Traditional names fall in number as Scotland becomes more multicultural

Picture: PA

Picture: PA

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

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 could be ending 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. 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.

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.

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.”

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