Real names of Cornish towns and how they were translated into English

Many people with Cornish heritage are looking back to their roots and finding out more about what it’s like to be Kernewek.

Cornish was granted minority status in 2014 and has its own native language, which has been revived over the years.

Over the past decade Cornwall Council has recognized the importance of language to Cornish identity and has replaced road signs with dual English and Cornish versions.

Read more: Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics – Cornwall father and son mark the bobsleigh world

However, some Cornish town names have changed a lot in English, so we have compiled a list of some of the real Cornish town names and how they have changed.

bodmin



Bodmin Church, circa 1850

Cornish name: Bosvena – ‘bos’ meaning habitation and ‘menegh’ meaning monks.

How it got its name: The county’s famous moor house today bears the name of its former monastic establishment. The settlement was established by a hermit who later became known as St Guron.

Camborne



Camborne History and Heritage
Camborne

Cornish name: Kammbronn – ‘kamm’ (step) and ‘bronn’ (rounded hill)

How it got its name: We’ve all heard the Cornish folk song “Going up Camborne Hill, coming down”, so it’s perhaps no surprise that Camborne’s name has something to do with its geography. The name means “curve of the hill”.

Falmouth



Falmouth was originally called Penny-Come-Quick
Falmouth was originally called Penny-Come-Quick

Cornish name: Aberfala – ‘aber’ meaning ‘mouth of the river’ and ‘fala’ being the name of the river. Note: The Cornish name was coined in the 1970s. There are no historical ‘aber’ names in Cornwall.

How it got its name today: Originally known as ‘Penny-come-quick’ from the Cornish ‘Pny-cwm-cuic’, the bustling town and port now bears the more obvious name of its geographical location at the mouth of the Fal river.

Helston




Cornish name: Hellys – meaning ‘old court.’

How it got its name today: It is said that the Saxons later added ‘tone’ to the name, signifying that the location was a Saxon mansion.

Launceston



Looking past the Launceton Town Hall Clock Tower towards Launceston Castle
Looking past the Launceton Town Hall Clock Tower towards Launceston Castle

Cornish name:Lanstevan – ‘lann’ meaning ‘yard’ and ‘Stefan’, named after King Stephen.

How it got its name: The capital of ancient Cornwall takes its name from the ancient monastery of St Stephen, located a mile and a half northwest of the town.

Liskeard



Liskeard Main Street
Liskeard Main Street

Lyskerry- ‘lys’ meaning ‘court’ and ‘Kerwyd’, which would be a personal name.

How it got its name: According to the BBC, the modern name of the town of Liskeard is taken from the Cornish words Lys Kerwyd. It is currently unknown if there ever was such a person called Kerwyd.

Newquay



Tranquil summer morning on Newquay Bay
Tranquil summer morning on Newquay Bay

Tewyn Blustra – ‘tewyn’ meaning ‘dune’ and ‘bleustri’ ‘running material’.

How it got its name today: It is said that in the mid-1400s, the Bishop of Exeter Edmund Lacey secured the funds to build a ‘new quay’, at which point the town became known simply as ‘Newquay’ .

Saint Blazey

Landreth- ‘lann’ meaning ‘church compound’ and ‘treth’ meaning ‘beach’.

From where it takes its name today: According to the St Blaise Town Hall website, the name St Blazey comes from Bishop Blaise, who was born in Armenia in the 3rd century.

St Ives



Port of St Ives
Port of St Ives

Cornish name: Porthia – ‘porth’ meaning ‘cove’, ‘entrance’ and ‘Ia’ which is the name of the saint.

How it got its name: St Ives is said to be named after the Irishman Saint La who traveled to Cornwall in the 5th century. The parish church bears the same name.

Saltash



Saltash Fore Street
Saltash Fore Street

Cornish Name: Essa – ‘essa’, which is Norman French for ‘ash.’

How it got its name today: As Essa means ash, it was decided that the town would be called ‘Ash’. But, it is said that to distinguish the city from other places in the south-west called Ash, the prefix Salt- was added to the name of the city in the 1300s. (This term was probably used because of the location of the city next to a tidal estuary).

Torpoint



Torpoint Fore Street - now
Torpoint Fore Street

Cornish name: Penntorr – “penn” meaning “promontory” and “torr” meaning “steep hill”.

How it got its name today: It is said that the town’s name comes from the nearby point once known as “Torr Point”.

wadebridge



Saltash Fore Street
Saltash Fore Street

Ponswad- ‘pons’ ‘bridge’ and ‘wad’ ‘paddling pool’.

How it got its name today: Wadebridge seems to be in some way a direct translation of his Cornish name.

With thanks to Go Cornish, the revival of the Cornish language websitefor translations.

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