AskDefine | Define Eisteddfod

Dictionary Definition

eisteddfod n : any of several annual Welsh festivals involving artistic competitions (especially in singing) [also: eisteddfodau (pl)]

User Contributed Dictionary



  • /æɪˈstɛð.fəd/
  • /aI"stED.f@d/
  • /eɪˈsteð.vɒd/
  • /eI"steD.vQd/
rfap UK


From eisteddfod, session, from eistedd, to sit + bod, to be (be sitting)


  1. Any of several annual festivals in which Welsh poets, dancers, and musicians compete for recognition.


* In Welsh:
  • Byd gwyn fydd byd a gano,
    Gwaraidd fydd ei gerddi fo.
  • An English translation:
    Blessed would be a world that sings,
    Gentle would be his songs.



  • /eɪˈsteð.vɒd/


eisteddfod (plural: eisteddfodau)

Extensive Definition

An Eisteddfod (, Welsh ; plural Eisteddfodau [-stɛðˈvɔdaɨ] or eisteddfods) is a Welsh festival of literature, music and performance. The tradition of such a meeting of Welsh artists dates back to at least the 12th century when a festival of poetry and music was held by Rhys ap Gruffydd of Deheubarth at his court in Cardigan in 1176, but with the decline of the bardic tradition it fell into abeyance. The present-day format owes much to an eighteenth century revival arising out of a number of informal eisteddfodau. The word Eisteddfod is derived from the Welsh word eistedd, meaning "sit".


The first Eisteddfod was that held by Lord Rhys ap Gruffydd in Cardigan Castle in 1176 at which prizes of chairs were awarded to the winners. The next recorded Eisteddfod was held in Caerwys in 1568. The prizes awarded were a miniature silver chair to the successful poet, a little silver crwth to the winning fiddler, a silver tongue to the best singer, and a tiny silver harp to the best harpist. Originally, the contests were limited to professional Welsh bards who were paid by the nobility. To ensure the highest standard possible Elizabeth I of England commanded that the bards be examined and licensed. As the interest in the Welsh arts declined the standard of the Eisteddfod deteriorated as well and they became more informal. In 1789 Thomas Jones organised an Eisteddfod in Corwen where for the first time the public were admitted. The success of this event led to a revival of interest in Welsh literature and music.

The Eisteddfod Revival

Iolo Morganwg (bardic name of Edward Williams) founded "Gorsedd Beirdd Ynys Prydain" (Gorsedd of the Bards of the Isle of Britain) in 1792 to restore and replace the ancient Eisteddfod. The first Eisteddfod of the revival was held in Primrose Hill, London.
"The Gentleman's Magazine" of October, 1792 reported on the revival of the Eisteddfod tradition. "This being the day on which the autumnal equinox occurred, some Welsh bards, resident in London, assembled in congress on Primrose Hill, according to ancient usage. Present at the meeting was Edward Jones who had published his "The Musical and Poetical Reelicks of the Welsh Bards" in 1784 in a belated effort to try to preserve the native Welsh traditions being so ruthlessly stamped out by the new breed of Methodists." The Blue Books notorious attack on the character of the Welsh as a nation in 1846 led to public anger and the belief that it was important for the Welsh to create a new national image. By the 1850's people began to talk of a National Eisteddfod to showcase Wales's culture. In 1858 John Williams ab Ithel held a "National" Eisteddfod complete with Gorsedd in Llangollen. "The great Llangollen Eisteddfod of 1858" was a significant event. Thomas Stephens won for his essay in which he demolished the claim of John Williams (the events organiser) that Madoc discovered America. As Williams had expected Stephens essay to reinforce the myth he was not willing to award the prize to Stephens and it is recorded "matters became turbulent". This Eisteddfod also saw the first public appearance of John Ceiriog Hughes who won a prize for a love poem, "Myfanwy Fychan of Dinas Brân. Myfanwy Fychan" which became an instant hit. There is speculation this was a result of it's depiction of "deserving, beautiful, moral, well-mannered Welshwoman" in stark contrast to The Blue Books depiction of Welsh women as having questionable morals.
The National Eisteddfod Council was created after Llangollen and the Gorsedd consequently merged with it. The Gorsedd holds the right of proclamation and of governance while the Council organises the event. The first true National Eisteddfod organised by the Council was held in Denbigh in 1860 on a pattern that continues to the present day.

