To start with, the name Gwynedd is definitely a
post-Roman pronunciation which is still used by the modern Welsh.
Go back 1500 years and it is still most likely to
be pronounced the modern way. But note that 1500 years ago when
written down (in Latin, as no one wrote in Old Welsh back then), the
name was spelled Venedotia. The first three letters, 'ven-', are
probably the proto-Celtic word for 'white'. The proto-Celtic (or
common Celtic) root was 'windo'. The proto-Celtic 'd' apparently
mutates into a 't', a voiced 'th', a hard 'k', an 's', or a soft 'ch',
and also, of course, it can be dropped entirely.
Proto-Celtic 'v' became an 'f' in Old Irish Gaelic,
producing the Gaelic word 'fin' for white. In Britain it shifted the
other direction and became a 'w', then a 'gw', and in at least one
location (Votodini = Gododdin) the 'w' was dropped so that what
began as a 'v' became a 'g'.
Gwynedd is said to have been founded by Britons
from Manau Gododdin on the north side of the Firth of Forth and
River Forth. But Roman writers did not describe that area as
Votodini (Gododdin) territory. To them it was the land of a Pictish
tribe called the Venicones.
Venicones? There's that 'ven-' again. And it isn't
difficult to get from a 'c' to a 't' when people have no writing and
they are pronouncing a word as they please. It slides right over.
There is even precedent for it among Celtic tribes, as witnessed by
Galatia and Galacia as tribal names on opposite ends of the Celtic
expansion. The common root in that case is 'gal', a cock (or rooster
in US English),
probably a reference to the red hair common among early Gauls
In my opinion, Gwynedd was founded by Venicones
(Venedoti) from Fife. Their point of origin was at a fort in Fife
called Manau, which was nominally under Gododdin overlordship. Hence
Picts or Brits?
But how could this happen? How could a group of
'Picts' become Roman Britons?
To begin with there were no 'Picts'. It's just an
adopted name, in the same manner that the Britons of Wales adopted
Cymry as their name, and Cymru as their country (instead of Prydein
= Britain). No Picts existed as any sort of separate people. The
so-called Picts were merely Britons who had not been conquered by
the Roman army. The 'Picts' were the free Britons north of the
But the Romans did occupy an area north of the
Antonine wall for a generation, before retreating to more defensible
positions. Which area was that? Fife.
The Venicones had been occupied for a generation by
Romans, whose influence continued north of the Forth at Manau after
the legions marched away. Manau was subject to the Gododdin, who
were in turn clients of the Roman Empire.
The Gwyneddmen are Venicones. And they still call
themselves Venicones, with an updated pronunciation.