name means ‘lake’ or a ‘pond’ in Old English.
Havard – The name is of uncertain origin but is considered a toponymic one. It could refer to someone from the place called Hereford in the Herefordshire county of England. The name Hereford is a combination of the Old English words ‘here’ meaning ‘army’ and ‘ford’ meaning ‘ford’ (a shallow section of a river or a stream).
Hier – It is derived from a descriptive nickname derived from the Welsh word ‘hir’ meaning ‘long’ or ‘tall.’
Hopkins – It is a patronymic Welsh surname meaning ‘son of Hopkin.’ The name Hopkin is a derivative of the name ‘Robert’ that comes from the Old Germanic name ‘Hrodebert’ meaning ‘bright fame.’
Howell – It is an anglicized form of the Old Welsh name ‘Hywel’ which means ‘eminent.’ It was a popular name during the Middle ages and also the name of a ruler of Wales.
Hughes – It is the Welsh variant of the surname ‘Howells,’ which means ‘son of Howell.’ Another origin could be the name ‘Hugh’ that comes from the Old Germanic word ‘hug’ meaning ‘heart’ or ‘spirit.’
Idle – It is a derivative of the Welsh personal name ‘Ithael’ that comes from Old Welsh name ‘ludhail’ meaning ‘bountiful Lord.’
Issac – It’s a biblical name that came to Wales after the reformation. In Hebrew, it means “he will laugh”.
Ithell – It is a variant of the name ‘Ithael,’ which traces its origins to the Old Welsh name ‘ludhail’ meaning ‘bountiful Lord.’
Jacob – This biblical name came to Wales with the Reformation. It means “to be behind” or “to follow” in Hebrew.
James – It is adapted from the first name ‘James.’ The name ‘James’ originated from the Hebrew name ‘Jacob’ that means ‘supplanter.’ The name likely came to Great Britain during the Norman Conquest.
Jenkins – It means ‘son of Jenkin.’ The name Jenkin is derived from the name ‘John’ with the suffix ‘kin’, thus the name likely referring to ‘John’s family.’
Jervis – Derived from Gervaise, the name could be a Norman personal name Jarvis.
John – It is a popular biblical name that is a variant of the Hebrew name ‘Yochanan’ meaning ‘Jehovah has been gracious’ or ‘god is gracious.’
Jones – It is a variant of the name ‘Jon,’ which originates from the name John.
Keelan – It is a toponymic name for someone from any of the several places called Cilan in Wales.
Kemble – It is derived from the Old Welsh personal name ‘Cynbel’ that is composed of the Old Welsh elements ‘cyn’ meaning ‘chief’ and ‘bel’ meaning ‘war.’ The name thus means ‘war chief.’
Kendrick – It is derived from the Old Welsh name ‘Cynwrig’ that is a combination of elements ‘cyn’ meaning ‘chief’ and ‘gwr’ meaning ‘man ‘. It is a popular surname in Wales and counties bordering England.
Kerry – The origins of the name are unknown, but the surname comes from Old Welsh and means ‘near the castle.’
Kneath – The name is likely a toponymic one and likely derived from the name Neath – the name of several places including a river in Wales.
Kyffin – This name is derived from the Welsh word cyffin, meaning “border”.
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Landeg – It is a short form of the word glandeg, and it means “handsome”.
Lewis – It is derived from the Welsh name ‘Llywelyn’that likely originated from the Welsh word ‘llyw’ meaning ‘leader.’ Another variant of the name Lewis is Lewison.
Leyshon – Derived from the Welsh personal name Lleision or Ley, it means “lion-like”.
Llewelyn – The name is an ancient Welsh personal name and also a popular name for the medieval princes. It is also believed to have been derived from Lugobelinus and Cunobelins. Some believe it to be derived from the Welsh word llyw, meaning “leader”.
Lloyd – It comes from the Welsh word ‘llwyd’ meaning ‘gray’ or also used to refer ‘brown.’ The name may have been a nickname or a reference to young men.
Maddocks – It is derived from Welsh personal name ‘Madoc,’ which comes from the Welsh word ‘mad’ meaning ‘good’ or ‘fortunate.’ The other alternatives of the name are Maddox, Mattock, Maddick, Maddog, Mattack and Madog.
Meredith – It is derived from the Old Welsh names Meredydd or Maredudd, which means ‘great lord’ or ‘sea lord.’ Another origin of the name could be the Old Welsh name Morgetiud with its first part meaning ‘pomp’ or ‘splendor’ and second portion meaning ‘lord.’
Merrick – It originates from the Welsh name ‘Meurig,’ which is the Welsh form of the name ‘Maurice.’ The name ‘Maurice’ comes from the Late Roman name ‘Maurus’ meaning ‘dark-skinned.’
