Names

Anna Skarzynska theania at freeuk.com
Thu Nov 23 19:34:53 EST 2000


Various people wrote:
> > > AFAIK, Jennifer, Guinevere and Gwynhfar are all the same name at root;
> > > Guinevere, I know, is the French version, and Gwynhfar is the Welsh.
>
> I've read that as "Gwenhwyfar", and I know that "gwen" is the part
> that means "white". I don't know what "hwyfar" means :-)

Gwenhwyfar (pron. gwen - HOOY - var, approx.) is the Welsh form. It means
"white shadow/ phantom". It is directly cognate with Irish Fionnabhair
(Findubair in Old Irish spelling, pron.FIN- nuh -var, v. approx., a
character in Irish tales of the Ulster cycle) fionn corresponds to gwyn;
the original hypothetical Common Celtic form was *windos. There are many
pairs like that in Welsh and Irish: gwern/ fearn "alder"; gwydd/ fiadh
"wood" etc. etc. The hwyfar equivalent in Irish is siabhar, similar meaning
of ghost, phantasm. The s- is lost in the compound word in Irish because of
a phenomenon known as lenition (a.k.a., mistakenly, aspiration), a feature
of Celtic languages. Thus fionn + shiabhair> fionnabhair. There is an Old
Irish tale "Siabhar- charbad Con Chulainn", or Cu Chulainn's Ghostly
chariot.
Irish s- frequently corresponds to Welsh h- , like in the above example and
also eg. salann/ halen "salt", and many others.There are other such
features, all to do with the p-Celtic and q-Celtic division.
I'll stop now before you all get that glazed look I encounter when I talk
about historical linguistics....
Ania

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