This is a reproduction of the original preface to the first printed edition of the dictionary.

Like its more famous prototype, lAcadémie française, yr Academi Gymreig, the Welsh Academy, had its origins in the discussions of a group of literati who met formally for the first time in Aberystwyth on 3 April 1959. There they decided to establish a Welsh Academy comprising twenty-four members judged to have made worthy contributions to Welsh literature and pledged to make every effort to promote its development by coming together annually to discuss literary matters and to examine every means of promoting and rewarding literary achievement. The Welsh Academy has come a long way since then, most notably perhaps by supporting the formation of a sister academy devoted to the cultivation of Anglo-Welsh literature.

L’Académie française decided at an early stage that one of its purposes should be to perfect the French language and that to do so it was necessary to prepare a dictionary. No such purpose engaged the minds of the founders of the Welsh Academy, and when in 1974 Dr Bruce Griffiths, with the strong backing of Mr Dafydd Glyn Jones, made an eloquent plea that it should make the compilation of an English-Welsh dictionary one of its priorities, there were some misgivings. After all, the compilation of a dictionary is no small matter and the Academy was then entirely dependent on the Welsh Arts Council for financial support. However, Dr Griffiths’s enthusiasm and willingness to undertake the editorship and the promise of support made by Mr Meic Stephens and Professor Richard Griffiths on behalf of the Welsh Arts Council persuaded the Academy to welcome the challenge, and as its chairman at the time I am extremely proud that it did.

That the Welsh language has survived over so many centuries and that its prospects at the end of the twentieth century are in many ways brighter than they were at its beginning is something of a miracle, especially since it has had to live next door, as it were, to English, a language which is recognized as a world language and is rapidly becoming the world language.

One does not need to be interested in lexicography to know that English is constantly changing and that it is continually adding to its vocabulary, with the result that its resources are virtually unparalleled. When major languages like German and French are borrowing words from English, it is no wonder that a neighbouring language like Welsh should do so. Unless Welsh can offer a means of communication adequate to compete with English in every sphere of life, its speakers will be under pressure to borrow more and more words from English and will end up speaking a patois with the feeling of linguistic inferiority which has given some Welshmen the excuse to abandon their native tongue.

In these circumstances native speakers as well as learners of Welsh have to be fully aware of the immense resources of the language, and they will welcome this dictionary, for never before have these resources been so extensively explored and so clearly presented.

The compilation of the dictionary has taken much longer than was envisaged but its scope has also far exceeded what was ever hoped. Its editor, Dr Bruce Griffiths, and its associate editor, Mr Dafydd Glyn Jones, have devoted a large part of a lifetime to the completion of an extremely difficult task. To them both the Welsh Academy owes a debt which can scarcely be imagined, much less measured.

J. E. Caerwyn Williams

President of Yr Academi Gymreig