Some Words/Phrases from the Old Cornish Language


Modern Cornish is that form of the Cornish language which was last spoken traditionally in West Cornwall during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. It lingered into the nineteenth century and at the time of the major Cornish exodus to far off lands some people from the far west had a considerable traditional knowledge of the language. Much of their professional mining vocabulary was in Cornish and some of these words have come to be internationally used. In 1911 one Cornish emigrant to Australia, Henry Thomas, wrote down a few phrases of Modern Cornish in his notebook showing that interest in the language is not a new phenomenon amongst Cornish Australians.

Modern Cornish (sometimes called Late or Traditional Cornish) is the language in which most of West Cornwall's placenames occur and in 1700 it was the subject of a serious study by the great Welsh linguist Edward Lhuyd. It differs from the medieval language in having a much simpler grammar. There are differences of vocabulary and pronunciation too, the end result being a very practical, pleasing and earthy language, one well suited to the needs of mining, fishing and agricultural communities. The spelling is very graphic, giving learners much guidance to the pronunciation. The policy of Cussell an Tavas Kernuack/ The Cornish Language Council is to use the historical spelling of Modern Cornish as found, making choices between the various native spellings when necessary. In reviving the language we rely heavily on the in-depth researches of Richard Gendall. For more than ten years he has been engaged in research into all aspects of the historical language.

Learners of Cornish should not be too alarmed by the existence of three forms of Cornish (In addition to Modern Cornish we have Unified & Common Cornish ). In Cornwall we are learning to live with our differences and find practical ways of working together. Finally, the language is the inheritance of all Cornish people whether in Cornwall or in some distant corner of the world. After all, Cornish people emigrated to many distant lands taking their mining skills with them. As we used to say, if you find a hole in the ground and watch it closely, eventually a Cornishman will climb up out of it!

NEBAS LAVAROW / Some phrases.


  • Durdatha whye! Good day to you!
  • Deeth daa. Good day.
  • Metten daa. Good Morning.
  • Ha soce! Hello mate.
  • Darzona! God bless (on meeting).
  • Gothewhar daa. Good evening.
  • You! Hello!
  • Lowena tha whye! or Betho whye lowenack! Happiness to you!


  • Fatla gena whye? How are you?
  • Fatel era whye keele? How are you doing?


  • Ma genam a ehaz. I am well.
  • Clave o ve. I'm ill.
  • Skeeth o ve. I'm tired.
  • Looan o ve. I'm happy.
  • Tubm o ve. I'm hot.
  • Yein o ve. I'm cold.
  • Trawethack o ve. I'm sad.
  • Daa lowar o ve. I'm O.K.
  • Ma pedn droag thebm. I've got a headache.
  • Ma annez thebm. I've got a cold.


  • Vedo whye cawas badna? Do you want a drop to drink?
  • Vedo whye cawas tabm? Do you want a bite to eat?
  • Pandra vedo whye comeras/cawas? What would you like to have?


  • Bolla tay/coffy. A cup of tea/coffee.
  • Cor. Beer.
  • Gwyne. Wine .
  • Cyder. Cider.
  • Dowr. Water.
  • Hoggan. A pasty
  • Tezan saffern . Saffron cake.
  • Bara. Bread.
  • Scubmaw. Chips.
  • Pesk. Fish.


  • Me venga cawas..... I'd like to have......
  • Me venga kenz...... I'd prefer......
  • Peidgy ry thebm..... Please give me....
  • Mouy. More.
  • Badna mouy. A drop more.
  • Tabm mouy. A bit more.`
  • Mor pleag. Please


  • Thove gwage! I'm hungry.
  • Thove zehez! I'm thirsty.
  • Ethick zehez o ve! I'm very thirsty!
  • Eze cor? Is there any beer?
  • Eze mouy booz? Is there any more food?
  • Eze muna thewh? Have you got any money?


  • Durdalada whye! or Merastawhye! or Gra'massy. Thank you.


  • Dew boz geno. God be with you.
  • Benatugana.God bless.
  • Tereba nessa.Till next time.
  • Anowre. Bye
  • Comero weeth. Take care.
  • Ternestatha or Noze daa tha whye. Good night to you.

