Scottish Baby Names: From Ailsa to Angus

With all the interest in Irish names these days (including by us–our Cool Irish Names for Babies will be out on St. Patrick‘s Day)–and all the talk about Gaelic and Celtic charm, we sometimes forget that there are other species of Gaelic/Celtic names out there. You don’t have to be one of the 9.2 million Americans with Scottish or Scots-Irish roots to find these names engaging, though if you happen to be a Ferguson or a MacPherson, Scottish baby names would have special meaning for you.

A blend of several different cultures, Scottish names make for a varied mix.  The Scots themselves were a Celtic tribe that emigrated across the Irish Sea around 500 AD, so that many Scottish names derive from Old Irish ones.  New names were added to the pot by waves of invaders and settlers, including Viking warriors, and others were inspired by places and words.  The Scots were in the vanguard of using the mother’s maiden name as a child’s first–leading to examples  like Blair, Keith and Fraser–and were also prone to feminizing boys’ names, with such curious results as Williamina and Angusina.

Many modern Edinburgh parents tend to stray away from the traditional Scottish names and follow international trends–the current top 5 girls’ names are Sophie, Emma, Lucy, Katie, and Erin–but others are returning to their roots.  Here are some interesting Scottish baby names you may not have considered:

GIRLS

AILIE (from the Gaelic Eilidh)

AILSA

ANNELLA

EFFIE (from the Gaelic Oighrig)

ELSPETH

FINELLA

GREER (also used for boys in Scotland)

IONA

ISOBEL/ISHBEL

KENNA

LILLIAS

NESSA

PEIGI (pronounced Peggy)

BOYS

ALASDAIR

ANGUS

AULAY

BAIRD

DOUGAL

EUAN

GRAEME

HAMISH

IVOR

KEIR

LACHLAN

MAGNUS

MUIR

TAM

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9 Responses to “Scottish Baby Names: From Ailsa to Angus”

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Lola Says:

November 7th, 2008 at 11:14 am

Oh, I like Scottish names! And with a Scots Mac- surname of my own, I could use them and not sound completely ridiculous.

I am surrounded by them here in the Boston area though , so I’ve been searching for “fresh” sounding ones. Angus, Elspeth, Alasdair & Lilias are in play somewhere on my lists and I thoroughly like Graeme, Magnus, Isobel/Ishbel, Hamish & Ivor. Ailsa’s charmed me since finding her as a charchter in a book as a kid (something to do with a castle in Italy and the “broom” flowers around it. I forget most of it, but remember Ailsa. Finella’s pretty but in my neighborhood would end up yet another Ella. I also find the alternate spelling Fenella completely charming. *sigh* on that Ella thing.

Janine Says:

November 7th, 2008 at 7:16 pm

Scottish names are HUGE in Australia. It seemed like every one lil boy I met there was named Lachlan and there were a bunch of Angus’s I came across too.

Janine Says:

November 7th, 2008 at 7:17 pm

erm….every -other- little boy I ment. Ugh, typos.

Lola Says:

November 7th, 2008 at 10:30 pm

Makes me glad I’m a Yank, then (and I get so few opportunities to be so). Thanks for the update on Aussie trends, Janine. Nice to know what the rest of the world is up to! 🙂

Brooke Says:

November 14th, 2008 at 10:32 pm

I just named my son Callum. It is a great Scottish name.

linda Says:

November 14th, 2008 at 11:55 pm

Yes–a wonderful choice! Congrats!

Heather Says:

November 21st, 2008 at 4:00 pm

I named my 3 year old son Campbell for husband’s grandmother’s family-her brother, our favorite great uncle, was the last Campbell of that family. I have since heard of 3 other Campbells-2 boys and a girl. I’m sure CNN’s Campbell Brown will help bring the name some popularity.

Ash SP Says:

November 22nd, 2008 at 2:22 pm

Hmm.

My son is a Liam. When my husband and I were in Scotland we fell in love with this derivative of William (my grandfather’s name.) I heard it EVERYWHERE so I knew it would be the next cool thing in the states. His middle name is Atherton.

My daughter’s name is Isla, which we chose after hearing Isla Saint Clair when we were in Edinburgh. I’ve loved “Ella” since I was a little girl and this seemed like a fresher take on it. Her middle name is Maeve.

If we add another little one to the family, he/she would be either Calum Alasdhair or Ness Rosalie.

Kw123 Says:

January 25th, 2012 at 10:44 pm

We love Isla but our surname is White so we can’t use it!!! I am also in Oz and there are loads of Lachlan’s but not many other Scottish ones, apart from Hamish and Angus. We will likely go with Eilidh if it’s a girl but I’m worried about nobody being able to pronounce it!!

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