As a reader of this blog, you need to know that 1) I wrote a dissertation on Celtic mutations and 2) I own a Welsh corgi (see below). His name is Owain Glyndwr Alan Jackson Cooperlee Corgi McCay Pyatt (or Glyndwr for short). Over the years, I have become aware of the meaning of the word corgi and some related words that linguists, Indo-Europeanists, Celticists and corgïsts may appreciate. The rest of you may want to move on.
Corgi is a Compound
Most corgi owners are aware that corgi is from Welsh and literally means ‘dwarf dog’ (cor ‘dwarf’ + ci ‘dog’), a reference to the short legs. In fact corgis literally have dwarfism in their legs which is why you have to be careful how much they bound about, especially as they get older.
You may have noticed that although corgis are a type of ci ‘dog’, they are not a *corci. The ci ‘dog’ element undergoes the Welsh soft mutation changing c /k/ to g /g/. How Welsh!
Corgis have an /n/-Stem plural option
The most common plural of corgi is corgwn /korgun/ which basically incorporates the plural cŵn /ku:n/ ‘dogs’ (note that Welsh w is always the vowel /u/ when not with another vowel). The plural shows that the Welsh dog word is actually related to Latin canis, French chien and even English hound. The root also appears in part of the name for yoga downward dog which is a svanasana (śvan- + asana, lit. a ‘dog asana’). What about the Celtic language Old Irish? The word for dog in Old Irish is cú, but in other case forms it is con-, a common name element in Irish.
But…Welsh plurals are not always regular. The singular corgi can also be plural corgïaid, at least according to the Geriadur Prifysgol Cymru. Because you can’t pin a corgi down.
Don’t Forget the Ladies
Female corgis have their own Welsh words too. The word for a female dog (or “bitch”) in Welsh is gast, and sure enough you can own a corgast or a coriast. Or if you object to the term “bitch”, you can have a corgïes /korgiɛs/ where -es is a generic feminine ending. By the way, this ending makes me an Americanes “American woman”.
I have determined that corgine should be used to indicate the high state of being a corgi. Not that being an ordinary canine is a bad thing, but not all English speakers understand the specialness of being a dog. We should not forget that legends tells us that corgis were ridden by fairies but given to humans in gratitude to a human who fixed a carriage (and other dog breeds have similar origins I assume).
In any case, the adjectival form of corgi is corgïaidd /korgiajð/ (not to be confused with the alternate plural corgïaid /korgiajd/. The dd is “soft th” or /ð/ in Welsh.
Other Little Things
The prefix cor can be found in other Welsh words notable corgoed ‘dwarf tree’ and coriarll ‘viscount’ or literally ‘little earl’. The Welsh are very productive and clever compoundists.