Names from older cultures are often popular because they can reflect the heritage of a parent or grandparent and baby names with a Scottish origin are no different. Many people can trace their family history back to Scotland or the other Celtic cultures, and it does not matter if you are one generation removed, or twenty, looking for a name for your child that reflects your Scottish roots can throw up some beautiful choices. Of course, you do not have to be any more Scottish than I am (i.e., not at all) to choose a name from this post, you might just be a huge fan of Highlander or Outlander.
Both the boys and the girls’ names on this list are lyrical and evocative of rugged men and strong women, standing on the windy Scottish shores, their long hair blowing in the gusty air while sea spray is swirling all around them. Then they fight through the stormy weather and go off and do whatever it is they do after they have finished looking gorgeous and windswept.
Ok, I may have gotten a little carried away with the imagery there, but I can say these baby names with a Scottish origin are both singular and stunning, and indeed, a lot more interesting than the names most of your friends will be considering.
This lovely name is cute for a little girl and dignified for a grown woman. Popular in Scotland until the mid-1980’s, Senga is virtually unknown as a name around the rest of the world.
Many of the name meaning sites and books will tell you that Senga came into being after somebody decided to use the name Agnes spelled backward. The same books and websites will then tell you that because it is Agnes backward, Senga has the same meaning as Agnes, which is ‘pure’ or ‘holy.’
However, the name Senga is more likely to have been derived from the Gaelic word seang which means ‘slender.’
Gilchrist is a relatively common surname that was co-opted into use as a first name. Derived from the Gaelic phrase giolla Chríost meaning “servant of Christ,” this name is unusual enough for you never to bump into another little boy with the same name in the playground but not so out there that people will hear the name and think WTF?
Gilchrist can be shortened to Gil, Gilly, and Chris, although if you are already thinking about how you can shorten it, it may not be the name for you. If you are seriously considering riding the front of the name trend wave by bringing back the old Scottish surnames as first names, be careful to try it out with your surname and any chosen middle names before you commit yourself.
Pronounced Oy-Rik this girl’s name means ‘new speckled one’ which I think makes it ideal for a baby girl with red hair who is more than likely to end up with some beautiful freckles. Another, more elaborate version of the name is Aithbhreac which comes from a much more ancient time in Scotland before it was a country and was mostly a land populated by traveling tribes.
Oighrig has been Anglicized as Afric, Africa, Erica, Effie, and Euphemia. It also has a couple of Scottish variations such as Eithrig and Oighria.
The disadvantage to choosing the name Oighrig for your daughter is that you will spend a great deal of time explaining to people how to pronounce it. Your daughter will also have to spend her life correcting people who have read her name and attempt to address her as Oy-Rig or hear her name and try to spell it Oyrick.
I couldn’t tell you why but I just love this name. Pronounced m -you – er, to rhyme with fewer, this was another boy’s names that were initially a surname. It has a few definitions, and as a surname, it came from the Scottish place name meaning moor or fen. It was attached to the first name of a man to indicate where he came from so Donald Muir would have been Donald from the moor. In Gaelic Muir means sea, ocean or sometimes wave which, to my mind, makes it a perfect name for a boy from a nautical family.
Iona has always been an infrequently used girl’s name, peaking in popularity in the early twentieth century. The origins of the name are debated but what is agreed on is that the name comes from the Scottish island Iona. This island was the location of an incredibly important Christian monastery during the Middle Ages and was considered the hub of learning and culture for much of western Europe at the time.
Because of the shared ancient history of the Norse and the Scottish, there are two theories of a Norse origin. One is from Hiōe meaning “island of the den of the brown bear,” and the other is from the Norse word Ey which merely means Island.
Fionnlagh is an old Scottish boy’s name which means “fair warrior” from the Gaelic fionn which means “fair, white” and laogh meaning “warrior” which makes it a terrific choice for boys in a military family.
The most significant issue with this beautiful Scottish baby name is the spelling and pronunciation. In Ireland and Scotland, there is no problem, but the rest of the world tends to look at Fionnlagh and try to pronounce it Fi-oh-lack or Fi-oh-laf, both of which are entirely wrong.
Fionnlagh is actually pronounced Fin-ley or Fin-lay depending on the accent of the person pronouncing it. This could pose a problem when everyone who has heard the name spells it Finlay and those who see the name written end up butchering it. If you can stand that, it is a beautiful name.
