Gerlyver Kescows 2nd Edition Introduction


From the preface to the first edition

Preface to this edition


Cornish-English section

English-Cornish section

Grammar words




Key verb tables

Checklist of mutation


‘Cows Kernowek yw moy y vern ages cows adro dhe’n Kernowek.’ (A.S.D. Smith ‘Caradar’, respelled)

This Gerlyver Kescows is designed specifically for those who speak, or are learning to speak, ‘Unified Cornish’ or ‘Unified Cornish Revised’ or ‘Standard Cornish’, all of which are based on the Cornish texts that have survived from the 14th to the 18th centuries.

The Cornish in this dictionary takes William Jordan’s Gwrians an Bÿs as its ‘foundation text’, while looking forward to John Keigwin, William Rowe and Nicholas Boson, and back to John Tregear, Sacrament an Alter, Bêwnans Ke, and Bêwnans Meryasek. Spellings are those of ‘Standard Cornish’. This particular orthography has been developed under the leadership of Michael Everson in close cooperation with Professor Nicholas Williams ‘Golvan’. It aims for spellings that are as unambiguous as possible in their representation of the sounds of Cornish, and which at the same time remain faithful to the forms we encounter in the traditional Cornish texts – since these are our chief source for the language. The whole corpus of traditional Cornish has been used to enlarge the vocabulary. This has been a necessary principle of the revival from the outset.

The dictionary contains:

5000 Cornish entries in the main Cornish-English section

a separate list of ‘grammar words’

an English-Cornish index of these words and phrases

reference charts of essential verbs, numerals, and contact mutations

a collection of 200 ‘outbursts’ (a portmanteau term for greetings and exclamations)

an appendix of 250 place names

Everything has been selected as a practical aid to conversation. The main source has been Nicholas Williams’s Gerlyver Sawsnek-Kernowek (Agan Tavas & Evertype, 2nd edition 2006); this takes full account of the earlier work of R. Morton Nance ‘Mordon’. Much has been adopted from Prof. Williams’s Geryow Gwir (Evertype, 2nd edition 2014); but vigorous coinages by Nance have been retained. And there are some new expressions. It is hoped the chosen vocabulary will prove useful wherever folk are eager to speak Cornish in a vibrant manner, balancing the needs of modern communication with cherished tradition.

Ian Jackson, An Dhyw Rës, Hâv 2017


Since Gerlyver Kescows first appeared four years ago, much has been achieved in the project to compile a comprehensive two-way dictionary of revived Cornish in Standard Cornish spelling. I have taken full account of this major work-in-progress to update the spellings in my more modest volume. And I have revised the original lists of words and phrases in the light of experience. The size of these vocabulary lists has not changed; nor has the focus on conversation. But to assist your reading the parenthetical synonyms and alternative spellings in the Cornish-English section have been greatly expanded.

The second edition is available on-line at where pronunciation guidance will also be found.

I am indebted to everyone who offered constructive comments on the first edition. I am grateful to Ray Chubb, Neil Kennedy, Dr Jon Mills, Kyle Odgers, Pat Parry, and Andrew J. Trim for essential insights. I should like to thank Michael Everson for sharing his orthographic expertise and giving me access to unpublished material. Above all I wish to acknowledge the inspiration and sound scholarship provided by Professor Nicholas Williams. Any errors remain my sole responsibility.

Ian Jackson, An Dhyw Rës, Gwaynten 2021


The alphabet

Here are Cornish names for the letters of the alphabet in case you need to spell out a word: a, be, ce, de, e, ef, ge, ha, i, je, ke or ka, èl, èm, èn, o, pe, qwo, èr, ès or èss, te, û (pronounced oo), ve, we, ex, ye, zèd.

Reading each entry

The following abbreviations are used throughout the dictionary: adj adjective, adv adverb, col collective, comp comparative, du dual, conj conjunction, feminine, fut future, interj interjection, intr intransitive, masculine, noun, phr phrase, pl plural, pref prefix, prep preposition, pret preterite, pron pronoun. In the English-Cornish section means verb. Elsewhere means verb-noun. Clipped incl means ‘including’, sb means ‘somebody’, ‘sth’ means ‘something’.

Anything between square brackets is optional. In the Cornish-English section commas separate close synonyms, semi-colons separate definitions that are not synonymous. In entries for Cornish nouns, the plural form is also given (just the portion that changes in the case of an expression comprising more than one word); except that for collective nouns it is the singulative that is often added. Singulative nouns in -en are generally feminine and make their plural in -ednow.

Any noun in -or / -yth / -yas referring to a person can be given specific female reference by adding -es (first changing th to dh, s to d). The noun is then feminine, with plural in -ow.

Many phrases containing a personal pronoun or inflected preposition appear in the dictionary in the masculine third person singular. You will need to adjust them for the appropriate person.

Superscript numbers indicate a contact mutation, or its absence, by state: First (no mutation – only marked for prefixes), Second (lenition), Third (spirantization), Fourth (provection), Fifth (mixed).

A reference to the ‘infinitive construction’ is to the pattern noun or pronoun + dhe2 + verb-noun. A na-clause is a sub-clause beginning with na2 (nag before a vowel in bos / mos).

An asterisk indicates that the Cornish word functions in a verbal phrase. If the word is an adjective, the phrase structure will be adjective + yw ganso. If the word is a noun, the phrase will be yma + noun dhodho a2 or y’n jeves + noun + a2. Preposition a2 is often omitted before a verb-noun, and is always dropped before the infinitive construction or a na-clause. Nouns of emotion may alternatively use the same construction as adjectives when put with a verb-noun, but this does not apply to nouns of deliberation or fact.

A word has a single stress accent on the penultimate syllable in the absence of any specific indication. When this accent falls elsewhere, a dot after the vowel marks the syllable which is stressed. The symbol ‖ after a word indicates that, instead of a single stress accent, two syllables of the word are given prominence. In the case of a disyllabic word, this prominence is slightly less than the stress on a monosyllable: long i may become less tense; at the end of the second syllable pre-occlusion of n disappears, though pre-occlusion of m is usually retained. Note that double prominence does not usually apply to loan-words, nor to compounds where simplification has occurred (for instance gwesty, gwylcos). In a polysyllabic word the second prominent syllable is given slightly more force than the first; this is sometimes referred to as ‘primary stress’. The prominent syllables in a polysyllabic word will be the first and second in compound formations like pedncyta; the first and third in words like coffyjy and trisyllabic verb-nouns ending with suffix -he; the first and third in words like penscreforyon, tremencumyas; the first and fourth in words like tremencumyasow.

Reduction of vowels towards schwa is most likely to occur in non-prominent syllables that follow a prominent syllable or immediately precede one. But vowel reduction is naturally constrained if the syllable carries important semantic information. This is very often the case in two-syllable words formed with the privative prefixes an- and dy- and it is always observed in careful speech for such pairs such as hewel, hewil and kevrath, kevreth.

Kernowek Standard spellings are based on a clear set of principles. These apply up-to-date orthographical planning within the framework established by all the historical evidence. There can occasionally be minor disagreements about a particular KS spelling. Cornish is a living language: differences should be resolved by usage, not by any kind of ruling body. The author of this dictionary is happy to correspond about any variant KS spelling that may appear elsewhere.

This text: 14 February 2021 (15:00)