Is your surname among the 20 most common in Scotland?

Birth records in Scotland were used to help establish the country's most common surnames. PIC Phil Wilkinson.

Birth records in Scotland were used to help establish the country's most common surnames. PIC Phil Wilkinson.

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There are three surnames in Scotland which have held the top spots for the past 40 years.

Smith, Brown and Wilson have registered the highest numbers since analysis began back in 1975.

Map of Scottish names. Picture: TSPL/Kirstie Lorimer.

Map of Scottish names. Picture: TSPL/Kirstie Lorimer.

But their numbers are dwindling as Scotland’s multicultural makeup starts to emerge through recorded Births, Deaths and Marriages - and recorded births continue to fall.

In 2015, Smith remained the most common name in Scotland with 1,929 instances noted on official records of major life events.

The reign of the Smiths is dwindling, though, and last year it was recorded on 790 fewer records than it was 40 years earlier.

The numbers of Browns are also falling, with 1,438 life records bearing the name last year - down 532 on the 1975 figure.

Surnames from place-names, as with Murray, from Moray in Scotland, are among the oldest, so they have had time to become well established and to spread.

Professor Carole Hough, University of Glasgow

Wilsons too saw their number fall, from 1,886 40 years ago to 1,352 last year - down 534.

The National Records of Scotland have recorded trends in surnames every five years since 1975.

READ MORE: Where in Scotland does your surname come from?

Since then, the Top 20 has shown only very minor changes. After Smith, Brown and Wilson, there have been five other names consistently taking spots four to eight.

They are Stewart, Thomson, Robertson, Campbell and Anderson.

Of these, only Stewart and Thomson were more common last year than they were in 1975 with the rest falling in numbers.

The table also shows that those usually in ninth and tenth place sometimes changed.

Scott and MacDonald usually fill the last two places in the Top 10, but in some years one was knocked out, usually to make room for Murray, Reid or Taylor.

READ MORE:What are Scotland’s most popular baby names?

Until the 12th century most Scots did not have surnames. It was not until King David I’s decision to give large amounts of Scottish land to Norman nobles in return for their support of the Crown that the Norman tradition of surnames came into fashion.

Professor Carole Hough, Professor of Onomastics at Glasgow University, said most surnames came from a place, an occupation, a relationship, or a characteristic.

Campbell, which originates from Argyll, could fall into the latter category and is drawn from the two Gaelic words Cam and Beal, which when used together translate as crooked mouth.

She added that the age of some names, such as Murray - from Moray - and very common professions - such as blacksmith - led to “multiple occurrences” of surnames, such as Smith.

Professor Hough said: “Surnames from place-names, as with Murray, from Moray in Scotland, are among the oldest, so they have had time to become well established and to spread.

“Some occupations, such as Smith, were very common, so they have given rise to multiple occurrences of the same surname.

“However, the occupation had to be sufficiently distinctive to identify individual people – if it were too common, it wouldn’t serve that purpose. There would probably be one smith in every village, but only one.

“Some personal names, such as William, Thomas, Robert, Andrew and Donald, were very common during the time when surnames were evolving, so they gave rise to multiple occurrences of William’s son, Thomas’s son, Donald’s son.

“In addition, some Scottish clan names, including MacDonald and Campbell, were adopted by large numbers of clan members.”

The surnames for which there have been the largest rises reflect the greater ethnic diversity of Scotland, National Records of Scotland said.

The only names to have seen increases of 100 or more between 1975 and 2015 were for Ali (up by 116, from 39 to 155), Khan (up by 114, from 17 to 131) and Ahmed (up by 100, from 24 to 124).

However, none of these surnames occurred often enough to be in the Top 100 in 2015.

There were no increases of 100 or more between 2000 and 2015. In this period, the only names with rises of 50 or more were Chen (5 in 2000, 82 in 2015), Khan (up from 61 to 131), Ali (up from 95 to 155) and Lin (1 in 2000, 52 in 2015).

The most common surnames in Scotland in 2015 (as recorded in Births, Deaths and Marriages)

1. Smith 1,929

2. Brown, 1438

3. Wilson 1,352

4. Stewart 1,186

5. Thomson 1,172

6. Robertson 1,158

7. Campbell 1,130

8. Anderson 1,068

9. Murray 832

10. Macdonald 823

11. Taylor 794

12. Scott 779

13. Reid 771

14. Clark 746

15. Young 639

16. Morrison 623

17. Walker 619

18. Ross 614

19. Watson 595

20. Graham 571

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