Dorothy Pentreath

Dorothy Pentreath ( - )



The legendary last known native speaker of the Cornish language. Baptised in Mousehole on the 16 May 1692, Pentreath was the second of six known children of the fisherman Nicholas Pentreath and his second wife Jone Pentreath.

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Cornish was her first language and in her later life she recalled that as a child she had sold fish in the Cornish language and been understood by her buyers.

There has been extensive debate over the level of Pentreath's fluency and the number of other Cornish speakers both in her contemporary community and later on. Before her death, she achieved near celebrity status and was painted by John Opie.

Despite the divided opinions on the accuracy of her mantles, the contemporary colourful reports of Pentreath's character have cemented her as the matriarch of the traditional Cornish language.

An engraving of Dorothy Pentreath. She is shown inside an oval frame, surrounded by fish and fishing equipment.
Image caption
Engraved portrait of Dorothy Pentreath by Richard Scaddan, 1781.
Date of birth (approx)
c. 1692
Place of birth
Mousehole, Cornwall
Date of death
26 December 1777
Place of death
Paul, Cornwall
Collection (people)