Scottish names and their meanings (part three)

The history of Scottish names involves traditional Biblical names, names of saints, names of famous Scottish kings and queens, and names from the Highlands and Islands that became adopted throughout Scotland, either in their original Gaelic or translated into English.
Clan Fraser gathering at Castle Fraser in AberdeenClan Fraser gathering at Castle Fraser in Aberdeen
Clan Fraser gathering at Castle Fraser in Aberdeen

In part three of our history of Scottish names series, we take a look at D through to F, from Dalgleish to Fraser.

Dalglish, Dalgleish, Dalgliesh

Scottish surname that comes from the Gaelic dail meaning ‘field’ and glaise meaning ‘brook’ or ‘stream’. The original spelling of the name was Dalgleish.

Flora MacDonald, jacobite heroine.Flora MacDonald, jacobite heroine.
Flora MacDonald, jacobite heroine.

Dalziel, Dalyell

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Scottish surname that originates from a place called Dalzell in Lanarkshire.

The place name derives from the Gaelic words dail meaning ‘field’ and gheal meaning ‘white’. The letter ‘z’ is not traditionally pronounced in the surname Dalziel, and Dalyell has become a common variation.


Elizabeth has been a popular name in Scotland for centuriesElizabeth has been a popular name in Scotland for centuries
Elizabeth has been a popular name in Scotland for centuries

Biblical male first name meaning ‘beloved’. David has long been a popular name in Scotland, and there were two Scottish kings of that name. Common diminutives are Dave, Davie, and Davy.


Surname that means ‘son of David’ and is found throughout Britain (although is more associated with Scotland than England). The Davidsons are also a clan establishes in Speyside from the 13th century onwards.


Donald means 'world-ruler' in Gaelic.Donald means 'world-ruler' in Gaelic.
Donald means 'world-ruler' in Gaelic.

Female first name that originated in Scotland. Davina is a feminine of David, and so means ‘beloved’.


Scottish surname. The name sometimes originates from the English surname Dean (which derives from the English word dene meaning ‘valley’), but was also taken up by servants of people who held the ecclesiastical position of dean.


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Scottish surname and occasional male first name. The name originates from the Borders village of Denholm, near Hawick, which in turn comes from the Old English words den meaning ‘valley’ and holm meaning either ‘dry land’ or ‘island’.


Scottish surname that derives from the Gaelic deoradh and means ‘pilgrim’.


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Popular surname in Scotland. The name derives from Dick, the diminutive form of Richard. The name Richard was brought to Britain by the Normans, but has Germanic origins (with ric menaing ‘power’ and hard meaning ‘hardy’ or ‘strong’).


Scottish surname that derives from the Gaelic dochart meaning ‘one who suffers’. Docherty is also a variation of the Irish surname Doherty, which has a similar meaning of ‘not-loved’. Famous Scottish Docherty’s include football manager Tommy Docherty who was ‘not loved’ by several football clubs, as he was sacked numerous times in his career.


Male first name that comes from the Gaelic and means ‘world-ruler’. Diminutives of Donald include Don, Donny and Donnie.

The name is familiar from cult film Donnie Darko and long-standing Disney cartoon character Donald Duck (who has a Scottish uncle Scrooge McDuck, and so is presumably of Scottish descent).


Male first name that is an anglicized form of the Gaelic name Dubhghall meaning ‘dark stranger’ and thought to be given to individuals of foreign origin.


Surname and male first name, as well as a Borders clan. The name Douglas derives from a place in Lanarkshire that means ‘dark water’, coming from the Gaelic dubh meaning ‘dark’ or ‘black’ and glais meaning ‘water’ or ‘stream’. Diminutives of the first name Douglas include Doug and Dougie.

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The Douglas family were supporters of Robert the Bruce and were rewarded with land. The ‘Black’ Douglases became the most powerful family in Scotland in the 14th century, and remained one of the most prominent families in Lanarkshire, the Borders, and Angus.


Scottish surname that originates from the village of Drymen near Loch Lomond. The name Drymen derives from the Gaelic drumain meaning ‘on the ridge’.


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Male first name and surname that derives from the Gaelic name Donnchadh or Donnachie meaning ‘brown-haired warrior’. two of Scotland’s earliest kings were called Duncan, and it was Duncan I who was the King Duncan killed by Macbeth in Shakespeare’s play.


