Scottish names are rich with history—both surnames and given names.
The most wealthy and high nobility first started using surnames, but it wasn’t long before merchants and townspeople started using them as well because it was an easy way to identify one another. But the process to adopt and adapt surnames took centuries. In the 13th century, about 30 percent of men in Scotland’s were named William, John, or Richard. But surnames have been complicated over time because of the Scottish Highlands, Lowlands, and the clan system. Even though surnames started to be used with regularity as early as the 10th or 12th centuries, there wasn’t a lot of consistency with surnames until the 16th century. This is helpful when searching your own family records.
In 1746, after the Battle of Culloden, many people changed their surnames from clan names to less Gaelic-sounding names so they would not be punished by the British government. If someone’s name was clan-like, he or she could be associated with disfavoring the crown. But after a few generations, some changed their names back to the clan name.
Some surnames were also translated into English. Surnames like “Mac a’ Bhrataich” and “MacGhilledhuinn” were sometimes changed to “Bannerman” and “Brown” or “Broun.” There were even times when names were changed by authorities, sometimes without the bearer’s knowledge.
Scottish surnames were often taken from Gaelic Scottish given names with a “Mc” or “Mac” added to the beginning. This naming convention is patronymic, and the prefix means “son”. This naming trait was used most often in the Highlands. One in 8 surnames in Scotland begin with “Mc” or “Mac,” with one of the most common names being “MacDonald.” Surnames can be different based on regions, but below are some of the most common surnames in Scotland.
20 Common Scottish Surnames
Scottish Boy Names
Many Scottish given names are of Gaelic origins, and many are intertwined with Irish origins as well. The Scottish also used naming patterns for given names. For example, the first son was often named after the father’s father, the second son named after the mother’s father, and the third son named after the father. It was not uncommon after a child died for the next child of the same sex to be given the name of the deceased child.
Here are some popular Scottish boy names:
Scottish Girl Names
Given names for girls follow much the same pattern as used for boys, if families chose to use the naming pattern. The first daughter was often named after the mother’s mother, the second daughter after the father’s mother, and the third daughter after the mother. Scottish variants of common English names are also common. For example, for Elizabeth, Elspeth might be used, or Catrina, Caitriona, or Ceitedh might be used for Katherine. The suffix “ina” is also popular for Scottish girl names.
Here are some other common Scottish girl names:
Search Your Family Tree for Scottish Ancestors
Now that you’re armed with both Scottish surnames and Scottish given names, try searching your family tree for a few. You may have some Scottish ancestors that you didn’t know about, and you may also find some names that you could add to your own family tree!
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