** See meanings and origins of Top 100 Scottish Surnames below
Origins of Scottish Last NamesSurnames 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.
- Patronymic 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.
- 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, Hunt 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") and . A descriptive surname may also refer to an individual's personal or moral characteristics, such as Goodchild, Puttock (greedy) or Wise.
Scottish Clan NamesScottish 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.