"Campbell": Surname Meaning and Origin

girl with crooked teeth

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Campbell is a popular Scottish and Irish surname meaning "crooked or wry mouth," often used to describe a man whose mouth inclined a little on one side. The name is derived from the Scots Gaelic "Caimbeul," which is composed of the Gaelic cam meaning "crooked or distorted" and beul for "mouth." Gillespie O'Duibhne was the first to have borne the Campbell surname, and founded clan Campbell at the beginning of the 13th century.

Another possible derivation of the Campbell surname comes from the Irish Mac Cathmhaoil, meaning "son of the battle chieftain."

Campbell is the 43rd most popular surname in the United States and the 6th most common surname in Scotland. It is also a very common surname in Ireland.

Surname Origin: Scottish, Irish

Alternate Surname Spellings: CAMBELL, MACCAMPBELL, MCCAMPBELL

Fun Fact About the Campbell Surname

The Campbell surname was often represented in Latin as de bello campo, meaning "of the fair field," which sometimes led to it being "translated" as a similar surname of that meaning: Beauchamp (French), Schoenfeldt (German), or Fairfield (English). 

Where in the World is the CAMPBELL Surname Found?

Perhaps surprising, but the Campbell surname is found in the greatest concentrations in Prince Edward Island, Canada, according to WorldNames PublicProfiler, followed by Scotland and New Zealand. It's also an extremely popular surname in Australia. Surname distribution maps at Forebears puts individuals with the Campbell last name in greatest concentrations in Jamaica, followed by Northern Ireland, Scotland, Canada, New Zealand, and Australia. Within Scotland, Campbells are found in greatest numbers in Argyll, the seat of Clan Campbell, and Inverness-shire.

Famous People with the Last Name CAMPBELL

  • Kim Campbell - first female Prime Minister of Canada
  • Glen Campbell - American actor and country music singer
  • Naomi Campbell - English supermodel and actress
  • Joseph Campbell - American anthropologist and author
  • Bruce Campbell - American actor
  • Colin Campbell - 1st Earl of Argyll, chief of Clan Campbell

References:

Cottle, Basil. Penguin Dictionary of Surnames. Baltimore, MD: Penguin Books, 1967.

Menk, Lars. A Dictionary of German Jewish Surnames. Avotaynu, 2005.

Beider, Alexander. A Dictionary of Jewish Surnames from Galicia. Avotaynu, 2004.

Hanks, Patrick and Flavia Hodges. A Dictionary of Surnames. Oxford University Press, 1989.

Hanks, Patrick. Dictionary of American Family Names. Oxford University Press, 2003.

Smith, Elsdon C. American Surnames. Genealogical Publishing Company, 1997.