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Anglesey: Hundreds back call to refer to UK island by Welsh name only

Welsh language campaigners want Anglesey to be referred to as Ynys Môn.

Stone cross and bench on the footpath above Twr Mawr lighthouse. Views across the sea to the mountains of mainland Wales.
Welsh language campaigners want Anglesey to be referred to as Ynys Môn. (Getty) (Photos by R A Kearton via Getty Images)

Campaigners are pushing to get the island of Anglesey referred to by its Welsh name only.

Welsh language activists want Anglesey to be called Ynys Môn instead, with an online petition attracting 400 signatures in the first 24 hours.

Recent adoptions of Welsh names for Yr Wyddfa (Mount Snowdon), Eryri (Snowdonia) and Bannau Brycheiniog (Brecon Beacons) have encouraged efforts to bring about change.

The petition launched on Wednesday by resident Bryn Thomas now has more than 800 backers, with just over a third originating from Ynys Môn itself.

Thomas wants all references to the island to exclusively use the name “Ynys Môn” or alternatively, it could be shortened to “Môn”, he suggested.

The petition reads: “Môn is easy to pronounce for all people in all languages. Two names for a county is confusing for tourists, but using one name will help keep the Welsh heritage alive on the island.”

It notes that just a handful of counties in Wales have separate Welsh and English names, as opposed to translated versions.

Bryn said: “Why do we really need two names when Môn is so simple to say and spell?

“Also, I believe it will make visitors and incomers think more about Welsh heritage and the language.

“Welsh is so easily lost in place names on the island – Newborough, Beaumaris and Holyhead to name a few. I only started the petition yesterday afternoon and didn’t expect it to kick off like it has, to be honest.”

Snowdonia is now known as Eryri. (Getty)
Snowdonia is now known as Eryri. (Getty) (Westend61 via Getty Images)

Welsh language group Cymdeithas yr Iaith fully supports moves to revert to using a single, Welsh name for the island.

“Ynys Môn’ contains within it a part of the island’s history,” a spokesperson said. “It is also an example of the island’s native tongue. These are two features that can be easily overlooked by visitors who are not aware of it.

“More broadly, promoting the original Welsh place names helps in the process of normalising our language, and encourages pride in it."

Where did the name originate?

It’s thought the English name of Anglesey may be derived from Old Norse following Viking incursions.

Before then it was referred to as Mona by the Romans, probably referring to the Celtic word for mountain – the same etymology that gave rise to the Isle of Man.

Saxons reverted to using “Monez” but “Anglesey” was adopted following Edward I’s conquest of Wales.

This may have given rise to a secondary explanation as the “Island of the Angles” – and fostered lingering antagonism towards the name.

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Ynys Môn has enjoyed a multitude of name variations over its long history.

Poetic references include the old Welsh “Ynys Dywyll” (Shady or Dark Isle) – for its former woodlands – and Ynys y Cedairn (Isle of the Brave) for its royal courts.

Owning to its fertile lands, Gerald of Wales called the island Môn Mam Cymru (Môn, Mother of Wales) – a name still in common usage.

Another moniker was Y Fêl Ynys (The Honey Isle).

Ystradfellte Pont ar Daf Bannau Brycheiniog Brecon Beacons
Bannau Brycheiniog has been adopted instead Brecon Beacons. (PA) (Colin Wills)

Increasing adoption of Welsh names

The adoption of Welsh names by national parks and Gwynedd Council's decision to switch to Cyngor Gwynedd last year have inspired efforts to promote change.

Welsh language group Cymdeithas yr Iaith says it campaigns for the national language and the communities of Wales as a part of a wider struggle for minority rights and freedoms.

It said: "The insistence upon using Eryri (for Snowdonia) and Bannau Brycheiniog (for Brecon Beacons) by two of our national parks, for example, should be commended.

“It has also been positive to see our national football team use “Cymru” exclusively on the world stage.

"This has given our unique language exposure to millions of people worldwide.”

The Welsh Language (Wales) Measure 2011 makes provision for promoting and facilitating the use of the Welsh language and treating Welsh no less favourably than English.