The National Eisteddfod

The most important Eisteddfod is the National Eisteddfod of Wales, the largest festival of competitive music and poetry in Europe. Its eight days of competitions and performances, entirely in the Welsh language, are staged annually in the first week of August usually alternating between North and South Wales (see the National Eisteddfod article for a list of past venues). Over 6000 people competed at the 2006 National Eisteddfod with 150,000 visitors attending.

The Urdd Eisteddfod

Another important eisteddfod in the calendar is 'Eisteddfod Yr Urdd', or the youth eisteddfod. Organised by Wales's largest youth movement, Urdd Gobaith Cymru, it brings together children from the age of 7, up to young adults of 24, from all across Wales, for a week of competition of singing, recitation, dancing, acting and musicianship in the summer half-term school holiday. The event is claimed to be Europe's premier youth arts festival. Regional heats are held in advance of the final competition and, as with the national eisteddfod, the Urdd Eisteddfod is held in a different location each year, although with the establishment of the Urdd headquarters in the Wales Millennium Centre, the eisteddfod will return to Cardiff every four years.
Recent Eisteddfodau have been held at:
2003 - Margam Park
2004 - Llangefni, Anglesey
2005 - Cardiff
2006 - Ruthin
2007 - Carmarthen
Future Eisteddfodau are scheduled to be held at:
2008 - Llandudno
2009 - Cardiff
2010 - Ceredigion

The International Eisteddfod

The International Eisteddfod is held annually in Llangollen, Denbighshire each year in July. Choirs, singing groups, folk dancers and other groups attend from all over the world, sharing their national folk traditions in one of the world's great festivals of the arts. It was set up in 1947 and begins with a message of peace. In 2004, it was (unsuccessfully) nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by Terry Waite, who has been actively involved with the eisteddfod.

Other eisteddfodau

Smaller-scale local eisteddfodau are held throughout Wales: advertisements for them may appear in the back of the newspapers or on posters locally. Schools hold eisteddfodau as competitions within the school: a popular time for this is on Saint David's Day.


Eisteddfods (Australian plural) have also been adopted into Australian culture. Much like the Welsh original, eisteddfods are competitions that involve testing individuals for singing, dancing, acting and musicianship. One has been run by the Royal South Street Society in Ballarat since 1891 At least 20 years earlier, as described in the diaries of Joseph Jenkins, Ballarat's Welsh community was conducting an annual eisteddfod each St David's Day (1 March). Modern equivalents in Australia are competitions reserved for schoolchildren. Typically, a prize may be a scholarship to pursue a further career. Many young Australian actors and dancers participate regularly in the various competitions scheduled throughout the year. The most popular is the Rock Eisteddfod, which involves 40,000 students from 400 schools in a yearly competition.


Eisteddfodau have been held since the initial Welsh settlement in Argentina in the late nineteenth century. Competitions nowadays are bilingual, in Welsh and Spanish, and include poetry and prose, translations (Welsh, Spanish, English, Italian, and French), musical performances, arts, folk dances, photography and video among others. There is an annual youth eisteddfod held in Gaiman in September, and the main Chubut Eisteddfod is held in Trelew in October. An annual eisteddfod is also held in Trevelín, in the Andes.

Non-Welsh Eisteddfodau

In Cornwall, the local version is known as "Esethvos Kernow" (Cornish for "Eisteddfod of Cornwall") and is connected with Gorseth Kernow.
The Eisteddfod idea has been taken up by non-Welsh speakers in the Channel Islands, particularly for the preservation of Jèrriais and Guernesais, and is called such. See Jersey Eisteddfod.
The Scottish Gaelic Mod has also been influenced by the Eisteddfod. The Breton Kan ar Bobl as well.


Eisteddfod in Breton: Eisteddfod
Eisteddfod in Catalan: Eisteddfod
Eisteddfod in Welsh: Eisteddfod
Eisteddfod in German: Eisteddfod
Eisteddfod in Spanish: Eisteddfod
Eisteddfod in Basque: Eisteddfod
Eisteddfod in French: Eisteddfod
Eisteddfod in Italian: Eisteddfod
Eisteddfod in Norwegian: Eisteddfod
Eisteddfod in Narom: Eisteddfod
Eisteddfod in Polish: Eisteddfod
Eisteddfod in Finnish: Eisteddfod
Eisteddfod in Swedish: Eisteddfod
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