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Happy St. Andrew’s Day: Scottish names for the Scottish national day

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Here in America, we honor the Irish on St. Patrick’s Day, but what of the poor Scots? Their national saint’s celebration, St. Andrew’s Day, is all but ignored. This year it falls on November 30th, and so we thought we would rectify that omission with K.M. Sheard’s selection of some of her favorite uncommon Scottish names.

By K. M.  Sheard of Nook of Names

Affrica  — The Anglicized form of the Gaelic Oighrig, an ancient name. Its meaning isn’t known for certain, but most agree the most likely source is the Old Irish Aithbhreac. It is found in a number of other forms across the centuries, including AfricaAffreca and Effrick. One bearer was a Viking princess of the Isle of Man, who married John de Courcy, the twelfth-century de facto king of Ulster.

Aldan  — The name of the legendary founder of the Scottish Clan Home has two possible origins; it could be the Scots Gaelic form of English Aldwin, “old friend,” or a variation of the Old Norse name Haldane – “half-Dane.”

Archina  — The usual feminine form of Archibald; although is a German name in origin, it took strongest root in Scotland. Nowadays, its pet-form Archie is more common, and used across Britain. Archina (a contracted form of the original Archibaldina), however, remains uncommon.

Beathag  — diminutive form of Gaelic beatha “life.”

Dolina — A simplified form of Donaldina, the Scottish feminine form of Donald. Its Gaelic forms are DoileagDoilìona and Doilidh.

Ferelith  — An Anglicized form of the Gaelic Forbhlaith, “true sovereignty.” It was the name of one of the two heiresses of an early thirteenth-century Earl of Atholl. Other forms include ForflissaFernelith and Forveleth. It does not seem to have survived the Middle Ages, but was re-adopted in the late nineteenth century. The novel Ferelith (1903) by Victor Hay, the 21st Earl of Errol, is probably responsible for making the name a little better known. Errol bestowed the name upon his own daughter a year later—Lady Rosemary Constance Ferelith Hay (1904–44). Lady Anne Ferelith Fenella Bowes-Lyon (1917–80), later Princess Anne of Denmark, was a niece of Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother.

Fingal — The name in Irish myth of the Scottish giant who built the Giant’s Causeway so he could fight Finn McCool in Ulster, and—after being tricked by Finn’s wife Una—hotfooted it back to Scotland, ripping up the Causeway behind him as he went. He gave his name to Fingal’s Cave, immortalized in Felix Mendelssohn’s Hebrides Overture (1830) — commonly known just as Fingal’s Cave. In Gaelic, Fingal’s name is Fionnghall — fionn “white” + gall “stranger.”

Islay  — a modern Scottish name, taken from the name of the island, known for a single malt whisky produced there. Its Gaelic name is Ìle, although the ultimate origin of the name is uncertain. It may be a combination of the Old Norse name Yula + ey “island.”

Macbeth  — Anglicized form of the Scots Gaelic Macbeatha — mac “son” + beatha “life.” Although now regarded as a surname—and forever associated with the infamous Scottish king immortalized by Shakespeare in his eponymous tragedy—Macbeth is actually a traditional personal name.

Morag — Scottish pet-form of Mòr, an ancient Gaelic name, “great.” Morag, is the name of an alleged monster that lives in Loch Morar, first sighted in 1887. There are also the Katie Morag children’s books by Mairi Hedderwick.

Sorley  — Anglicized form of the Gaelic Somhairle, the Gaelic form of Somerled, from the Old Norse Sumarlíði “summer wayfarer.”

Talarican  — The name of an eighth-century Pictish bishop and saint, also known as Tarkin and Tarquin. Little is known about him, and the fact that there is more than one well dedicated to him, such as St. Tarkin’s Well at Fordyce, Aberdeenshire, hints there might be more to him than meets the eye.

Vanora — a Scottish form of Gaynor, a form of Guinevere. Vanora’s Grave in Meigle, Scotland, is a grass-covered mound in front of which two carved Pictish stones of Christian date are known to have once stood.

A version of this blog appeared previously at Nook of Names.

A graduate of the University of Cambridge, K. M. Sheard is the author of the encyclopedic reference Llewellyn’s Complete Book of Names, and writes  Nook of Names, a blog on all things onomastic.

Do you have a favorite Scottish names?

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Nook of Names

A graduate of the University of Cambridge, K. M. Sheard is the author of the encyclopedic reference Llewellyn’s Complete Book of Names, and writes Nook of Names, a blog on all things onomastic.
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