Place-Names Derivation – Fawr / Llantwit Major



The name Llanilltud is made up of two elements – ‘llan’ and ‘Illtud’ (‘Illtyd’). The first element is an old Celtic word, which I will discuss in detail at a later date. Suffice to say at this stage that the meaning is ‘church’. The second element is the name of the saint to whom the church is dedicated. Illtud was a 5th/6th Century saint who established his monastery in this location. Holy men came to this early centre of learning from all over Britain and Europe to study and it is said that the Patron Saint of Wales, Dewi Sant himself studied there. So Llanilltud means ‘the church of Illtud’. The second word ‘Fawr’ is the mutated form of the adjective ‘mawr’ which conveys ‘large, big, major’ depending on the context. This adjective is used as part of the place-name to reflect its importance as a major centre of learning – or early university!

In English the Welsh name ‘Llanilltud’ has mutated to ‘Llantwit’. But how in the world could that happen? Down the centuries, in documents and manuscripts, the name of the saint has been written as Iltut, Iltuit, Yltwyt and so on. As far back as 1100 the name of the monastery appears as Llanitut, Llanntwyt, Llanulltut and many other versions, depending on the spelling abilities of the scribes! In 1431 the first two letters of the saint’s name seem to have been dropped and versions such as Lantwyt, Lantwytt, and Lantwit appear. So this explains the aberration (in my mind, at least!) ‘Llantwit’. The second word ‘major’ is explained above.


This name is very easily explained. ‘Rhws’ is derived from the Welsh noun ‘rhos’ meaning ‘moorland’ or ‘heathland’. Because it is a common noun, it is preceded by the definite article ‘y’ (the) in Welsh.

The English name ‘Rhoose’ is merely the Anglicized spelling of the Welsh name.


The name refers to the church of Saint Tathan – which is mistakenly written as ‘St Athan’ in English. In Welsh place-names, the word ‘saint’ is conveyed in various ways – ‘Sant, San, Sain’. In the case of Sain Tathan we see that ‘Sain’ is used.


The name Pen-Marc obviously consists of two elements. ‘Pen’ means ‘head, top, summit, end’ in Welsh – depending on the context. In this case it refers to the headland – the bluff overlooking the river Weycock – which is the location of the village. The second element ‘marc’ probably derives from the word ‘march’, meaning ‘stallion’ – though the final ‘h’ has been lost. It is not certain to what the stallion’s head refers – possibly to the shape of the headland – or to the location of various rituals or ceremonies involving a stallion’s head – or to something else long forgotten.

The English spelling uses a ‘k’ to convey the sound

of the final consonant. There is no ‘k’ in the Welsh alphabet – it is not required – because, unlike in English – the consonant ‘c’ is always hard. In English of course, it can be hard – as in ‘car’ or soft – as in ‘ceiling’. The rule seems to be – to make sure, use ‘k’ or even, in places, ‘ck’!

Next month: Llwyneliddon / St Lythan’s, Twynyrodyn, Llancarfan, Tresimwn / Bonvilston, Aberddawan / Aberthaw, Trebefered / Boverton.

Ann M. Jones