How many words for hay?

While researching Welsh scything terms I came across the Geiriadur Prifysgol Cymru, a wonderful Welsh dictionary run by the University of Wales. Whilst checking on more mundane words such as “haystack” and “scythe” I came across a rich seam of specific historical terms.

July-13-Stackpole-hay.jpgUnder the word gwair (hay) there were terms not so dissimilar to ones we might use in English eg “gwair doldir – meadow hay”, “gwair mynedd – mountain hay”. But there were also terms such as “gwair bondew – hay growing thick at the base” and “gwair egras – one year old hay”. I hope I won’t be needing “gwair wedi cochi – hay which has been stacked while green and has deteriorated through fermentation (lit. reddened hay).” 

The terms referring to different types of hay, such as gwair maswaidd – soft tender hay, difficult to dry, August hay.”, speak to me of the farmers knowledge of the variability of hay and how the hay making process changes with season and grass varieties. This chimes with our own experiences.

wide-mow-left2.JPGThere was a section of words to describe mowing with a scythe. A word I hope we won’t need to use too often is “bonllathlong stubble left after scyther or machine has cut carelessly; the height at which the scythe initially hits the corn” . Or “haffiada snatching, a snapping or grabbing; (clumsy) stroke with scythe, &c., a hacking”  And is this another scything fault “ gwrychyn arfodblades of grass left standing between each sweep of the scythe“?

Similarly  I wouldn’t want to come across a “durdor” – fault or notch in blade of a new scythe” or suffer from “clwyf y bladurpain after handling a scythe (lit. scythe disease).”

Of course, many of these words are lost from common usage and many of them may have been highly regional in usage. Still, I find it is interesting to look at the words that people needed to describe the world around them and what that tells me about what that world might have been like.

To finish I’ll leave you with “ffocsa kind of love-making during the hay harvest” and “ffocsafto make love in the hay during harvest“. It obviously wasn’t all work and no play……..

One thought on “How many words for hay?

  1. hi Phil & Michelle
    Thanks for sharing this, a lovely insight into haymaking from the past. I wonder if there were similar English dialect words that have been lost because they werent written down?

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