Wales is a country that is part of the United Kingdom, bordered by England to its east and the Atlantic Ocean and Irish Sea to its west. It has an estimated population of three million andis officially bilingual with the Welsh and English languages having equal status. The Welsh language is an important element of Welsh culture. Its decline has reversed over recent years, with Welshspeakers estimated to be around 20% of the population of Wales.
Etymology of Wales
The Anglo-Saxon word for 'foreign' or 'foreigner' was Waelisc and a 'foreign(er's) land' was called Wēalas. Themodern English forms of these words with respect to the modern country are Welsh (the people) and Wales (the land), respectively.
Historically in Britain the words were not restricted to modernWales or to the Welsh but were used indiscriminately to refer to anything that the Anglo-Saxons associated with Celtic Britons, including other foreign lands (Cornwall), places once associated with CelticBritons (Walworth in County Durham and Walton in West Yorkshire), the surnames of people (Walsh and Wallace) and various other things that were once new and foreign to the Anglo-Saxons (the walnut).None of these historic usages is necessarily connected to Wales or the Welsh.
The Anglo-Saxon words are derived from the same Germanic root (singular Walh, plural Walha) that has provided modernnames for Continental lands (Wallonia and Wallachia) and peoples (the Vlachs via a borrowing into Old Church Slavonic), none of which have any connection to Wales or the Welsh.
Prehistoric originsWales has been inhabited by modern humans for at least 29,000 years. Continuous human habitation dates from the end of the last ice age, between 12,000 and 10,000 years before present (BP), whenMesolithic hunter-gatherers from central Europe began to migrate to Great Britain. At that time sea levels were much lower than today, and the shallower parts of what is now the North Sea were dry land....