A good, strong girl’s name, Morven is pronounced exactly as it looks – MAWR-ven, which makes it the ideal candidate for an unusual girls name that isn’t difficult to say or spell. It is derived from mór which means ‘big, great’; bhein meaning ‘peak’ or bhairne meaning ‘gap’ so literally Morven means ‘big gap.’ This makes Morven an apt name if your daughter is arriving many years after your other child and people are going to continually mention the big gap you have between them.
Morven is also the historic spelling of Morvern which is a traditional district in the northwestern highlands of Scotland as well as the name of a mountain in Aberdeenshire.
This lyrical Scottish boy’s name is pronounced ‘lock-lin’ by most Australians and Americans, but the Scottish, Irish and English all use the correct pronunciation ‘lack-lan.’ This is something to be aware of if you want to have the name pronounced one way and not the other. If you are going to spend your life correcting other people’s pronunciation, it may get a little bit wearing after a while. Those that live in the United Kingdom also frequently use Lachie or Locky as a nickname.
As a matter of fact, the full name, Lachlan, was initially a nickname that the Scottish used for the Viking invaders from Norway. The Scottish called Norway ‘The Land Of The Lochs” or Lochlann and hence the Vikings became referred to as ‘Lochlanns.’ It is unclear when the name stopped being used for the Norse raiders and began to be used as a boys name.
In the 1700’s the Scottish poet James Macpherson published a book which he claimed was the translation of the Ossian cycle of epic poems. It was later shown to be a fake and that no such series of poems ever existed. Macpherson had taken scraps of Gaelic legends, poems, and stories and used them as the basis of his rhythmic epic.
One of the characters in his series of poems was Malvina, and there is no record of this name ever existing before that. Basically speaking Macpherson had made the name up using the Gaelic mala mhinn, meaning “smooth brow.”
Even though it was a “made-up” name, Malvina started to become fashionable with fans of Macpherson’s work and eventually became especially popular in Scandinavia because of Napoleon who was a big Macpherson fan.
Both ancient and regal Cináed was the name of the first king of the Picts and the Scots in the 9th century. Meaning “Born of Fire” Cináed evolved from the Gaelic word and, meaning “fire.”
A commanding and robust name for a boy, Cináed is pronounced KIN- ahd, KIN-ahj, KIN-ee, or KIN-ay, depending on the accent of the speaker.
There is little chance of you ever bumping into another Cináed outside of Scotland, or possibly Ireland, so this one is a safe bet if you want a name guaranteed to be unique among your family and friends. You certainly won’t be bumping into any other Cináeds at school or at any extracurricular activities.
As with many names that evolved in the Celtic culture the meaning of Rhona is unclear because there are so many theories on where it came from but no real evidence to support any of them.
The most popular, and most likely, explanation is that it was used for a child that was named after an island in the Hebrides and as such it means “rough island” in Gaelic. In Old English Rhona means “fair/white/blessed,” but it is unlikely that the ancient Scots would start using an Old English word as a girl’s name. There is another theory that Rhona is derived from the Welsh name Rhonwen which means “slender and fair.”
If you want to give your child a name that will provide them with an air of mystery, then you could do worse than to choose Dubhghall. Pronounced Duw-GL the name comes from dugh which means “dark or black” in Gaelic and gall which means “stranger” and was first used to describe invaders from the south as “dark foreigners.” Over time, as some invaders settled in the ancient Scottish lands, the words dugh and gall fused together to form the name Dubhghall.
The usual problems of spelling and pronunciation are here just as they are in other traditionally spelled Scottish names.
It is also worth noting that having such an individual name can be fantastic for someone who is confident and outgoing. They may revel in their individuality. For others, who are more introverted, such a singular name might be a burden.
Traditionally used solely as a boy’s name in Scotland, Blair has become popular as both a boys and a girl’s name in North America where it is sometimes spelled, Blaire.
Blair started out as a surname and comes from the Scottish Gaelic word blàr, meaning “plain” and “field” and was used to denote where from where somebody came. So, for example, a Scottish chieftain might be called Lachlan of the plain or Lachlan Blair.
Eventually, Blair became used as a forename, and it is just unusual enough for you to be unlikely to have another Blair in your child’s class and have them growing up as Blair B. or whatever their last initial is.
