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Debate sparked as call is made for Snowdon name change

snowdon
Should Snowdon be known only as Yr Wyddfa? (Image credit: Getty Images)

A proposal to call one of the UK’s tallest mountains by only its Welsh name has prompted a heated debate among outdoors enthusiasts.

Snowdonia National Park authorities are considering a motion brought by Gwynedd county councillor John Pughe Roberts to refer to Snowdon exclusively as Yr Wyddfa, and the mountain area of Snowdonia as Eryri.

Now a task group, which has been set up by Snowdonia National Park Authority (SNPA) to adapt guidelines on the use of Welsh place names, is to consider the Snowdon to  Yr Wyddfa suggestion.

However, the idea has led to a division of opinion among people who live in Wales and outside. While some think that the Welsh name deserves a place on signage in the park, others think the mountain should have dual name. Further arguments claim that Snowdon should be left as Snowdon.

summit of snowdon

A walker takes in the view on Snowdon summit (Image credit: Getty Images)

Snowdon: What’s in a name?


Snowdon is the tallest mountain in Wales at 1085m. The Welsh name, Yr Wyddfa, means “grave” and is pronounced, "er with-va".

Legend has it that the giant, Rhita Gawr, the king of Wales, was buried under a cairn on the summit of the mountain after a battle with King Arthur.

Eryri is said to come from the Latin word “oriri”, which means “to rise”, although others believe it refers to the Welsh name for eagle, Eryr.

The English names for Snowdonia and Snowdon are derived from the Saxon language, meaning "snow hill".

A new name for other mountains

Most people call the world’s tallest mountain Mount Everest. It was a Surveyor General of India, the Welsh-born Colonel Sir George Everest, who gave the mountain its English name of Everest in the early 1800s.

Meanwhile, there are two other names favoured by locals in Tibet and Nepal for Everest. The 8849m mountain lies on the boundary of the two regions.

The Sherpas, who comprise a community indigenous to the Himalayan region, call Everest by the Tibetan name, Chomolungma, which means “goddess mother of the world” or “goddess of the valley”.

They believe that the summit of Chomolungma is home to the Buddhist goddess Miyolangsangma.

The Nepali name, said to be coined by prominent historian the late Baburam Acharya in the 1930s, is Sagarmatha, which means “Peak of Heaven.”

In Australia, Ayers Rock is also the subject of name changes. The original name came from colonial times after former South Australian Premier Sir Henry Ayers. In 1993, it became known as Uluru, from the language of the rock’s traditional owners, the Anangu people. 

In 2002, it was changed again to Uluru/Ayers Rock. Almost all Australians now call it Uluru.

Snowdon sunset

Snowdon in winter at sunset (Image credit: Getty Images)

Time will tell: Snowdon or Yr Wyddfa

We will be reporting back once a decision has been made on the name of the highest summit in Wales. 

Should it stay as Snowdon, be known only as Yr Wyddfa, or go by both names?

Fiona Russell is a widely published adventure journalist and blogger, who is better known as Fiona Outdoors. She is based in Scotland and is an all-round outdoors enthusiast with favourite activities including trail running, mountain walking, mountain biking, road cycling, triathlon and skiing, both downhill and back country. Her target for 2021 is to finish the final nine summits in her first round of all 282 Munros, the Scottish mountains of more than 3,000ft high. Aside from being outdoors, Fiona's biggest aim is to inspire others to enjoy the great outdoors, especially through her writing. She is also rarely seen without a running skort! Find out more at Fiona Outdoors.