Mills – An English name, it means “someone who lives by the mill”. Welsh variants include Mille and Mylle.
Moore – It is a derivative of Welsh word ‘mawr’ meaning ‘big’ or ‘large.’ It may have been originally a nickname for a large or big man.
Morgan – This is a derivative of Old Welsh personal name ‘Morcant’ composed of the Welsh elements ‘mor’ meaning ‘sea’ and ‘cant’ meaning ‘circle.’ It is a popular surname in Wales and other parts of Great Britain as well.
Morris – It is an anglicized form of Welsh personal name ‘Maurice’ that comes from the Late Roman name ‘Maurus’ meaning ‘dark-skinned.’
Moss – It is derived from either Old English ‘mos’ meaning ‘peat-bog’ or Irish ‘Maolmona’ referring to an ancient Gaelic devotee. Another origin of the name could be the Hebrew name ‘Moses.’
Mostyn – It is a toponymic name from someone from the place called Mostyn in Wales. The name of the place comes from Old English and means ‘moss town.’
Myrick – It is a variant of the Welsh name ‘Myrick’ that ultimately traces its origins to ‘Maurice.’ The name ‘Maurice’ comes from the Late Roman name ‘Maurus’ meaning ‘dark-skinned.’
Nanney – It is a toponymic surname derived from the name of a place called Nannau in Wales. The root word for the name is the Celtic word ‘nant’ meaning ‘brook.’
Narberth – It originates from the Welsh place called Narberth in Pembrokeshire.
Nash – It is a Welsh name that means “someone who lived by an ash tree”.
Nest – It is the Welsh form of the name ‘Agnes.’ The name Agnes comes from the Greek name ‘Hagne’ meaning ‘pure’ or ‘holy.’
Nevitt – It is derived from the Old English word ‘cniht’ that meant a ‘young man’ or a ‘knight.’ The name ‘Nevitt’ could also be the anglicized form of the Old Welsh name ‘Ednyfed.’ This name likely comes from the Welsh names ‘Edenevet’ or ‘Eidniuet’ composed of two Welsh elements, ‘iud’ meaning ‘lord’ and ‘nemeto’ meaning ‘sacred grove.’
Nuttall – This name is derived from the place names Lancashire or Nottinghamshire from where people migrated to Wales.
Oliver – Derived from a personal name from England that came from the Norman invaders, it is also a form of the name Olaf. It means “Olive tree planter”.
Owen – It is derived from the Welsh personal name ‘Owain,’ which is likely the Welsh form of the name ‘Eugene.’ The name Eugene comes from the Greek name ‘Eugenios’ that means ‘well-born’ or ‘noble.’
Parry – This is a patronymic name that is an anglicized version of the Welsh name ‘ap Harry’ meaning ‘son of Harry.’ The name Harry is derived from the name ‘Henry’ that comes from the Germanic name ‘Heimirich’ meaning ‘home ruler’ or ‘ruler of the homeland.’
Pembroke – It is a toponymic surname for someone from the town called Pembroke in Wales. This surname is considered to have been established since the 17th century in Ireland.
Pennoyer – The name’s original spelling was ‘Penoyre,’ and it is composed of two Welsh elements, ‘pen’ meaning ‘head’ and ‘aur’ meaning ‘golden.’ The name likely referred someone with golden hair. The name ‘Pennoyer’ could also be a toponymic one referring to someone from the place called Golden Valley in Herefordshire, Wales.
Phillips – It means ‘son of Philip.’ The name Philip comes from the Greek name ‘Philippos.’ It is composed of elements, ‘philein’ meaning ‘love’ and ‘hippos’ meaning ‘horse.’
Poyner – This surname is an anglicized form of the Welsh patronymic name ‘ab Ynyr’ or ‘son of Ynyr’. It is a derivative of the Latin name ‘Honorius’ meaning ‘honored.’
Price – This is a patronymic name derived from the Welsh personal name ‘ap Rhys’ meaning ‘son of Rhys.’ The name ‘Rhys’ means ‘enthusiasm.’
Priddy – It is a patronymic name that is the anglicized version of the name ‘ap Redith’ meaning ‘son of Redith.’ The name ‘Redith’ comes from the Old Welsh name ‘Meredith’ meaning ‘protector of the sea.’ Other origins of the name could be ‘ap Rhiddid’ meaning ‘son of Rhiddid.’ The name ‘Rhiddid’ is of unknown origin. The name ‘Priddy’ could even be a derivative of the Welsh word ‘prydudd’ meaning ‘bard.’
Pride – It is a derivative of the Welsh word ‘prid’ that means ‘precious’ or ‘dear.’ This popular name likely represents a valued and cherished person.
