Aberdeen to Troon: 15 Scottish place names and their fascinating origins

If you live in or have visited Scotland, then you’ll probably have seen some of these place names.

Picture: Shutterstock
Picture: Shutterstock

From popular cities such as Dundee and Aberdeen to smaller visitor hotspots like Applecross and Anstruther, we take a look at a range of Scottish places and their origins.

Aberdeen was Pictish and became Gaelic-speaking in medieval times. Old Aberdeen or Aberdon means "the mouth of the Don". The Celtic word aber means "river mouth"

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The etymology of this Fife place (Ainestroder in 1178-1188) is not certain. The first element may be an obsolete Gaelic word n driving or aon one. The second element -struther likely denotes an obsolete word sruthair stream
This name, whilst seemingly of English origin, is a reinterpretation of an earlier Aporcrossan. This is a Pictish name, meaning confluence of the Crosan river.
Made famous by the Declaration of Arbroath in 1320, the older form of this name was the longer Aberbrothock (Aberbrudoc in c. 1194), shortened in recent times to its current form.
The English form Caithness is a name of Norse origin, on record in around 1200 AD in the Orkneyinga Saga as Katanes, meaning the headland of the cats.
Dingwall is a name of Norse origin: ingvellir meaning assembly field. The location of this place is thought to be what is now Cromartie Memorial car park.
This name originally denoted the fort of the Tay, the hill known as Dundee Law. Recently the city is often referred to as Dn D in Gaelic, but the form Dn Deagh was more popular and is still used by many today.
Dunkeld or Dn Chailleann (Din Chaillden in 873 in an Irish text) means the fort of the Caledonians.
This is a relatively modern name, coined in English after Prince William, a man unpopular in the Gaelic world for his part in putting down the Jacobite rebellion of 1745.
Inverness (Inuernis in 1187) is established in Gaelic as Inbhir Nis the confluence of the river Ness and is sometimes referred to as Inversnecky, from the name of a dance hall song by Harry Gordon.
Kilwinning (Kilwinin in 1202) in North Ayrshire is a Gaelic name meaning the church of Saint Finnan (Gaelic Finnean).
Kirkcudbright (Kyrkecuthbert 1200-06) is a name of Gaelic origin, although the first part Kirk- appears to be borrowing into Gaelic from either Scots kirk or Norse kirkja both meaning church.
The name of these two distinctive hills in Fife - individually East Lomond and West Lomond (Lomondys in 1315) - are possibly in origin from Pictish lumon beacon hill.
The earliest source for the name is in Ptolemys Geography, compiled some time between 140 and 150 AD, where it is recorded as Taoua. In modern Gaelic, it is Uisge Tatha or Abhainn Tatha the water of Tay or the river of Tay.
The name Troon (le Trone in 1371 and le Trune in 1464) is likely British (i.e. Pictish) in origin, from a word cognate with Welsh trwyn nose, cape, which represents the topography very well.