A Note on Gwen/Gwyn


Many Welsh names contain the element gwyn, which means a lot of things: "white," "fair-haired," "beautiful," "holy," "blessed," "pure" etc. When at the end of a name (e.g., Bronwen, Arianwen, Rhydwyn), the "g" is dropped.

In feminine names, the form is always Gwen, as in Gwennan, Gwenydd, Arianwen, Bronwen, Carwen, Blodwen etc.

In masculine names, the form is always Gwyn, as in Gwynfor, Caerwyn, and Aelwyn.

So, just like in English where we have different endings for names of different genders (like Julian/Julia, Nicholas/Nicola, Joseph/Josephine), Welsh names follow rules too.

Here are some example of feminine/masculine versions of the same name:

Feminine Form Masculine Form
Aelwen Aelwyn
Carwen Carwyn
Eirwen Eirwyn
Gwenfor Gwynfor
Gwen Gwynn

Why am I including this? Because I'm a snotty purist, and I've met a couple of girls named Bronwyn. Bronwen/Bronwyn seems to be the most popular name in the USA for girls of Welsh descent whose parents want a Welsh name. However, most of them spell it with a Y, which would technically make it a man's name (although Bronwen means 'white breast', so you probably wouldn't give that name to a guy!), Maybe the parents thought it looked more feminine, or more 'Welsh,' but it's technically the wrong spelling, Bronwen is the correct feminine form. Ditto for the woman I met named Gwyn. In Welsh, this is strictly a boys' name, Gwen is the feminine form. While we're on the subject, in Wales, unlike in the USA, Glyn, Bryn, Meredith, and Morgan are all strictly used for boys as well!

But what about Gwyneth, you ask? Good question. Though it starts with gwyn, Gwyneth isn't actually derived from the word gwyn. It's possibly derived from the word gwynaeth meaning 'joy; bliss' or else comes from Gwynedd, a name for North-west Wales. It's kind of like how in English, a catapult has nothing to do with housepets, and how a funeral isn't generally any fun.