'Nyfed Dar Goch' means 'Red Oak Grove'
By Bardd Dafydd

Not long after forming Red Oak Grove, we made an effort to translate that name into Welsh. Our primary reference for English-Welsh translation was (and continues to be):

Welsh-English English-Welsh Dictionary
H. Meurig Evans, M.A. & W. O. Thomas, B.A.
Published 1969 by Saphrograph Corp, NYC
800+ pages

Based on that source, we came up with Nyfed Dar Rhudd and used that name for six years.

Recently (2003-2004) several speakers of Welsh (some of whom were native speakers) have written to inform us that our translation didn't make any sense to them. The first two words they claimed were not Welsh words at all and 'rhudd' meant crimson, not red. One Welsh speaker told me that rhudd was the word used to describe a blood stain.

Based on their objections I have researched further and found several other dictionaries and sources that translate nyfed as 'sacred grove' and dar as 'oak tree'. I do agree that rhudd is not the proper word to describe a 'red oak' so we changed our name from 'Nyfed Dar Rhudd' to 'Nyfed Dar Goch'(soft mutation of coch). Click on any of the Welsh words in the title of this page to see many references we've found for each word.

I'm not surprised that modern Welsh speakers do not recognize nyfed and dar. In our printed dictionary both nyfed and dar are indicted to be 'obsolete words' and other sources indicate they are 'Old Welsh' or 'Middle Welsh' which were spoken before the twelfth century. Naturally, most modern Welsh dictionaries make no effort to include Old Welsh words, (just as most modern English dictionaries do not include Old English words) as almost no one has any interest in them. But being a Druid Grove that takes our inspiration from the Welsh Druids of 2,000 years ago, the older a word is, the more appropriate it may be for us to use. And after all, we're certainly not trying to communicate the name of our group to modern speakers of Welsh who don't speak English (if indeed, any such people exist). Furthermore, we use the English name, 'Red Oak Grove', in every document. We only use the Welsh translation on our logo and occasionally within our Rituals.

I don't mind at all that 99 44/100% of Welsh speakers we might happen to meet will look at our Grove name and say "I don't recognize those words." Seems to me that any such people would have to fall into one of two broad categories:

  • 1) those that assume they know everything about the Welsh language and conclude that we must be ignorant, uneducated and wrong, and
  • 2) those that are willing to admit there might be a couple of genuine Old Welsh words they don't know.

    With anyone from the second group I'll happily sit down and discuss our name over a pint, telling them all about our diligent search for a proper Welsh name for our little group.

    The people from the first group can drink alone. They don't sound like good company.

    Nyfed Dar Goch


    Welsh-English English-Welsh Dictionary
    H. Meurig Evans, M.A. & W. O. Thomas, B.A.
    page 346 of the Welsh-English section:

    *nyfed, eb. teml, llwyn sanctaidd. TEMPLE, SANCTUARY
    On the 'Abbreviations" page before page 1 it notes: * = obsolete words or meanings

    Y Geiriadur Ymledol:
    nyfed [ny -ved] masculine noun
    1 sacred grove 
    2 The British nemet-on occurs incorporated in at least one modern Welsh name, in some Roman names, and in some English place names of British origin.

    (1) county of Devon, England: In the name 'Nympton'; the Nymptons form a cluster of villages south of South Molton, 20km south-east of Barnstaple
    (a) Bishop's Nympton SS7523 
    (b) King's Nympton SS6819 
    (c) George Nympton S7023 

    (2) county of Devon, England: as 'Nymet' in Nymet Rowland and Nymet Tracy.
    (a) Nymet Rowland SS7108, by the river Taw, 15km south of Bishop's Nympton, on the road from Exeter to Barnstaple, 35km south-south-east of Barnstaple and 30km north-west of Exeter. (b) At a distance of 8km to the south of Nymet Rowland is Nymet Tracy SS7200. 

    This 'Nymet' may be the same 'nemeton' found in the Roman settlement name Nemetostatio, which is possibly nearby North Tawton SS6601 between Okehampton and Exeter, 8km east of Nymet Tracy. 

    (3) Gloucestershire, England: as the element nymp- in Nympsfield SO8000 (5km west of Nailsworth, Gloucestershire). Also in Gloucestershire, 'Nemetambala' may be Lydney SO6203, on the western side of the River Wye. 

    (4) Medionemeton 'The middle sacred grove'. This may be Cairnpapple Hill NS9871, 4km north of Bathgate, Scotland; or the Roman fort at Auchendavy NS6774, east of Kenzie, Glasgow

    (5) British *vernemeton (= great sacred grove), corresponding to modern Welsh elements (gwor- suffix = great) + (nyfed sacred grove) is found in the following names - 
    ...(a) Vernemetum: a Roman settlement where today stands the village of Willoughby-on-the-Wolds SK6325, on the Fosse Way, 13km north-west of Melton Mowbray, and south-south-east of Nottingham, between Leicester and Newark-on-Trent. 
    ...(b) In Wales it is found as Gwernyfed SO1737, a village in Powys (formerly Brycheiniog), by Aberllynfi. 

