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The Gower Dialect

The Gower dialect is unique to the area and was brought about by the Norman invasion of Wales in the 11th century. During this time, Gower was divided into two parts: an English-speaking area known as Anglicana (in the west and south) and a Welsh-speaking area known as Wallicana (in the north and east). Anglicana became isolated from the rest of England and it is here where the famous Gower dialect developed.

After the Norman conquest of 1066, the more fertile agricultural land of Gower, in the south and west of the peninsula, was settled by people from England. This included areas such as Oystermouth and Reynoldston. The north and east of the Peninsula, including areas like Penclawdd and Llanrhidian, remained Welsh speaking. This resulted in two very distinct areas with different languages, cultures and traditions.

Anglicana’s isolation from England resulted in a distinct English dialect known as the ‘Gower dialect’. The Normans had encouraged migration of people from Devon, Somerset and Dorset to Anglicana. Although some words do originate from the Welsh language, it is the dialects of these English counties that influenced the majority of the Gower dialect.

Some of the words from the Gower dialect are listed below along with their meaning:

  • Casn’t – cannot
  • Dree – three
  • Lake – small stream or brook
  • Pill – stream
  • Raal – real
  • Tacker – a youngster
  • Umman – woman
  • Vather – father
  • Viel/Vile – a field, still used to describe a medieval strip field arrangement at Rhossili on Gower
  • Zz’thee knaw – do you know

The words ‘thee’ and ‘thou’ were commonly used in the Gower dialect. There are also local names for some dishes, such as ‘dowset’ and ‘white pot’, which were milked meats.

The influence of the English is still evident today in some of the place names across Gower. Some places with English roots include:

Cheriton – farm or settlement with a church
Middleton – middle farm
Ilston – farm of Illtud
Newton – new farm
Norton – north farm
Overton –upper farm
Singleton – farm of the Sengleton family
Oxwich – ox farm
Parkmill –the mill by the park

Other place names with Welsh origins include:

Crofty – small field house
Penardd – top of the height
Penmaen – stone hill
Penclawdd – ditch’s end
Cefn Bryn – hill of the ridge
Y Crwys – the cross

Learn More

Find out more about the history of the Gower dialect

Detailed history of the Gower dialect by Dr Robert Penhallurick of Swansea University

History of the Gower dialect >