Humanities › History & Culture Scottish Surnames Meanings & Origins What Does Your Scottish Last Name Mean? Share Flipboard Email Print Steve Allen/The Image Bank/Getty Images History & Culture Genealogy Surnames Basics Genealogy Fun Vital Records Around the World American History African American History African History Ancient History and Culture Asian History European History Inventions Latin American History Medieval & Renaissance History Military History The 20th Century Women's History View More By Kimberly Powell Genealogy Expert Certificate in Genealogical Research, Boston University B.A., Carnegie Mellon University Kimberly Powell is a professional genealogist and the author of The Everything Guide to Online Genealogy. She teaches at the Genealogical Institute of Pittsburgh and the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy. our editorial process Kimberly Powell Updated January 27, 2019 Scottish surnames as we know them today — family names passed down intact from father to son to grandson — were first introduced into Scotland by the Normans about the year 1100. Such hereditary names were not universally prevalent and settled, however. The use of fixed Scottish surnames (last names that didn't change with each generation) wasn't really in prevalent use until the 16th century, and it was well into the late 18th century before surnames were common in the Highlands and northern isles. Origins of Scottish Surnames Surnames in Scotland generally developed from four major sources: Geographical or Local Surnames —These are names derived from the location of the homestead from which the first bearer and his family lived, and are generally the most common origin of Scottish surnames. Most of the earliest people in Scotland to adopt fixed surnames were the nobles and great landowners, who were often called by the land they possessed (e.g. William de Buchan from Buchan, Scotland). Eventually, even those who did not own significant land started to use place names to identify themselves from others of the same name, adopting the name of the village or even the street where the family originated. Tenants often took their name from the estate where they lived. Thus, most of the earliest surnames in Scotland were derived from place names. Topographic surnames derived from vague geographical locations rather than specific places, also fall into this category. These names may refer to physical features such as streams (Burns), moors (Muir) or forests (Wood) or to man-made structures, such as a castle or a mill (Milne).Occupational Surnames — Many Scottish surnames developed from a person's job or trade. Three common Scottish surnames — Smith (blacksmith), Stewart (steward) and Taylor (tailor) — are excellent examples of this. Offices associated with the king's lands and/or hunting are another common source of Scottish occupational names — names such as Woodward, Hunter, and Forest.Descriptive Surnames — Based on a unique quality or physical feature of the individual, these surnames often developed from nicknames or pet names. Most refer to an individual's appearance - color, complexion, or physical shape — such as Campbell (from caimbeul, meaning "crooked mouth"), Duff (Gaelic for "dark") and Fairbain ("beautiful child"). A descriptive surname may also refer to an individual's personality or moral characteristics, such as Godard ("good natured") and Hardie ("bold or daring").Patronymic and Matronymic Surnames — These are surnames derived from baptismal or Christian names to indicate family relationship or descent. Some baptismal or given names have become surnames without any change in form. Others added a prefix or an ending. The use of Mac and Mc was prevalent throughout Scotland, but especially in the Highlands, to indicate "son of" (e.g. Mackenzie, son of Coinneach/Kenneth). In lowland Scotland, the suffix — son was more commonly added to the father's given name to form a patronymic surname. These true patronymic surnames changed with each successive generation. Thus, Robert's son, John, might become known as John Robertson. John's son, Mangus, would then be called Mangus Johnson, and so on. This true patronymic naming practice continued in most families until at least the fifteenth or sixteenth century before a family name was eventually adopted that passed down unchanged from father to son. Scottish Clan Names Scottish clans, from the Gaelic clann, meaning "family," provided a formal structure for extended families of shared descent. Clans each identified with a geographical area, usually an ancestral castle, and were originally controlled by a Clan Chief, officially registered with the court of the Lord Lyon, King of Arms which controls heraldry and Coat of Arms registration in Scotland. Historically, a clan was made up of everyone who lived on the chief's territory, people for which he was responsible and who, in turn, owed allegiance to the chief. Thus, not everyone in a clan was genetically related to one another, nor did all members of a clan bear a single surname. Scottish Surnames - Meanings & Origins Anderson, Campbell, MacDonald, Scott, Smith, Stewart... Are you one of the millions of people sporting one of these top 100 common Scottish last names? If so, then you'll want to check out our list of the most commonly occurring surnames in Scotland, including details on each name's origin, meaning, and alternate spellings. TOP 100 COMMON SCOTTISH SURNAMES & THEIR MEANINGS 1. SMITH 51. RUSSELL 2. BROWN 52. MURPHY 3. WILSON 53. HUGHES 4. CAMPBELL 54. WRIGHT 5. STEWART 55. SUTHERLAND 6. ROBERTSON 56. GIBSON 7. THOMPSON 57. GORDON 8. ANDERSON 58. WOOD 9. REID 59. BURNS 10. MACDONALD 60. CRAIG 11. SCOTT 61. CUNNINGHAM 12. MURRAY 62. WILLIAMS 13. TAYLOR 63. MILNE 14. CLARK 64. JOHNSTONE 15. WALKER 65. STEVENSON 16. MITCHELL 66. MUIR 17. YOUNG 67. WILLIAMSON 18. ROSS 68. MUNRO 19. WATSON 69. MCKAY 20. GRAHAM 70. BRUCE 21. MCDONALD 71. MCKENZIE 22. HENDERSON 72. WHITE 23. PATERSON 73. MILLAR 24. MORRISON 74. DOUGLAS 25. MILLER 75. SINCLAIR 26. DAVIDSON 76. RITCHIE 27. GRAY 77. DOCHERTY 28. FRASER 78. FLEMING 29. MARTIN 79. MCMILLAN 30. KERR 80. WATT 31. HAMILTON 81. BOYLE 32. CAMERON 82. CRAWFORD 33. KELLY 83. MCGREGOR 34. JOHNSTON 84. JACKSON 35. DUNCAN 85. HILL 36. FERGUSON 86. SHAW 37. HUNTER 87. CHRISTIE 38. SIMPSON 88. KING 39. ALLAN 89. MOORE 40. BELL 90. MACLEAN 41. GRANT 91. AITKEN 42. MACKENZIE 92. LINDSAY 43. MCLEAN 93. CURRIE 44. MACLEOD 94. DICKSON 45. MACKAY 95. GREEN 46. JONES 96. MCLAUGHLIN 47. WALLACE 97. JAMIESON 48. BLACK 98. WHYTE 49. MARSHALL 99. MCINTOSH 50. KENNEDY 100. WARD Source: National Records of Scotland - Most Common Surnames, 2014 Cite this Article Format mla apa chicago Your Citation Powell, Kimberly. "Scottish Surnames Meanings & Origins." ThoughtCo, Aug. 27, 2020, thoughtco.com/scottish-surnames-meanings-and-origins-1422406. Powell, Kimberly. (2020, August 27). Scottish Surnames Meanings & Origins. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/scottish-surnames-meanings-and-origins-1422406 Powell, Kimberly. "Scottish Surnames Meanings & Origins." 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