Scottish surname derives from the place in Ayrshire called Dunlop. The place name derives from the Gaelic dun meaning ‘fort’ and either luib meaning ‘bend’ (referring to the bend of a river), or else lapach meaning ‘muddy’.


Female first name that is the Gaelic form of Ellen or Helen, which means ‘bright one’ or ‘light’ in Greek.


Female first name that has been popular in Scotland for centuries.

The name derives from the Greek Elisabet, which in turn comes from the Hebrew Elisheva meaning ‘God in my oath’. There numerous diminutives of Elizabeth including Bess, Bet, Betty, Beth, Elspeth, Libby, liz, Lis and Liza.


Surname and male first name found throughout Britain, but in Scotland is associated with the Borders and the formidable Clan Elliot.

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The name Elliot is of uncertain origin, but it has been suggested that it comes from a place called Eliot in Forfar, or that is a Scottish variation of the English surname Elwold, or else a Norman variation of the Hewbrew name Elias.

The spelling ‘Elliot’ is considered the Scottish spelling, as opposed to the English variation ‘Elliott’.


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Scottish variation of Elizabeth. The name became a female first name in its own right but has largely fallen out of fashion.

Ewan, Ewen, Euan

Male first name that comes from the Gaelic name Eoghan that is of obscure origin, but might possibly mean ‘of the yew tree’ or ‘youth’. Ewan and Euan are also variants of John and Iain.


Surname that derives from the male first name Ewan.

Farquhar, Farquharson

Male first name and related surname. The name Farquhar is derived from the Gaelic fear meaning ‘man’ and the Gaelic car meaning ‘well-loved’. The surname Farquharson means simply ‘son of Farquhar’. The Farquharsons were a prominent Aberdeenshire clan.


Male first name and surname that comes from the Gaelic and means ‘man of strength’ or ‘chosen man’. Fergus was a common name in the royal families of both the Picts and the original Scots who came to Scotland from Ireland and founded the kingdom of Dalriada. Fergus MacErc (or Fergus of Ulster) is traditionally believed to have been the first king of Dalriada in the 5th century.


Surname that means ‘son of Fergus’.

Findlay, Finlay

Surname and male first name.

Finlay derives from the Gaelic name Fionnlach meaning ‘fair warrior’. Famous Findlays include Doctor John Finlay from Doctor Findlay’s Casebook.

Finn, Fingal

Male first name.

Finn is a diminuitive of both Fingal meaning ‘fair stranger’ and Findlay meaning ‘fair warrior’, and can also be a name in its own right, coming from the Gaelic name Fionn meaning ‘fair’.

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The popularity of the name derives from Fionn mac Cunhaill (or Finn McCool) who was a legendary Celtic warrior prominent first in Irish mythology and then later in Scottish mythology through the hugely popular Ossian poems by 18th century Scottish writer James Macpherson.


Scottish girls’ first name.

Fiona is the feminine form of the Gaelic Fionn meaning ‘fair’ or ‘white’.


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Surname originated in Scotland in Lanarkshire. The name derives from Flemish immigrants from Flanders, in what is now Belgium.


Female first name. The name is associated with Scotland through Jacobite heroine Flora MacDonald, who in 1746 helped Bonnie Prince Charlie escape to Skye by disguising him as her maid. The name Flora is that of a Roman goddess of flowers and spring, whose name is related to flos, the Latin name for flowers.

In Scotland, however, Flora was the anglicized form of the Gaelic Fionnaghal, and is the feminine form of Fingal and Finn.


Surname and occasional male first name. The Forbes family originated in Aberdeenshire and the name derives from the Gaelic forbes meaning ‘field’.


Popular surname in Lowland Scotland.

The name has unknown origins: it has been suggested that it may possibly derive from a French place name, but it is generally thought that it either derives from the Gaelic word fothat meaning ‘woodland’ or another Gaelic word fearsidhe meaning ‘man of peace’ (referring to a priest).


Scottish surname (also found in the form Frazer) and male first name. The name is of uncertain origin but either comes from a Norman name de Friselle (or de Fresel), from the Dutch region of Frisia (meaning ‘a Frisian’) or from the French word fraise (meaning ‘strawberry’).

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The Frasers became established in the Peebles area in the 11th century before moving to the north-east. One of Scotland’s best-known castles, Castle Fraser, was built by the family is Aberdeenshire in the 16th century.