How to SURF your Welsh dictionary

Sut mae!

Croeso yn ôl! Welcome back!

Ever since that post about prefixes, people have been asking me what I mean by “surfing your Welsh dictionary”. Surfing dictionaries is an activity I regularly use in the classroom, so today I want to show you how you can do a little bit of surfing at home.

How many Welsh dictionaries do you have?

One? Two? THREE? (And I’m talking books here, real paper.)

It’s always good to have more than one Welsh dictionary. For one thing, you can never – NEVER! – have too many dictionaries. They all have their individual advantages and disadvantages, their own personalities even. I myself have one “Sunday best” Welsh dictionary, which is for reference purposes only – my so-called “Holy Book”. Strictly no underlining and scribbling in that one! All others (there’s four of them) are heavily marked: Words underlined in different colours. Words blackened. Additions, notes and crossreferences everywhere. They are the dictionaries I use for “surfing”.

So how, then, do you surf a dictionary?

There are endless possibilities. Here are 10 ideas that spontaneously spring to my mind:

No.1: Play “Rulers rule”

Browse happily and underline all the words you already know or have heard of. You’ll be surprised how many there are!

No. 2: Play “Family and friends”

Find a word you already know. Does this word have relatives you don’t know yet? Direct your gaze to the lines above and below it. You may come across whole word families.

For example:

Meet the distaw family: distaw (silent, quiet), distawrwydd (silence), distewi (to silence).

(Mind the sound change in distewi! You will find similar changes in other word families. YES, this is not only about listing words – you are diving into the mechanics of the language here!)

No. 3: Play “Word of the Day”

Close your eyes, open your dictionary to a random page, point your finger at the page. Open your eyes – the word you are pointing at is your “word of the day”. Write it down, frame it, display it. On your desk. Next to the coffee machine. Above the loo. Wherever you are likely to read it regularly.

Repeat daily.

No. 4: Play “One-Letter Tango”

Close your dictionary. Choose a letter. Set your countdown timer (1 minute? 2 minutes? 5 minutes?) and write down all the words you can think of starting with this very letter. Don’t forget about typical Welsh letters like LL or RH in the process!

Finished? Look them up in your dictionary and see if you got them right. Then add five more words from your dictionary.

No. 5: Play “First Things First”

Open your dictionary. Read. Concentrate on the beginnings of the words. Can you identify prefixes? A number of words all starting with the same syllable? If you don’t know them yet, can you guess their meaning?

No. 6: Play “This is the End”

Open your dictionary. Read. Concentrate on the endings of the words.

How many words can you find ending in (for example)

-llyd / -lyd,





No. 7: Play “One Each”

Close your dictionary. Set your countdown timer and try and find one Welsh word starting with each letter of the Welsh alphabet within 5 minutes. After five minutes use your dictionary to fill in possible gaps.

Alternatively: Find one Welsh word for each letter in your name.

No. 8: Play “Theme Park”

Look for words connected with different themes:

How many nationalities can you find in your dictionary?

How many body parts?

How many animals?

How many professions and jobs?

No. 9: Play “Size Matters (I)”

Find short words with a maximum of three letters.

No. 10: Play “Size Matters (II)”

What are the longest words you can find? (And NO, there is NO Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch in any of MY dictionaries!)

Mwynhewch, surfers! Enjoy!

Hwyl fawr,


Cymraeg Geiriadur

ymlaenwelsh View All →

I’m Susanne and I teach Welsh (oh, and English!) in Wolfenbüttel, Germany.

6 Comments Leave a comment

  1. I recently started learning Welsh and I love your blog! this seems like a great idea, but I don’t have a Welsh dictionary yet. I would like to buy one, but I don’t know which one to buy, and I don’t have the money to buy multiple ones atm. maybe it would be a nice idea to write a little about different Welsh dictionaries and their pros and cons? Diolch!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Syniad da! A good idea! I was thinking about doing a little survey to see what people think is the best dictionary for them. They all have their ups and downs. My favourite so far (in case you’re in a hurry) is the Modern Welsh Dictionary (Gareth King / Oxford University Press).


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