April 18, 2020 3 min read

Hiraeth

Hiraeth is a Welsh word in everyday use in the Welsh language in modern times. It is also one of a few Welsh words that is commonly used in the English language like bach and cwtch.

Welsh Phrases, Idioms and Sayings

In our blog post on the ten most popular internet searches today for Welsh idioms, Welsh phrases or Welsh sayings, the meaning of hiraeth is one of the top three questions asked of us are;

  1. What does Cwtch, cwtches or cwtching mean?
  2. What is Welsh for dragon?
  3. What does "Hiraeth mean? 
    Commonly translated as "homesickness" bit it is more than that. It means a deep sense of longing, a yearning for that which has past, a sense of homesickness tinged with grief or sorrow over the lost or departed. Again one of the more words regularly used by English speakers.

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Like many strong passionate words in the Welsh language there is no single English word that adequately translates the meaning of the word but it means a deep sense of longing, a yearning for that which has past, a sense of homesickness tinged with grief or sorrow over the lost or departed. One attempt to describe hiraeth in English says that it is “a longing to be where your spirit lives.” This description makes some sense out of the combination of words that describe this feeling. The place where your spirit feels most at home may be a physical location that you can return to at any time, or it may be more nostalgic of a home, not attached to a place, but a time from the past that you can only return to by revisiting old memories. Maybe your spirits home could even be neither of the above, one from which you are not only separated by space

The FelinFach Hiraeth Collection

So iconic a word is hiraeth that we have called our Welsh Tapestry Collection, "Hiraeth". Welsh tapestry blankets, throws and cushions are also an iconic pattern and famous the world over. It seemed to us that "nothing says Hiraeth more than an iconic Welsh tapestry blanket". 

Welsh Tapestry Blanket - Harlech Welsh Tapestry Blanket - Portmeirion Welsh Tapestry Blanket - Draig Goch

How is Hiraeth Pronounced

As it is often used in the English language, it is a common question to ask how to pronounce it – try saying “here-eyeth” and you wont be far away! Interestingly there is an equivalent word in Cornish and Breton languages (other Celtic languages) “hireth” in Cornish and “hiraezh” in Breton.

Hiraeth in Welsh Songs and Poetry

There are many example of the word hiraeth being used in English language songs and poetry but almost certainly the most famous is in the Welsh song, “ We’ll keep a welcome”. It was composed by Mai Jones, born in Newport, Gwent, (6th February 1899 – 7th May 1960).  

In 1940, Mai collaborated with lyricists Lyn Joshua and James Harper to create the now world-famous Welsh song "We’ll Keep a Welcome".  Whilst an entirely English language song, it uses the word hiraeth to describe the longing to be back home in Wales, as follows;

This land of song will keep a welcome
And with a love that never fails
We'll kiss away each hour of hiraeth
When you come home again to Wales

We’ll Keep a Welcome Lyrics

Far away a voice is calling
Bells of memory chime
Come home again, come home again
They call through the oceans of time

We'll keep a welcome in the hillsides
We'll keep a welcome in the Vales
This land you knew will still be singing
When you come home again to Wales

This land of song will keep a welcome
And with a love that never fails
We'll kiss away each hour of hiraeth
When you come home again to Wales

We'll keep a welcome in the hillsides
We'll keep a welcome in the Vales
This land you knew will still be singing
When you come home again to Wales

This land of song will keep a welcome
And with a love that never fails
We'll kiss away each hour of hiraeth
When you come home again to Wales

We'll kiss away each hour of hiraeth
When you come home again to Wales

About FelinFach

Our company, FelinFach Natural Textiles is located in the heart of the Preseli area of Pembrokeshire near to Boncath. We design Welsh blankets, Welsh woollen blankets and throws which are traditionally woven at Welsh mills. We also design and make natural hand dyed yarn, cotton, silk and wool scarves and other handmade products. We are a proud supporter of the Campaign for Wool, Global Welsh and Wales International.

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Last update 18th April 2020



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