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How Dylan Thomas enriched the English language

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Laura Chamberlain Laura Chamberlain | 14:05 UK time, Wednesday, 1 December 2010

The influence of perhaps Wales' best known wordsmith, Dylan Marlais Thomas, on the English language is now available for all to see.

The Oxford English Dictionary has recently relaunched its website, and in doing so has introduced a fascinating insight into the etymology of words, and a league table of the top 1,000 sources in the dictionary.


Dylan Thomas smoking a cigarette

Dylan Thomas. Photo © Jeff Towns/Dylan's Bookstore

As to be expected, Britain's brightest bard William Shakespeare tops the list with a whopping 33199 quotations. But further down the list, Thomas is the 724th most frequently quoted source in the OED, with a total of 635 quotations.

Examples of his contributions include first evidences of words being used in the English language. These include the adjective higgedly (from Quite Early One Morning), the adjective wound-down, past participle of wind-down (from The Map Of Love) and the adjective nineties - to describe the decade - as noted in his letters.

Other more obscure offerings include moochin - a difficult or disagreeable person, especially a child - and prodnose - to pry or to be inquisitive.

The Daily Post and the Western Mail have reported on this today. Plus there's an interview with Professor John Koch of the University of Wales on the BBC Wales News website, in which he talks about how the influence that Wales has had on the English language has been underestimated.

All three articles argue the fact that many English words have Welsh origins. A prime example given is the word penguin, which is likely to have been constructed from the Welsh words pen and gywn, meaning white head.

The first citation of the word is noted in the log of Sir Francis Drake's ship the Golden Hind from 1577, reading: "Infinite were the Numbers of the foule, the Welsh men name Pengwin & Maglanus tearmed them Geese."[sic]

Other words frequently used in the Welsh language, or Wenglish - a hybrid of the languages typically spoken by some in the south Wales valleys - that are used in spoken Engish include cariad, bach and cwtch.

Take a look at the fascinating Dylan Thomas references on the OED website.


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