Dictionary of Welsh Biography

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WALTERS , JOHN ( 1721 - 1797 ), cleric and lexicographer ;

b. 22 Aug. 1721 , son of John Walters , timber merchant , Llanedi, Carms. His parents died when he was a young lad. He went to Bassaleg, Mon. , as schoolmaster , and afterwards was a pupil at Cowbridge grammar school . He then went to Margam to keep a school and, in 1750 , was ordained. He was curate at Margam and afterwards received the perpetual curacy of Llanfihangel Ynys Afan . He remained there until 1759 when he became rector of Llandough , near Cow-bridge , and vicar of S. Hilary . In 1795 he was given a prebend in Llandaff cathedral . He d. 1 June 1797 , and was buried at Llandough . He had five sons, two of whom, John (q.v.) and Daniel , attained considerable eminence as poets and scholars .

It was probably John Walters who persuaded Rhys Thomas , printer (q.v.) , to set up at Cowbridge the first printing press in Glamorgan . He published A Dissertation on the Welsh Language , 1771 , and Dwy Bregeth , 1772 , but his chief work was the large English-Welsh dictionary . This was based on the unpublished dictionary of William Gambold (q.v.) , but Walters was assiduous in collecting material of all kinds. The work was printed at the Cowbridge press , part one appearing on 5 April 1770 . Fourteen parts were issued between 1770 and 1783 , but the remainder could not be printed until 1794 , when Owen Jones ( Owain Myfyr , q.v.) arranged for the work to be completed in London . Walters coined a large number of words which have become established in the Welsh vocabulary , and he sought to show how to translate English idioms into Welsh . Two editions were published during the last century and this was the work which Daniel Silvan Evans (q.v.) had at his elbow when he was compiling his English-Welsh dictionary .


  • Enwogion Cymru. A Biographical Dictionary of Eminent Welshmen (1852) ;
  • Geirlyfr Bywgraffiadol o Enwogion Cymru (1870) ;
  • Oxford Dictionary of National Biography ;
  • Ifano Jones , A history of printing and printers in Wales to 1810, and of successive and related printers to 1923 (1925) , 85-9.


Emeritus Professor Griffith John Williams, M.A., (1892-1963), Gwaelod-y-garth, Cardiff

Published date: 1959