How Nova Scotia Got Its Name

Welcome to Nova Scotia sign at twilight.

Dennis Jarvis from Halifax, Canada/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY 2.0

The province of Nova Scotia is one of the ten provinces and three territories that make up Canada. Located on the far southeastern coast of the country, it is one of only three Canadian maritime provinces.

How Did Nova Scotia Get Its Name?

Currently nicknamed "Canada’s Festival Province," the name Nova Scotia originates from Latin. Literally, it means "New Scotland."

Early Scottish Settlers

Nova Scotia was founded in 1621 by Sir William Alexander of Menstrier. He appealed to King James of Scotland that a "New Scotland" was needed to expand national interests alongside New England, New France, and New Spain. Nova Scotia became an ideal territory for early Scottish settlers.

Nearly a century later, after the United Kingdom gained control over the area, there was a massive Scottish immigration wave. Adventurous Highlanders came from all over Scotland to settle throughout Nova Scotia.

By the mid-1700s, British military officer, general, and acting governor of Nova Scotia, Charles Lawrence, invited American New England residents to relocate to Nova Scotia. This was largely due to the expulsion of the Acadians that left large land vacancies and created yet another Scottish population surge.

The new settlers were comprised of Scots that had previously fled to New England to gain religious freedom. These descendants formed a major part of the life and development of Nova Scotia and continued to stay in the province through successive generations.

Modern Nova Scotia

The Scottish became the third largest ethnic group in Canada, and their heritage is celebrated throughout Nova Scotia. Community events such as Tartan days, clan gatherings, and showings of Highlander-based films like "Braveheart," "Trainspotting," and "Highlander" reaffirm ancient Scottish pride.

The kinship between Scotland and Canada is incredibly strong, and Scottish cultural influence is evident throughout the province.

Visitors to Nova Scotia looking for an authentic cultural experience are invited to wear a kilt, enjoy the skirl of the bagpipes from a marching band, and see the cabar being tossed at one of the province's many Highland Games events.

It's also easy to find traditional Scottish dishes like haggis, porridge, kippers, black pudding, shortbread, cranachan, and clootie dumplings with a Canadian twist at local restaurants.


MacKay, Janet. "Founding of New Scotland (Nova Scotia)." Fifty Plus, November 1993.

Wilson, Norry. "Scotland and Canada.", February 6, 2019.

Unknown. "The Gaelic Culture of Nova Scotia is as Celtic as You Will Get!", 2017.

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Munroe, Susan. "How Nova Scotia Got Its Name." ThoughtCo, Aug. 28, 2020, Munroe, Susan. (2020, August 28). How Nova Scotia Got Its Name. Retrieved from Munroe, Susan. "How Nova Scotia Got Its Name." ThoughtCo. (accessed March 30, 2023).