Welsh Latin – and the meaning of love

I wrote in my last blog about the surprising amount of Latin that still influences everyday spoken Welsh, compared with the more scholarly Latin influence on English. I just wanted to add one more word, because it had a minor impact on my upbringing.

It is evident that the Romans intermingled and intermarried with the locals they met on their triumphant march through England and Wales. But they never managed to get a hold in Scotland. In fact, they had to build Hadrian’s wall across the North of England to keep the Scots out of ‘their’ England. As a result, they had next to no influence on the language spoken by the Scots.

The Scots successfully fought them off, but it would be wrong to suggest that they met no resistance further south. Each Celtic kingdom had to be fought for, including their most famous battle in Camuldon (modern day Colchester). Here the Romans battled the local king, Caratacus (Caradoc in Brittonic). King Caradoc retreated to Wales, stopping to fight one last, unsuccessful, battle against the Romans in AD50 in Shropshire on the border between England and Wales.

There are the remains of a hill fort and a substantial hill, Caradoc, near a small town called Church Stretton. When I lived in Shropshire I climbed this hill at least twice a year and, vaguely aware of the story of King Caradoc, assumed he assembled his armies at the top and swooped down on the invading Romans, before having to admit defeat and retreat into Wales. It was a romantic, and probably fictional, notion.

Caractacus/Caradoc are derivations of the original Brittonic name, which was likely to have been spelt Karatakos, with the emphasis on the third syllable. No doubt the name was influenced by the Latin vocabulary that had already been absorbed into Brittonic during the preceding 100 years. Words like the Latin for love – caritas.

Karo also meant love, and the Brittonic and Latin live on in modern Welsh as caradog (love) and cariad (darling) as well as in English as charity.

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