A great alternative to Elsa or Alisa, Ailsa came from the name of a Scottish island in the Firth of Clyde. The Vikings named the island after they had won a significant victory there and the original name, Alfsigesey means Alfsigr which translates as “Elf Victory” and later evolved into the broader meaning of “supernatural victory.” The island eventually became known by the more Gaelic sounding Ailsa Craig and is famous today for being a beautiful bird sanctuary.
Ailsa is pronounced as AYL-suh and is an ageless name which is suitable for a baby, a teen, or an old lady so you would never have to worry about your daughter outgrowing of this name. It is easy to see how this could become a popular name, so get in on the ground floor and snap up this beautiful girl’s name, quick!
Reid began as a nickname in Scotland, for a man with red hair or a ruddy, red complexion. Just as you might call a redhead “red” today, the old Scots would call a redhead “red,” but with a Scottish accent it becomes “Reid.” Try saying it in your head, and you’ll see what I mean.
As a boy’s name, Reid has a lot going for it. The name is short, so it would be challenging to use any kind of abbreviation. It is the kind of classical name that never goes out of style nor does it ever sound dated.
The only thing I do not like about this one is that it sounds a bit stiff for a baby. It is not in the least bit suited to a chubby little bundle of giggles. It is definitely a serious man in a suit name.
Pronounced MOE-ruch, the Scottish girl’s name Moireach has two separate origins. The first root is the name, Martha. The name Martha means “lady,” and the Gaelic word for lady is Moireach. The second origin is that it was the surname of a mighty Scottish clan named Moireach hat has been in existence since the 12th century. Nowadays Moireach as a surname has been changed so that those who speak the English language do not have a hard time trying to pronounce Gaelic words and the surname has been changed to Murry or Moray.
In Scotland, the word Moray means “sea settlement” so the name Moireach eventually came to mean “lady of the sea settlement.”
Much more popular than any other baby name on this list, I couldn’t help but include Bryce because I like the name so much. In Gaelic, Bryce means “speckled one” which is why it was so popular for all of those cute little freckle-faced Scottish babies in years gone by.
Less popular in Scotland these days, Bryce was hardly seen at all in North America until the 1950’s. Since then Bryce has constantly been in the top 1000 boys names, but even at its peak, in the late 1980’s, it barely made the top 500.
That makes Bryce an excellent choice if you are looking for a name that nobody else has, but that is not too ‘out there.’
This beautiful and underused girl’s name is pronounced SUR-uh-kah / SOR uh kha depending on the accent of the person speaking and should never be pronounced SOR Cha!
It is often said that Sorcha is the Irish equivalent of Sarah, which is incorrect. Sarah is a biblical name, meaning “princess” and the association between Sorcha and Sarah probably came about because the English thought they sounded similar, so must be the same name.
In Gaelic Sorcha means “brightness” or “light” so, if it is similar to any English name it is most likely Clara, which has its roots in the Latin for “bright.”
This is another of those names that remain timeless, and you would never be able to guess the age of a woman named Sorcha because it has never been a trendy name associated with a particular period in time.
Gillebart is an ancient Gaelic boy’s name meaning “Bright Pledge” and is in the same name family as Gilbert. As such this makes a good choice if you feel obliged to include and old family name, like Gilbert, but do not really want to use it. Merely use Gillebart instead and say you have gone for the ancient Scottish version to honor your roots!
Pronounced GIL-la-burt, it has a more noticeable spelling/pronunciation relationship than many of the other traditional Gaelic names so may not cause as many explanation problems over the years.
The name can also be shortened to Gibidh, pronounced Gee-bee or you can use the diminutive form of Gibby, which is spoken just as it is spelled.
Finally, on our list, a girl’s name that could prove to be very popular or very unpopular depending on your cultural and political leanings.
Pronounced Do-ile-ag this is the feminine form of the Scottish boy’s name Domhnall. Both names come from the Celtic elements dumno meaning “world” and val meaning “rule, ” and therefore the name means “World Ruler” or “Ruler of the World.” This was the name of two 9th-century kings of the Scots and Picts. It has traditionally been very popular in Scotland, and during the 20th century, it became standard for the rest of the English-speaking world as the Anglicized version, Donald.
Which is, of course, where the love it or hate it element may come in for some people. Personally, all other things aside, I think Doileag is such a cute girl’s name, it would be a shame not to use it. In fact, I almost want another baby girl so that I can use this name. Almost.
Sources: behindthename.com, scottish-at-heart.com, babynameguide.com, medievalscotland.org, scottishgirlsnames.co.uk, scottishboysnames.co.uk
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