Why it’s Yr Wyddfa or Just Snowdon, NEVER M***T Snowdon!

Ok, we’re going to either have a rant, or put the record straight  depending on your point of view on why Snowdon is called Snowdon. We don’t particularly care which, as the recent spate of ‘Mount’ preceding our beloved Snowdon has really got our proverbial Ogwen goat in a right old mixed-metaphorical twist.  We’d expect better from the likes of the Guardian and Met Office.

Yr Wyddfa and Snowdon – Set in Stone?

Here’s how you can get this silly mistake out of your system and start naming the mountain it’s proper name!

1 – Snowdon is the Snow Dun, or Snow Mountain.

Stand up, and repeat this loudly after me –

Mount Snow Mountain

How silly does that sound!

Locals in the Lake District who hear Windermere preceded by the word ‘lake’ will know exactly what I mean. I can hear their teeth grinding from here.

Snow Dun living up to it's reputation!
Snow Dun living up to it’s reputation!

This is an example of a tautological place name* – that is, having two synonymous words in one place name.  This often happens when there are two languages, and Dun can be traced back, way back into the ancient Celtic languages and was often used to describe hill forts.

2 – So Dun is technically a hill fort? So it’s not tautological?

Don’t throw that one at me, you didn’t know that until we told you. Either way, Snow Dun is an ye olde English name rather than having it’s origins in any Celtic or Welsh language dialect and we can assume that they used dun to represent a hill or mountain.

craig fach (30 of 45)


Just not for our beloved Snowdon.

There’s a perfectly good Mount Snowdon in British Colombia. It’s not as illustrious as our own Snowdon, so let’s let it keep the Mount please.  At only the 2950th highest peak in British Columbia, it’s got little going for it, but does top our own at an impressive 1,950 metres! It does look nice and shapely on the gogle map, but we can’t find any definite images for it, so we can’t really judge. Though this image might be of Mount Snowdon, and if so then you can see why it was named after Snowdon.

We’ll assume any mention of Mount Snowdon from now on refers to this one and not the Welsh one.

3 – OK -Suit yourself and use Mount to precede every mountain.

Mount Matterhorn, Mount Cnicht, Mount Ben Nevis, Mount Scafell Pike, Mount Catbells, Mount Ingleborough, Mount Pen y Fan, Mount Fan y Big [ahem! That’s quite enough of that!]

MOUNT Fan y Big anyone? ANYONE!
MOUNT Fan y Big anyone? ANYONE!
4 – It’s the Toponomy version of the conversational “UM”….

In that it doesn’t really do much harm, but forms a meaningless and empty addition. It can also make you sound like you don’t know what you’re talking about.

craig fach (28 of 45)

5 – Haven’t’ you got better things to do than this?

YES! Life’s too short, and I do have better things to do, but that still doesn’t make ‘Mount Snowdon’ any less wrong.

I'd rather be out there!
I’d rather be out there!
6- You’re American.

We forgive you, it fits into your use of the English Language. Oh, and welcome to Walk up Snowdon! You make up a goodly proportion of our site visitors.

7 You’re both Wrong – it’s Yr Wyddfa** and just Yr Wyddfa..

Yr Wyddfa – or Yr (G)Wyddfa Mawr (large) historically – means the burial mound of the legendary Rhita Gawr. Anyone who has an interest in the names of Snowdonia should refer to Place Names in Snowdonia by I A Jones which is the definitive (and only!) work on the matter.

While we’re on the subject, it shows how attitudes to the Welsh language have at least improved as it was suggested to Anglicise the name to Withy Hill in the early 19th Century.  



Snowdon is a special mountain, it doesn’t need supplementing with superfluous descriptions. We know it’s a mountain, the most famous and well known mountain in the United Kingdom!

So in conclusion, the only excusable time to call our beloved Yr Wyddfa Mount Snowdon is if you’re American, but that still doesn’t make you right!

If you agree – or disagree – then join us on Twitter and use #justsnowdon!

*Note that not even Wikipedia merits Mount Snowdon with a mention, as it’s not what it’s called!

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5 thoughts on “Why it’s Yr Wyddfa or Just Snowdon, NEVER M***T Snowdon!”

  1. Rant appreciated. Isn’t it always the case, though? Welsh is an ancient language, not derived from any other. I am Welsh, but not Welsh speaking – doesn’t make me any less Welsh though, I can appreciate the beauty and the meaning of the language and love working out WHY a place is so named, although I can’t see the tower and illuminations of Pwlldu catching on 🙂

    1. Welsh is derived from the older languages Proto-Celtic and ultimately Proto-Indo-European, the same ancestral language that English, Latin etc. ultimately come from.

    1. Yr Wyddfa is pronounced “uhr with-vah” (more or less)

      (I’m from Gogledd Cymru, but live in Mississippi – I miss the mountains every day)

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