Last night one of my friends was wondering about the meaning of the Welsh word bro, which appears in some Welsh placenames, such as Bro Morgannwg (the Vale of Glamorgan). So I thought I’d find out.

Bro /bro:/ is a Welsh word meaning “region, country, vale, lowland”. It is used mainly in place names, and appears in the expression bro a bryn (hill and dale), and in papurau bro (local Welsh language newspapers). It is also part of such words as brodir (region, country) and brodor (native), and in Y Fro Gymraeg (The Welsh Language Area) – the parts of Wales where Welsh is the majority language. It is a somewhat similar concept to the Gaeltachtaí in Ireland, though has no official recognition.

The same word exists in Cornish and Breton and has the same meaning. The Breton names for regions of Brittany all begin with Bro, for example Bro-Leon (Léon), Bro-Wened (Vannetais) and Bro-Gernev (Cornouauille), and England is Bro-Saoz (‘Land of the Saxons’), and Scotland is Bro-Skos or Skos in Breton.

This entry was posted in Etymology, Language, Welsh, Words and phrases.

7 Responses to Bro

  1. Dennis King says:

    “Bro” is an element etymologically in the name Cymry:

  2. Kevin says:

    There’s also the Breton “Bro-C’hall” (Land of the Gauls) for French-speaking France.

  3. Magnus says:

    Another Welsh phrase including the word bro is bro mebyd (often appearing as bro fy mebyd etc.). It literally means “vale of (one’s) childhood” and refers to the place you were born and raised.

  4. D.Jay says:

    Any etymological relationship here to Borough, Burg, -pore?

  5. Simon says:

    Borough and Burg come from the Germanic word bergan (to shelter). I don’t know what the etymology of bro is.

  6. Andrew says:

    I was really thinking you were going to delve into the origins of that word in English, haha…I was expecting some hilarity on Omniglot, but it was not to be 🙁


  7. Yenlit says:

    The Welsh counterpart to ‘bro’ (vale, lowland etc.) is ‘blaenau’ (highlands). Bro is from a common Celtic root which also gives us Irish ‘brú’ (brink) and ‘bruach’ (bank, brink) Scots Gaelic (edge, bank).
    These are from the same Indo-European root as Latin ‘margo’ (margin) as well as Germanic ‘march’ (boundary); Old Norse ‘mörk’ (borderland, boundary).
    So ‘bro’ is related to English ‘mark’, ‘margin’, ‘march’ (as in the Welsh Marches).

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