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Hiraeth

A Welsh word for which there is no English language equivalent; simply put, it is the longing one feels for Wales, and all things Welsh. It could be defined as the deep yearning for a connection with the land of Wales. It is the ‘pull’ that draws one home.

What does hiraeth mean to you? Is it possible to resist? How do you express it? We’d love to hear.


Hiraeth (Sung here by Morriston Orpheus Choir)
Dwedwch fawrion o wybodaeth
O ba beth a gwnaethpwyd hiraeth
A pha ddefnydd a roedd ynddo
Na ddarfyddo wrth ei wisgo ?

Derfydd aur a derfydd arian
Derfydd melfed derfydd sidan
Derfydd pob dilledyn helaeth
Eto er hyn ni dderfydd hiraeth

Hiraeth mawr a hiraeth creulon
Hiraeth sydd yn torri ‘nghalon
Pan fwyf dryma’r nos yn cysgu
Fe ddaw hiraeth ac a’m deffry

(Hiraeth hiraeth cilia cilia
Paid a phwyso mor drwm arna’
Nesa dipyn at y erchwyn
Gad i mi gael cysgu gronyn)

Tell me oh wise ones
Of what stuff is hiraeth made?
And what substance is put into it
That it never fades from being worn

Gold fades and silver fades
Velvet fades silk fades
Every sort of clothing fades
And yet hiraeth doesn’t fade

Great Hiraeth cruel hiraeth
Hiraeth tears at my heart
When I’m sleeping deeply at night
Hiraeth comes and wakes me

(Hiraeth hiraeth away away
Don’t weigh so heavily on me
Go a little nearer to the edge
Let me have a little bit of sleep)

The hymns of William Williams, Pantycelyn effectively utilize that quality known as hiraeth, a nostalgic longing for home and the people and things connected with it that seems to many to be a particularly Welsh characteristic. If you fail to get a little teary when “Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah” is sung at a rugby match, you’re either English or have no feelings!

4 Responses

  1. Wales is water, and seagulls, beaches, and seaside villages, castles, and family. Fields, little flower gardens, and lots of green grass. The thought of being there just brings joy!

    – JonesGirl, age 12

  2. Overcast Sunday mornings are a hiraeth moment for me… slate in the heavens overhead, the taste of damp in the air, the smell of earth and green, and a Welsh Male Voice Choir belting out “Llanfair” in the backround. Oh, you could just pack your bags and run for the nearest airport on such a morning!

  3. 37 years in Australia and the Hiraeth is so strong it hurts. Daffodils and green valleys, mountains and castles, pebbled streams and ice cold water, singing and bara brith. There are days when I just sit here and plan how I can go home for good…

  4. I discovered the beauty of Wales after being posted there for over four years. Unfortunately it was not a voluntary posting and was not my choice. Despite having many happy experiences as I explored numerous places which were unknown to me, I missed my home, my family and the land of my birth. I can therefore say that there is an English equivalent of Hiraeth.
    Without meaning to cause offence, I had a chuckle because I actually misread the final word of the English translation of the song lyrics. It initially registered as “sheep” before I realised my mistake. I can only assume that was caused by subconscious word association. My apologies to all Welsh folk who peruse this page.

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