Gower dialect

The Gower Peninsula on the south Wales coast was Normanised/Anglicised relatively early after the Norman conquest of England. Relatively cut off from the Welsh hinterland, but with coastal links across south Wales and the West Country, the region developed a distinct English dialect which endured to within living memory.

Not quite a language

Peninsular Gower was geographically insulated from ‘mainland’ modern language influences until well into the twentieth century. A number of words and pronunciations were recorded during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries as distinct usages in Gower - many of which might once have been widespread but which had fallen out of use in the developing standard English. A few of the Gower words seem to derive from the Welsh language (e.g. 'pentan'), but many more of the words and usages are cognate with English country dialects including those of South Devon, Somerset and Wiltshire.[1]

A glossary of some Gower words

Angletouch - a worm

Back - iron plate, part of a dredge

Beader/bidder - person appointed to summon guests to a Gower wedding

Bellamine - unglazed brown earthenware pitcher (cf Bellarmine)

Bett - prepared turf used for hedging

Blonkers - sparks

Bossey - a calf still running with its mother

Bubback - scarecrow ; dull person

Bumbagus - the bittern (cf Welsh aderyn y bwn)

Butt - a small cart

Caffle - tangle

Carthen - winnowing sheet

Casn't - cannot

Cassaddle - harness piece for a draught horse

Cavey - humble

Charnel - box-like space above the fireplace, often used for hanging bacon

Clavvy/ Clevvy - large oak beam supporting the inner wall of a chimney

Clever - fine (adj)

Cliffage - tithe on quarried lime stone, payable to the Lord of the Manor

Cloam - earthenware

Cratch - haystack

Culm - small coal used in lime-burning

Cust - could

Cuzzening - coaxing

Dab - a large stone used in playing duckstone

Deal - a litter (of pigs)

Dobbin - large mug

Dowset - Gower dish, similar to 'whitepot' (below)

Drangway - narrow lane or alleyway

Drashel - a flail

Dree - three

Dreppance - three pence

Drow - throw

Dryth - dryness

Dumbledarry - cockchafer

Evil - a three pronged dung-fork

Frawst / froist - a dainty meal (n); frightened/astonished (adj)

Gake - yawn

Galeeny - guinea-fowl

Gambo - a cart; wagon

Glaster - buttermilk in the churn

Gloice - a sharp pang of pain

Gurgins - coarse flour

Gwain - going

Hambrack/hamrach - a straw horse-collar (cf 'rach')

Herring-gutted - lean, skinny

Holmes - holly

Inklemaker - busy person

Ipson - the quantity that can be held in a pair of cupped hands

Ite - yet

Jalap - liniment; laxative tonic

Jorum - large helping of tea or beer

Keek - to peep

Keelage - foreshore berthing fee due to the Lord of the Manor

Keeve - large barrel or vat

Kerning - ripening; turning sour

Kersey - cloth woven from fine wool

Kittlebegs / kittybags - gaiters

Kyling - sea fishing

Lake - small stream or brook

Lancher / lansher - greensward between holdings in a common field or 'viel'

Leery - empty

Lello - a fool; a carefree lad

Makth - makes

Mapsant - local saint’s feast day celebrations (from Welsh 'mab' - son; 'sant' (holy)

Mawn - large wicker basket for animal feed

Melted - broken up, disintegrated

Mort - pigfat; lard

Mucka - a rickyard

Neargar, fargar - nearer, farther

Nestletrip / nesseltrip - smallest pig in a litter

Nice - fastidious

Nipparty / Noppit - perky

Nummit / nommit - a simple lunch, e.g. of bread and 'soul', as might be sent to harvesters in the field (? 'noon meat'?)

Oakey - greased

Oakwib - cockchafer

Owlers - wool smugglers

Pentan - hob (from Welsh 'pen' - head or top, 'tan' - fire)

Pill - stream

Pilmy - dusty

Planche - to make a board floor (cf French 'plancher' - a wooden floor)

Purty - to turn sulky

Quapp - to throb

Quat - to press or flatten

Raal - real

Rach - the last sheaf of corn to be harvested (see also 'hamrach')

Reremouse - the bat (animal)

Resiant - resident, particulazrly a person resident in the area but not having a feudal tenancy

Riff - short wooden stick for sharpening a scythe

Rining - mooching; scrounging

Rying - fishing

Scrabble - to gather up objects hastily

Shoat - a small wheaten loaf

Shrid - to trim a hedge

Slade - land sloping towards the sea

Soul - cheese or butter, as eaten with bread

Spleet - (1) a knitting needle (2) a quarryman’s bar

Starved - perished with cold

Stiping - hobbling a sheep by tying its head to its foreleg with a band of straw

Tacker - a youngster

Tite - to overturn

Towser - a rough apron

Uddent - wouldn’t

Umman - woman

Vair - a stoat or weasel

Vather - father

Vella - fellow

Viel/Vile - a field. The name is still used to describe a commonly managed field at Rhossili on Gower, which is farmed in a mediaeval strip field arrangement

Vitte - clever or smart

Vorrit - forehead

V'rall - for all

Vurriner - foreigner

Want - a mole (animal)

Weest - dismal

Whirret - a slap

Whitepot - a Gower delicacy of flour, milk & currants baked (cf Devon 'whitepot', a sort of bread-&-butter pudding)

Wimbling - winnowing

Witches - moths

Yau - ewe

Zig - urine

Zive - scythe

Zongals/songals - corn gleanings

Zul/sul - a plough

Zz'thee knaw - do you know

Further reading


  1. http://www.gowermagazine.com/gower_dialect.htm 'Gower magazine' July 2011 retrieved at 16 August 2011
  2. http://welshjournals.llgc.org.uk/browse/listissues/llgc-id:1272866, Welsh Journals Online retrieved at 16 August 2011
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