Welsh: Ffordd

Alxmrphi

Senior Member
UK English
Hi all,

I am wondering about the word ffordd in Welsh.
I am not sure if it is a word that has (at least) 2 clear cut, different meanings (though related) or if it's just a general word used to convey way / path / road in English.

Most bilingual roads here have a Ffordd counterpart, but there are also bilingual signs that have way / direction meanings. For example the "One Way" sign is "Unffordd", but other road names also have the word.

So is it a word that is describing one general concept (i.e. of direction) and has 2 translations in English. Or is it a word that covers the two English senses of way and road.

Just curious!
 
  • Gavril

    Senior Member
    English, USA
    Hi all,

    I am wondering about the word ffordd in Welsh.
    I am not sure if it is a word that has (at least) 2 clear cut, different meanings (though related) or if it's just a general word used to convey way / path / road in English.

    Most bilingual roads here have a Ffordd counterpart, but there are also bilingual signs that have way / direction meanings. For example the "One Way" sign is "Unffordd", but other road names also have the word.

    So is it a word that is describing one general concept (i.e. of direction) and has 2 translations in English. Or is it a word that covers the two English senses of way and road.

    Just curious!

    I'd say that the second option is probably correct. In my opinion, Modern Welsh is heavily semantically influenced by English, due to the large number of people who learn Welsh with English as their first language. In the case of ffordd, the Welsh word seems to be used in more or less the same contexts where the words way and road would be used in English.

    For example, ar y ffordd means "in the way (of something)" and "on the way/road (to somewhere)", dangos y ffordd means "show the way", and as you mention, unffordd means "one-way". ffordd can even mean "way" in the sense of "manner", just like English way: one internet page has the phrase pa ffordd y bwriadant bleidleisio "the way that they intend to vote". I think the reason for such exact correspondence is that Modern Welsh speakers are taking the English word as a model for how to use the Welsh word.

    I hope that helps answer your question.
     
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    Herefordian

    Member
    British English
    I read somewhere that Welsh fordd, way, is a loan-word from English. Can anyone confirm that, and if so, does anyone know when the borrowing took place?

    I have a nice little theory which depends on its being either not a loan word, or a very early one.
     
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    L'irlandais

    Senior Member
    Ireland: English-speaking ♂
    Hi Herefordian,
    Welcome to the forum. I haven't a word of Welsh. But while we've waiting for a Welsh-speaker to happen along, here's
    an etymological link which may (or may not) be of passing interest to you.

    It suggests the Welsh for ford is rhyd, which makes me Wonder (out loud) if fordd has taken a different meaning in Welsh?
     

    Herefordian

    Member
    British English
    Thanks, irlandais, diolch yn fawr. Yes, fordd means "way" in modern Welsh. You hear everyday modern phrases like fordd allan, "way out". So if it is a loan-word, it's not straightforward.

    Oh dear! The word is, of course, spelt fford. Ford​ would be pronounced 'vorth'. What a cock-up - sorry, ffolks!
     
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    Herefordian

    Member
    British English
    Interesting. Thanks very much, irlandais. I've since found that the general opinion is that ffordd is indeed a loan from English 'ford'. Unless I can show that the borrowing took place pre, say, 700 my nice theory is dead. Oh, well.:D
     
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    Tegs

    Mód ar líne
    English (Ireland)
    It is definitely a borrowing from Old English ford and the earliest example cited in Geiriadur Prifysgol Cymru (the Welsh dictionary) is in the 12th century. Nothing dating from 700.
     

    Walshie79

    Member
    English (British)
    But "ford" doesn't mean "road" or "way" in English. It means "river crossing". Which is "rhyd*" in Welsh. Yes it comes from the same root as "fare" (as in "thoroughfare") but AFAIK it meant the same in Old English as it does now, so why the change of meaning in Welsh?

    *Is this word actually cognate with ford/fare too? Considering Celtic loses the p which becomes f in Germanic it seems quite possible.
     

    Gavril

    Senior Member
    English, USA
    But "ford" doesn't mean "road" or "way" in English. It means "river crossing". Which is "rhyd*" in Welsh. Yes it comes from the same root as "fare" (as in "thoroughfare") but AFAIK it meant the same in Old English as it does now, so why the change of meaning in Welsh?

    Maybe semantic widening from "path for crossing a river" to "path/road (in general)"?

    For what it's worth, according to the Etymonline site, English road itself developed from the meaning "riding expedition, hostile incursion" (OE) to "riding, journey" (ME) to "open way for journeying between two places" (Mod. English).

    *Is this word actually cognate with ford/fare too? Considering Celtic loses the p which becomes f in Germanic it seems quite possible.

    Yes, the Etymoline entry for "ford" supports the connection between ford and rhyd.
     

    Walshie79

    Member
    English (British)
    Maybe semantic widening from "path for crossing a river" to "path/road (in general)"?

    For what it's worth, according to the Etymonline site, English road itself developed from the meaning "riding expedition, hostile incursion" (OE) to "riding, journey" (ME) to "open way for journeying between two places"

    "Raid" is originally just a northern dialectal pronunciation of "road". But I think "road" (OE rad) still had something close to its current meaning too, in some OE poem the sea is referred to as "hronrad" ("whale-road").
     

    Gavril

    Senior Member
    English, USA
    "Raid" is originally just a northern dialectal pronunciation of "road". But I think "road" (OE rad) still had something close to its current meaning too, in some OE poem the sea is referred to as "hronrad" ("whale-road").

    Well, it still seems as though a semantic development from "the action of riding" to "the location for riding" must have occurred at some point. (As long as we accept that the verb to ride preceded the noun road.)
     
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