Yr Wyddfa: push for Snowdon to be known only by Welsh name

Most of the hundreds of thousands of visitors who hike to the top of Wales’s highest mountain each year know it as Snowdon.

But a task group is to examine whether this English moniker should be ditched and only its Welsh name – Yr Wyddfa – used.

A motion was brought by the county councillor John Pughe Roberts calling for the Snowdonia National Park Authority to only refer to the mountain by its Welsh name and also to drop “Snowdonia” in favour of the Welsh Eryri.

Roberts told the Guardian on Thursday he felt it was important that old Welsh placenames were not lost and the park authority needed to set an example. “If you lose the old names, you lose the heritage, you lose all the things that lie behind that name. If you lose the name, you lose an important part of the history of the area.”

According to the park authority, the Welsh name Yr Wyddfa means grave and myth has it that the giant Rhita Gawr was buried on the mountain following a battle with King Arthur. It says Snowdon comes from the Saxon snow dune, meaning snow hill.

Eryri had long been thought to refer to the Welsh name for eagle – eryr – but is now believed to originate from the Latin oriri, meaning to rise.

There has been growing concern among Welsh language champions over the loss of traditional placenames. Cardiff council and Denbighshire council have both ruled that all new streets should have Welsh-only names.

Roberts said: “The language and the world has changed a lot.” He pointed out that Australians now refer to what was known as Ayers Rock as Uluru.

Mount Everest is still not commonly known by its Tibetan name, Chomolungma, meaning goddess mother of the world. Its English name comes from Col Sir George Everest, a surveyor general of India who was born in another hilly part of Wales, Crickhowell in Powys.

Roberts said that if the authority led the way by ditching the name Snowdon, it would eventually disappear. His motion was up for consideration at a meeting on Wednesday but the authority said it would be considered by its task group, set up to adapt guidelines on the use of Welsh placenames.

The authority chair, Wyn Ellis Jones, said: “Authority members decided that there was no need to consider the motion today as a Welsh placenames task and finish group has already been appointed.

“The authority is committed to protect and promote the use of native placenames for everyday use and future generations.”

Ffred Ffransis, a prominent member of the pressure group Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg (the Welsh Language Society) said: “I wonder if people in England can imagine renaming the Arc de Triomphe ‘Happy Days Arch’, or the Acropolis as ‘Temple Mount’?

“Enjoying the living culture is part of the experience of visiting a country, and this is as true of Cymru as any other country. Not only is Snowdon ‘Yr Wyddfa’ but our country is ‘Cymru’ (land of the comrades) not ‘Wales’ (land of the outsiders).”

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