The Meaning of ‘Morlais’

By Carl Llewellyn

There are different opinions regarding the origin of the name “Morlais”. In 1932 there was a book published entitled “The Story of Merthyr Tydfil” compiled by the Merthyr Teachers Association (N.U.T),  the book translated Morlais, with “Mor” as “Great” and “lais” as sound or stream thus “Great Stream”, in the context of the Morlais,

I am sceptical of this interpretation. “Mor” is not the Welsh word for sea, if there was a circumflex over the “o” then “Mor” would be “Môr”, which is the correct Welsh word for sea. Of cource “Llais” can either be “Sound” or “Voice”.

I find it difficult to believe the sound of the sea could be heard in the vicinity of Morlais.

In my research the significance of the name, Morlais has Gaelic undertones. We all know there is a very close connection between Welsh, Gaelic, Scottish Gaelic, Cornish, Breton and Manx, and that knowledge of the six languages would greatly assist to fully understand the various terminology of the Celtic parts of speech. I believe it is generally acknowledged that, those languages have their roots in an original language. Europe philologists divide those six into so called “dialects” with two principal families of languages: Welsh (Cymric) and Gaelic, but the philologists have not yet decided which of the two, Cymraeg or Gaelic, is the elder. They all, however, admit the other four to be the offspring of these two.

In the vitality of its tongue, the progress of its literature, its suitableness of the inherent force of language and its suitableness for the expression of human thought,  I think there can be no doubt that Cymric is the great Celtic mother, and that Gaelic is a daughter. Gaelic lingers among the Highlands of Scotland, but Cymric is over ten thousand years.

Mor is the Gaelic word for “big or great”, while the Welsh Mor; without the circumflex over the “o” means “How so” and “As” and the similarity of the names give one every reason to suppose they are from the same cognate root. Here we have Mor and Mawr in Welsh, but it seems that the Gaelic, (big or great) is Mor. This is, apparently, a corruption of Mawr.  Therefore in my opinion Mor refers to a greatness or expansive.

It seems to me there is conundrum with the word “Lais” (voice or sound) could “Lais” have been a corrupted form of Gaelic, or “Glas” (green) thus giving credence that an immense green countryside or greenery existed long before Morlais Castle was erected.

The fact is that Morlais originated with the Druids or Bards who named all the old localities of Wales in accordance with the valuable rule of distinctness or precision. These sacred men,  whose poetic licence almost certainly gave the description of the terrain as Morlais.

It is my belief “Morlais” was given its name because it depicted a vast countryside of lush green landscape. 

2 thoughts on “The Meaning of ‘Morlais’”

  1. A North Wales suggestion was Wetlands.Describing
    Lush , green, boggy land rich with wildlife.
    Eg.Ar Lan Morlais
    Beside the ‘ big stream’s
    Indicating verdant pasture with the song of the water incorporated in it’s roots.

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