Scottish Names—What Are They All About?
Scottish names are rich with history—both surnames and givennames.
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.
Scottish surnames are based on many things—occupations, geography, patronymics (based on a person’s father’s name), and descriptions (based on a nickname, hair color, complexion, or so on). Surnames can be different based on regions, but below are some of the most common surnames in Scotland.