Notes from Scottish Forenames

I started reading this name book I got a while ago that I hadn’t had a chance to sit with yet: Scottish Forenames (New Edition) by Donald Whyte. I’m only on page xii of the Intro, but underlined these bits already:

In Wales a form of the Celtic mac was adopted, which the Cambrians made mab or map, shortened to ap, thus, to give an example, Ap Richard, which became the surname Pritchard.” (vi)

The clansmen used patronymics, and their love of genealogy and description produced forms such as Dhomnuill mac Chalum ‘ic Alastair ‘ic Iain Ban (Donald, son of Malcolm, son of Alexander, Son of Fair John).” (vii)

Athough Gaelic Christian names survived in Lowland Scotland long after the Gaelic language ceased to be spoken, by the Reformation these were out of fashion, except for old royal names such as Kenneth, Malcolm and Duncan. The names of saints survived — Patrick, John, Mungo and Ninian. William fared better, and other royal names like Alexander, Robert and James appear in the parochial registers. Archibald, an Old German name, reached Scotland through Norman and Flemish influence, and other names which remained popular were Adam, Alan, Andrew, Arthur, David, Gavin, Gilbert, George, Hugh, Matthew and Walter. Curiously, George was uncommon in England before the Hanoverian succession, despite being the name of the national saint.” (viii-ix)

[After a discussion of how the first son was usually named after the paternal grandfather and the second son after the maternal grandfather, and the same for daughters, except in one example they gave:] The fact that the first two were named after the wife’s parents (the second not after the husband’s parent) is unusual, and perhaps indicates that [the mother] Margaret McCalder was a strong personality.” (xi) (That made me laugh!)

I hope you’re all safe and well!


My book, Catholic Baby Names for Girls and Boys: Over 250 Ways to Honor Our Lady (Marian Press, 2018), is available to order from ShopMercy.org and Amazon — perfect for expectant parents, name enthusiasts, and lovers of Our Lady!

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