What are some popular Scottish surnames?


Quick Answer

Some of the most popular surnames in Scotland are Smith, Brown, Wilson and Robertson, according to surveys and the UK electoral register. However, many of these surnames are of English origin rather than Scottish Gaelic.

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Full Answer

Scotland's official genealogy organization explains that the use of surnames was not widespread in some parts of Scotland until the 19th century, and surnames often have Anglo-Norman, Irish or even Scandinavian influences. Many surnames are also Anglicized versions of Gaelic surnames or Gaelicized versions of English surnames. Scottish clan groups often adopted the same surname as a sign of allegiance to their chiefs, and the shifting boundaries of many clans often led to surnames changing and shifting in popularity.

Although foreign influence is common in Scottish surnames, Gaelic also plays a major role in popular surnames. Common Scottish Gaelic surnames often begin with Mac or Mc, meaning "son" in Gaelic, such as MacGibbon, Macnab and MacDonald or Mac Dhomhnuill in the Gaelic version. Other popular Scottish surnames derived from place names in Gaelic, either general geographical terms such as Craig and Glenn, or more specific locations such as Murray, from the region of Moray. Color words in Gaelic also provided the basis for several surnames, such as Duff, which means "black,” and Bowie, which means "yellow." "Cam" means "crooked" in Scottish Gaelic and is a component of descriptive surnames like Campbell or Cameron.

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