    ETYMOLOGY: British nemet-on (= sacred grove). It is found in these words in the other Celtic languages: 
    Cornish kamnevez (= rainbow), 
    Breton kanevedenn (= rainbow), 
    Gaulish kambo-nemet-on (Gaulish kamb-, Cornish kamm, Breton kamm = bent) 
    Irish neimheadh (= sanctuary; status / person with status; holy object) 
    cf Latin nemus (= wood, grove; grove dedicated to a deity)

    "Nemeton" from RomanBritain.org
    In the eighth century 'forest sanctuaries which they call nimidae' are listed as heathen abominations, and in the eleventh, a Breton 'wood called Nemet' is recorded. The word and the idea came through into Old Irish as nemed, a sanctuary, and fidnemed, a forest shrine or sacred grove." 
    Extract from The Druids by Stuart Piggott, (p.62 ff.)


    Gaul's			Irland's		Gal's[Wales]
    nemeton (nemetoi) neimheadh, nemed nyfed

    Some of the strangest folk art Green Men in many Devonshire parish churches, many around the archaeological traces of a 'Wood Henge' near Nymet Tracey, Broadynet and Nymetwood (nemeton/nyfed means sacred grove).

    An Etymological Dictionary of the Gaelic Language
    MacBain, Alexander
    Gairm Publications, 1982

    heaven, Irish neamh, Old Irish nem, Welsh, Cornish nef, Middle Breton neff, now env: *nemos; Sanskrit nemas, bowing, reverence; Latin nemus, grove; Greek @Gnemos, pasture: root nem, distribute, Greek @Gnemw (do.), German nehmen, take. Gaulish has @Gnemcton or @Gnemeton, Old Irish nemed, sacellum. Often, and lately (1895) by Prof. Rhys, referred to the root nebh, be cloudy, Greek @Gnefos, cloud, Latin nebula (see neul); but the Gaelic nasalized ea is distinctly against this, as also is the Breton env (Stokes).



    Welsh-English English-Welsh Dictionary 
    H. Meurig Evans, M.A. & W. O. Thomas, B.A. 
    Page 162 of the Welsh-English section:

    * dar, eb. ll. deri. 1. derwen. OAK-TREE 2. arweinydd, arglwydd. LEADER, LORD

    (On the 'Abbreviations" page before Page 1 it notes:
    * = obsolete words or meanings

    And again on page 190 of the English-Welsh section is says:
    oak = dar


    dar - [dar] prefix 
    Causes soft mutation 
    1 prefix = intensifier 
    llith = reading, darlith = lecture
    llun = picture, darlun = painting
    pwyllo = consider, understand, darbwyllo = convince
    gostwng = lower, darostwng = to cause to submit, to dominate
    gwydd (element meaning 'knowledge') > *dar-wydd > derwydd = (obsolete meaning) prophet, (modern meaning) druid.


    2 prefix = softener 
    cysgu = to sleep, dargysgu sleep lightly 
    llosgi = burn, darlosgi = singe, scorch 
    ETYMOLOGY: (do + ar) < Celtic *do-are

    dar [DAAR] (feminine noun)
    1 roure
    y ddar el roure
    2 Rhiwar-ddar (Rhiwar Ddar) street name in Glan-y-llyn, Ffynnon-taf (county of Rhondda Cynon Taf) ('(the) slope (of) the oak tree')

    Welsh=DERWEN, DAR 

    An Etymological Dictionary of the Gaelic Language
    MacBain, Alexander
    Gairm Publications, 1982
    oak, Irish dair, darach, Early Irish dair, gen. darach, Welsh, Cornish dar, *darik-; Latin larix, English larch; Greek (Macedonian) @Gdarullos, oak, @Gdru@ns (do.), daru, spear; English tree, etc. Hence darach, body of a boat. 

    Daron - (DAHR-on) from Welsh dar "oak" + -on, "divine ending". Name of an oak goddess and a river in Caernarvonshire.

    Derwen - "from the oak tree"; may be related to the Celtic word druid.

    dar f. ar?. oak tree. 197, 2.

    Merger of PIE voiced stops and breathy-voiced stops (voiced aspirated stops) as voiced stops, thus PIE *dhe: "to suck" > OIr denim, MW dynu : Skt dha:yati; PIE *der- "tree" > OIr daur "oak", MW dar : Skt daru "wood"

    Its original name was Pen-dar, "The Oak Summit"


    I've been told that rhudd = blood-red, so I agree that 'coch' would be a much better adjective to use for 'red oak'. I tried to find out what the Welsh actually call the 'Red Oak' tree when they describe it in Welsh, but all I could find were English descriptions. The tree is native to North America, but there are now some Red Oaks in Wales. Prince Charles planted a few of them, personally.

    coch [KOOKH] (adjective)
    1 red
    2 Coch i fyny teg yfory Red sky at night, shepherd's delight 
    (red up, fair tomorrow)
    = if the sky is red at sunset, tomorrow will be a fine day
    3 y clefyd coch diphtheria ('the red illness')
    4 melyngoch [me-lan-goch] yellowy red; orange
    5 flower names 
    pabi coch (Papaver rhoeas) corn poppy, field poppy (red poppy)

    goch [gookh] adjective
    1 Soft mutated form (c > g) of coch = red, red-haired
    Y Bont Goch the red bridge
    Dal-goch red meadow (name of a village in the county of Gwynedd);
    (in these names there is soft mutation of the first consonant of an adjective which follows a feminine noun)
    See also the following entry Goch (epithet)

    Goch [gookh] adjective 
    1 epithet = red-haired 
    Morgan Goch red-haired Morgan 
    2 surname from the epithet; Anglicised form [gof] - Gough, Goff 
    ETYMOLOGY: Welsh goch, soft mutation of coch (red, red-haired). Formerly (and in certain cases in modern Welsh too) adjectives with this function had soft mutation of the initial consonant after a masculine noun as well as after a feminine noun