The Welsh term bardd ("poet", from which derives the English word bard) originally referred to the Welsh poets of the Middle Ages, who might be itinerant or attached to a noble household. Some of these medieval poets were known by a pseudonym, for example Cynddelw Brydydd Mawr ("Cynddelw the Master Poet", fl. 1155 - 1200) and Iolo Goch ("Iolo the Red", c.1320 - c.1398). The practice seems to have very ancient antecedents, witness the names of the presumably 6th century poets Talhaearn Tad Awen, Blwchfardd and Culfardd, mentioned by the Welsh historian Nennius alongside Taliesin and Aneirin, the latter referred to as Aneurin Gwenithwawd.
However, the use of so-called bardic names became something of a conceit following the re-invention of medieval tradition by Iolo Morganwg in the eighteenth century. Its main purpose nowadays is to conceal the identity of eisteddfod competitors during judging. The usage has also extended to Breton and Cornish poetry. In Cornwall, some of the pioneers of the Cornish language movement are generally referred to by their bardic names, e.g. 'Mordon' for Robert Morton Nance, or 'Talek' for E.G. Retallack Hooper.
Bardic names are also useful in differentiating between individuals of the same name (a problem which is much more common in Wales than most other countries). For example, John Jones (Talhaiarn) took his bardic name from his place of origin, to distinguish him from contemporaries with the name John Jones. The minister Joseph Harris (Gomer) selected his bardic name from the Bible. Others, such as Hedd Wyn, used poetic inventions.