Words and Names
The words 'Tra
mor yn fur i'r bur hoff bae' in the Welsh National Anthem are familiar to
us all, but how many of us know the meaning of pau in 'hoff bau'. You
would not hear anyone use the word in conversation today. It is a dead
word in the language with the exception, perhaps of poetry. Yet at one
time it was a word much used in the Welsh language. It originates from the
Latin word pagus meaning & country, region, province'. The Latin pagus
gives us the French pays as in 'Pays de Galles', the land of the Welsh.
Pagus was used by the Romans to describe the people living in the pagus
and in mid Wales the word became in common parlance Powys. It was a
tendency in early times for the name of people to become the name of the
land where they lived. This happened in Dyfed. A tribe of people names
Demetae lived in South West Wales when the Romans arrived. A later form of
the name of this tribe is 'Dyfed', but no one has yet been able to explain
the origin of the word.
The Latin word pagus is also associated with the word pagan 'a peasant'.
One living in a pau was a peasant. Also, a pagan was a person who lived in
the country; one who had a lower status than a soldier of the Roman
Empire. Early Christians considered themselves Soldiers of Christ, and it
became a custom to call a non believer a paganus 'pagan'.
The earliest records available about Welsh place names were written by
Greek and Latin authors. Around 150AD the mathematician and astronomer
Claudius Ptolemaes (Ptolemy) of Alexandria mentions Maridunum in an essay
on geography. Scholars who specialise in this field agree that the a in
the word is a mistake and should be o, and that the correct name is
MORIDUNUM. i.e. mori and dunum. If you remove the i from mori you get mor
(sea). Without the um in dunum you have dun meaning 'fort' or 'city'. So,
we end up with a combination of 'sea' and 'fort'. As the Welsh language
developed Moridunum became Myrddin, and although the word contains din the
word caer was added to it unnecessarily Caerfyrddin. The connection
between the bard and wizard Myrddin with the town is historically