One of the most common things we get asked is, “what’s my name in Cornish?”. Although it seems like a simple question, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to answering it.
Indeed, just as various names go in and out of fashion, the Cornish language is ever-evolving and developing with some words taking off and others sinking into obscurity. It is therefore difficult to pinpoint exact translations for every single first or last name.
When it comes to traditional male first names there are several Cornish forms in use, such as ‘Jowan’ (John), ‘Stefan’ (Steven) or ‘Wella’ (William). The same can be said for traditional female names, such as ‘Jenna’ (Jane), ‘Budhik’ (Victoria) or ‘Chesten’ (Christine). It is possible to work out the Cornish for most English names that are associated with virtues, moods or the natural world. For instance, you will quite often come across ‘Rosen’ (Rose), ‘Lowena’ (Joy) or ‘Kaja’ (Daisy).
If you are expecting a baby and would like to give your child a Cornish name, download our ‘Henwyn Personek‘ (Personal Names) PDF.
Where it’s not possible to find a direct translation or equivalent for a modern English name, you can always choose to re-spell it in the Cornish way. For instance, the name Bradley could drop the ‘ey’ and become ‘Bradli’ or the name Gemma could become ‘Jemma’.
Many historical Cornish names, such as ‘Peran’, ‘Petroc’ or ‘Morwenna’, are based on saints of the Celtic Church. You can find places all around Cornwall that are named after these holy men and women. As the old saying went, “There are more saints in Cornwall than there are in Heaven!”. Cornish saints often have legends or traditions associating them not only with Cornwall but with Brittany, Wales and Ireland too. For instance, St Minver was one of the 24 children of King Brychan of Wales (along with saints of the parishes of Endellion, Issey, Mabyn, Minver and Teath).
Surnames are often even trickier to translate. However, If your surname refers to a trade or profession it can be quite straightforward; Smith becomes ‘Angove’, Taylor becomes ‘Trehare’ and Farmer becomes ‘Tyack’. Similarly, if your name is a noun or adjective it may be possible to find an appropriate translation. For instance, Brook (a stream) is ‘Gover’ and Brown is ‘Gell’.
Many common Cornish surnames are derived from the Cornish language. It is generally possible to tell if this is the case for your own name if it begins with one of the following prefixes:
‘Tre’ – a settlement or homestead
‘Pol’ – a pond, lake or well
‘Pen(n)’, ‘Pedn’ – a hill or headland
‘Lan’ – a religious enclosure
‘Ros(e)’ – heath, moor
‘Car’ – either from ‘karn’ (tor) or ‘ker’ (hill-fort)
If you are looking to work out a Cornish equivalent for your own name, please use the Translation Service.