July 23

What does cwtch mean in Welsh? A new way to hug from Wales.

Western Europe

What does cwtch mean in Welsh? In short, a cubby hole or a kind of hug. But there's so much more to it than a dictionary definition. Here's our inside, and heartwarming, guide.

Wales meaning of cwtch

WHAT DOES CWTCH MEAN IN WELSH?

To the uninitiated, cwtch does not sound like a pleasant word. It sounds too similar to words such as itch, witch and crotch.

Yet despite the alarming absence of vowels, it is actually a word of love.

Not passionate, painful love, the sort that leaves two teenagers in a tomb in Italy.

No, a warm, enveloping, safe love.

One born of friendship, family and an open spirit towards mankind. A shared moment of tenderness on one of those days when the milk of human kindness is fresh, frothy and white, not spilled and sour on the conveyor belt at the supermarket.

How do you pronounce the word cwtch?

Cwtch - pronounced a little like "butch" - doesn't have a direct English translation. It usually means a cuddle but others describe it as a kind of safe place, rather like its cheery cousin hygge in Denmark.

Did the Welsh invent a new hug?

So what makes a cwtch different from a normal hug?

Hugs can seem bear-like and borderline aggressive. They can bowl someone over or squeeze out the air from someone's chest. However well-meaning.

A cwtch doesn't do that. A cwtch is smaller, safer, contained, careful and cosy. 

The other meaning of the word, a cwtch as a cubby hole or small place, explains this is in a different way. 

A cuddle can seem a bit twee, or have unwanted romantic overtones. A cwtch isn't like that. Above all else, a cwtch is warm and comforting. It is safe. It is home.

Is Cwtch a Welsh word or is it English slang? Is it Wenglish?

Technically speaking, linguists would agree that ctwch is a Welsh word AND one that has passed into Wenglish. 

What is Wenglish? A pattern of speaking English practised by the Welsh. It's not a language in itself, it's a kind of slang or regional dialect. So, it's not an English word but it is used by English speakers who are also Welsh.

Confused? 

Not everyone who is Welsh speaks Welsh. The majority speak English as a first language, with varying levels of proficiency in Welsh after that. The vast majority of Welsh speakers, however, are also fluent in English.

Understandably, some words have passed back and forth, from the Welsh language into English and vice versa. And many of the ones that have travelled well, involve those of greetings and love. 

Cariad means sweetheart. Bora da means hello.


Finding the Word Cwtch Across Wales - And Bringing it Home

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Once you spot the word once, you'll find it everywhere.

So what does cwtch mean? It's a Welsh expression of cosy, comforting love.


Read more about travel in Wales


Disclosure: tooty down for a cwtch means something like "bend your knees low enough so I can give you a hug." It's a phrase my grandmother used to say to me when I wore a younger girl's clothes.


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Wales


  • When we were little and went for walks/rambles in the woods and needed to relieve ourselves, we would also tooty down for that. I still use tooty down, meaning to squat.

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