Cennin Pedr

Daffodils / Cennin Pedr / Narcissi

Yesterday was St David’s Day (Dydd Gŵyl Dewi), a day when many Welsh people wear daffodils (cennin Pedr) in honour of their patron saint. The daffodil (cenhinen Bedr) is one of the national symbols of Wales, along with the leek (cenhinen), and the Welsh name for daffodil means “Peter’s leek”. The leek has been a Welsh symbol for many centuries and features prominently in traditional Welsh dishes such as cawl cennin (leek soup). The daffodil became popular as a national symbol during the 19th century, especially among women.

The names for daffodil in Irish, Manx and Scottish Gaelic are similar: lus an chromchinn, lus ny cam-ching and lus a’ chrom-chinn, which mean “bent-headed plant”. Alternative names in Manx include lus ny n’guiy (goose plant) and lus yn arree (Spring plant).

The English word daffodil is thought to comes from the Middle English affodill (asphodel), from the Middle Lation affodillus, from the Latin asphodelus, from the Greek asphodelos, the origin of which is unknown. The initial d perhaps came from a merging of the Dutch definite article de with affodil (Source).

According to Plutarch the Latin name for daffodil, narcissus, comes from the Greek ναρκαώ [narkao] (to numb), which is also the root of narcosis, as the plant which produces numbness or palsy (Source). Although other sources claim that the narcissus was named after Νάρκισσος [Narkissos], the character in Greek myths.

The daffodil or narcissus is a symbol of vanity in the West, while in China it’s a symbol of wealth and good fortune.

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This entry was posted in English, Etymology, Greek, Irish, Language, Latin, Manx, Scottish Gaelic, Welsh, Words and phrases.

7 Responses to Cennin Pedr

  1. Duncan says:

    The Arabic word for the daffodil is نرجس (Narjis), which is also the name used for Narcissus in the myth. I’m not sure which meaning predates the other.

  2. Yenlit says:

    Other lesser used Welsh names for the daffodil is “lili bengam” and narcissus “croeso’r gwanwyn”.

  3. Petréa Mitchell says:

    Another name for the daffodil or certain varieties of it is “jonquil”. According to Etymology Online, this comes via French from the Spanish for “little reed”.

    Out here in Portland, Oregon (which I’ve been told looks just like Wales, “if you ignore the volcanos”), daffodils are extremely popular, and are one of the first signs that spring has arrived. This year they started blooming early, thanks to the unusually warm and dry weather we’ve had the last couple of months.

  4. Declan says:

    The daffodil is a symbol of spring at least in the West of Ireland.

  5. Yenlit says:

    Is the Gaelic/Manx “lus” for plant from the examples above cognate with Welsh “llysiau” (vegetables, herbs) and “llus” (bilberries)?

  6. d.m.falk says:

    The asphodel is a fiery flower that only grows in Hades, according to Greek mythology, I believe on the banks of the River Styx.

    d.m.f.

  7. Simon says:

    Yenlit – “lus” is indeed cognate with the Welsh “llysiau”, and also with the Cornish “les” (herb) and “losow” (plant) and the Breton “louzaouen” (herb).

    “llus” are “fraochán” in Irish, “fraochan” in Scottish Gaelic and “freoghane” in Manx – I’m not sure about the etymology of “llus”.