Prosser – It is a derivative of ap Rosser, which means “son of Rosser”.
Prothero – It is the anglicized version of the Welsh name ‘ap Rhydderch’ meaning ‘son of Rhydderch.’ The name Rhydderch means ‘reddish-brown’ and the name may have been a reference to someone with reddish-brown hair or complexion.
Rees – It is derived from the Old Welsh personal name ‘Rhys’ that means ‘enthusiasm.’ Another source could be the Old Welsh word ‘Ris’ meaning ‘ardor.’ Other variants include Rice, Reese, and Reece.
Roberts – It means ‘son of Robert.’ The name Robert comes from Old German and is made from the Germanic elements ‘hrod’ meaning ‘fame’ and ‘beraht’ meaning ‘bright.’
Roderick – It is an anglicized form of Welsh personal name ‘Rhydderch’ that meaning ‘reddish-brown.’
Rosser – It is the Welsh version of the English name ‘Roger.’ The name Roger comes from Old German and is composed of the Germanic elements ‘hrod’ meaning ‘fame’ and ‘gar’ meaning ‘spear.’
Sayce – This surname comes from the Old Welsh word ‘sais’ that means ‘saxon.’ The name was a reference to the English people settled in and around Wales.
Scurlock – It is originated from the Welsh personal name formed by the element ‘ysgor’ meaning ‘fort’ or ‘camp.’ The surname is associated with fortified manors in several parts of Wales.
Sealy – This surname is derived from the Welsh personal names ‘Selyf’ or ‘Selau.’ These names are the Welsh version of the name ‘Solomon,’ a Biblical name that means ‘peaceful.’
Sheldon – This English name was brought to Wales from Derbyshire during the late 18th and early 19th centuries. It means “steep valley”.
Teague – Derived either from the Irish personal name or surname Tegan, or the Welsh word teg, this name means “fair“ or “beautiful”.
Tew – In Welsh it means “Fat”, “stout” or “plump”. It could have begun as a nickname for someone who was fat and just stuck on.
Thomas – It is a biblical name and was a popular medieval personal name in Europe. It is a derivative of Aramaic byname meaning ‘twin.’
Trahern – It is derived from the Welsh personal name ‘Trahaearn,’ composed of two Welsh words, namely ‘tra’ meaning ‘most’ and ‘haearn’ meaning ‘iron.’ The name originally would have referred to someone who was as strong as iron.
Trevor – It is a toponymic surname derived from two Welsh words, namely ‘tref’ meaning ‘town’ and ‘mawr’ meaning ‘large.’ The name thus means ‘large town,’ and could have referred to someone who came from a large town.
Trewent – It is derived from a Welsh place name that was recorded in the medieval times upto the 20th century.
Tudor – It is taken from the personal Welsh name ‘Tudur’ that comes from the Celtic word ‘Toutorix’ meaning ‘ruler of the people.’
Uren – It is a derivative of Brythonic personal name ‘Orbogenos’ that was known as ‘Urgen’ or ‘Urbgen’ in Old Welsh. Although the first element is unknown, the root word ‘gen’ represents ‘born’ or ‘birth.’
Vaughan – It is derived from Welsh word ‘bychan’ that means ‘small’ or ‘little.’ The name would have originated to distinguish the younger of two bearers of the same personal name. The name could have also been a nickname.
Voyle – It is originated from the Welsh word ‘moel’ meaning ‘bald.’ It may have begun as a reference to a bald person or a dry patch of land.
Wathen – It is a derivative of the Welsh personal name ‘Gwaiddan.’ The name ‘Gwaiddan’ is a toponymic one and likely refers to someone from the place called Robeston Wathen in Wales.
Williams – It is a patronymic surname that means ‘son of William.’ The name William comes from the Old German name ‘Willahelm’ composed of the Old Germanic elements, ‘wil’ meaning ‘desire’ and ‘helm’ meaning ‘helmet’ or ‘protection.’
Wogan – It is derived from the Old Welsh personal name ‘Gwgan’ or ‘Gwgon’ that comes from the Welsh word ‘gwg’ meaning to ‘frown.’
Wynn – It comes from the Welsh word gwyn, which means “white”, “fair” or “blessed”.
Yale – Derived from the Welsh word ial, it means “fertile land”.
Yarwood – This name is a combination of Welsh elements Ior, which means “Lord’ and a short form of berth that means “handsome”.
As most Welsh surnames were derived from patronymics and often based on a small set of first names, Welsh communities had families bearing the same surnames that are not related. It cannot be assumed that two people named Jones, even in the same village, must have inherited the surname from a common ancestor.
Thankfully, this trend is not so much prevalent in the present day due to the obvious shift in the naming pattern and the gradual phasing off of the patronymic system.
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