    Writing letters:

  • Sarah wheag. Dear Sir.
  • Arlothas wheag. Dear Madam.
  • Care ve. Dear Cousin (All Cornish people are cousins!)
  • Coweth wheag. Dear friend/colleague.
  • Tamsin/ Peder wheag. Dear Tamsin/Peter.
  • Gen oll an collan ve. With all my heart (equivalent to yours sincerely).
  • Ehaz ha sowena. Health and prosperity.
  • Gwro kelmy a hollan thewh. Bind my heart to you (to an intimate friend only!).

    No gathering of Cornish cousins would be complete without the singing of " Goin' Up Camborne Hill, Comin' Down" the song about Richard Trevithick's steam driven road vehicle which is a rallying call at Rugby matches, in pubs and all maner of public events. Here it is in Cornish:
    Moaz aman Brea Cambern, toaz trea, Going up Camborne Hill, coming down,
    Moaz aman Brea Cambern, toaz trea,Going up Camborne Hill, coming down,
    An verth hethaz steagThe horses stood still,
    An rosow geath raage,The wheels went around,
    Moaz aman Brea Cambern, toaz trea.Going up Camborne Hill, coming down.
    E lodrow, e lodrow o gwidn, White stockings, white stockings she wore,
    E lodrow, e lodrow o gwidn, White stockings, white stockings she wore,
    E lodrow o gwidn, wos aith thur an jyn, White stockings she wore, the same as before,
    Moaz aman Brea Cambern, toaz trea. Going up Camborne Hill, coming down.
    Me oya e seera, taze coth, I knawed her awl' faather, awl' man
    Me oya e seera, taze coth, I knawed her, awl' faather, awl' man,
    Me oya e thaze, en band e whethaz, I knawed her awl' man, he blawed in the band,
    Moaz aman Brea Cambern, toaz trea. Going up Camborne Hill, coming down.
    E vuzaz an tane gen an glow, He 'eaved in the coal in the steam,
    E vuzaz an tane gen an glow, He 'eaved in the coal in the steam,
    E vuzaz an tane, an jyn geath adro, He 'eaved in the coal, the steam hit the beam,
    Moaz aman Brea Cambern, toaz trea. Going up Camborne Hill, coming down.

    Reckna en Kernuack / Counting in Cornish.

    1: edn, un (when counting only), onen (as a pronoun.), 2: deaw (masc.), dew (fem.), 3: try (masc.), teir (fem.), 4: pager (masc.), peder (fem.), 5: pemp, 6: whee. 7: seith, 8: eath, 9: nawe , 10: deeg, 11: ednack, 12: dowthack, 13: tarthack, 14: pazwarthack, 15: pemthack, 16: whethack, 17: seithack, 18: eathack, 19: nawngack, 20: igans, 100: cans, 1000: meele.

    The time.

  • P'eare ew? What is the time?
  • Try owr ew. It's three o'clock.
  • Deaw eare ew. It's two o'clock. (owr & eare are alternative words for hour/ o'clock).
  • Hanterdeeth ew. It's noon.
  • Hanternoze ew. It's mid- night.
  • Hanter ouga deeg. Half past ten.
  • Deeg minizan ouga try. Ten past three.
  • Ouga. After.
  • Dro tha..... About.....
  • .....poran. ....exactly.
  • Puna termen venga whye doaz? When do you want to come?
  • P'eare vetho whye ubma/ enna? When will you be here/ there?

    Mottos and Sayings. Lavarow Kernuack.

  • "Onen hag Oll", One and All (Cornwall's motto),
  • Kernow rag nevra or Kernow bys vickan Cornwall for ever.
  • Pesk, Kober ha Stean, Fish, Copper and Tin ( a traditional toast),
  • Me na vadna cowz a Sowznack! I will not speak English.!
  • Comero weeth na ra whye gara an vorr goth rag an vorr noweth. Take care that you don't leave the old road for the new road.
  • Ke tha gerras! Buzz off!

  • LEARN/LEARN ABOUT THE CORNISH LANGUAGE - A Site dedicated to All-Things-Cornish and Reviving-the-Cornish-Language.