Scottish Baby Names
Starting with Letter "S"

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Scottish Names and Historic Naming Customs

Scottish
The name Scotland comes from a generic term used by the Romans (“Scoti”) which described the Celtic-Gaelic people who sailed from Ireland and landed along the western portion of present day Scotland in the 5th century. The Gaels were a nuisance to the Romano-Bretons as well as the later Anglo-Saxons, often attacking and plundering from the north. There are a couple debatable etymologies for the name “Scoti” – some historians claim it’s derived from a Gaelic word “Scuit” meaning “a man cut-off” in reference to this supposedly outcast group of Gaels from Érie. We feel this etymology is apropos because as you will see in Scottish history, the Scots were often “cut off”, not only by virtue of their harsh lands surrounded by scores of islands in cold seas, but also by various invaders and interlopers. In medieval times, Scotia was often used to refer to the Highlands (north of the River Forth) where most of the Scottish-Gaelic clans lived, but eventually the terms Scot, Scottish and Scotland referred to the whole of the country.
 
But let’s go back in history a little further. Way before the Gaels arrived in present day Scotland, the region was inhabited by early Celtic people whose descendents left erect stone structures, simple dwellings and several forts as evidence of their rudimentarily organized lives. Eventually, these Celtic people formed loose kingdoms, most notable among them were the Picts (a Celtic tribe of “painted people” probably related to the Brythonic branch), who came to dominate the Northern and eastern portions of the land.
 
After the Romans conquered England, they set their ambitious sights on Scotland around 81 A.D. They succeeded in defeating the Picts in several battles; however, the harsh land and lack of supplies forced them to retreat. In 122 A.D. the Hadrian Wall was built by the Romans (under Roman Emperor Hadrian) to keep the “barbaric” Picts out of England.  A few decades later, the Romans raised Antonine Wall near the Central Belt of Scotland (between the Firths of Forth and Clyde) pushing the native people farther north. The Highlands (northerly) were comprised of various settlements, the majority being the Picts and the minority being the newly arrived Scots/Gaels from Ireland. In the meantime, Christianity arrived (St. Columba is often credited with converting Scotland in the 6th century).
 
The Romans left in the early 5th century, forced to abandon their province of Britannia to tend to their own problems at headquarters (Rome) now under attack by barbaric forces (the Visigoths). Shortly after the last Roman soldiers left England, the Anglo-Saxons arrived. The Angles invaded and occupied Northeast England in a kingdom called Northumbria and by the 7th century extended into Southeast Scotland as far north as Edinburgh. By the 9th century, the unity of a common belief system (Christianity) helped tame the wild Picts and Scots, and they were eventually united by Kenneth MacAlpin under a more cohesive Scotland (still north of the Forth and Clyde). The Gaelic culture and language eventually prevailed over the Picts – the Pictish language became extinct as they were absorbed into the Scottish-Gaelic way of life which came to dominate. All that remains of the Picts are stone relics with complicated etched patterns and the distinction of being among the original Scottish people.
 
The Vikings arrived around the end of the 9th century, raiding Scotland and then occupying the Outer Hebrides as well as the northernmost island chains of the country. Nordic (or Scandinavian) influence has always remained strong in Scotland, and it’s the Vikings to whom many Scots owe their red hair. In 1040, a man by the name of Mac Bethad mac Findlaích (aka Macbeth) become King of the Scots. Unlike Shakespeare’s inaccurate portrayal of a tragic king, the real Macbeth was actually an admired and capable monarch. Later, in the 11th century, the Normans conquered England and many of the Norman knights and countrymen moved into Northern England and Scotland. The Scottish king Malcolm III married an English woman, Margaret of Wessex, who was both a pious Christian and a promoter of Norman ways in Scottish court. Three of Malcolm and Margaret’s sons subsequently reigned over Scotland, but particularly under David I did the Norman influence continue to grow.  The Normans co-mingled with the Scots and many Scottish families owe at least part of their ancestry to the Norman French.
 
Meanwhile, the Scottish-Gaelic chieftains to the west and north frequently rebelled against the Scottish king. During the 12th and 13th centuries the Scottish monarchy was in dispute and many claimed to be the rightful heir. The Bishop of St. Andrews asked Edward I, king of England to arbitrate, but this ruthlessly ambitious king attempted to place his own “puppet” king to the throne in Scotland. Edward I made himself overlord and installed more of his own loyal English subjects as officials in Scotland (at the same time Edward I was exerting similar control over Ireland and Wales). But like the Irish and the Welsh, the Scottish do not subdue quite so easily and this set off the Scottish Wars of Independence at the end of the 13th century (remember Braveheart?). England was really only controlling the southeast of Scotland at this point. In the Scottish rebellions, William Wallace and Robert the Bruce were key figures. The resistance was ultimately successful and by the early 14th century, Scotland had assured their independence from England (although peace was far from being achieved).  Intermittent warfare with England continued for another few centuries.
 
One of the persistent problems with Scotland occurred as the English continued their attempts to overrun them. When military force failed, England offered bribes of land to clan chiefs which ultimately won their alliance in wars against their own countrymen. While some clan chiefs were converting to the medieval feudal lord system, the rebellious clan chiefs presided in the old Celtic way, living among their people more like a father than a feudal lord. Unfortunately, this would be their downfall. Fast forward to 1746 when the English crushed the Scots at the Battle of Culloden in the Scottish Highlands.  The wild Highlands were finally subdued, the Scottish clan system was weakened and the Gaelic culture assaulted by civil punishments. The whole of Scotland finally came under British control.
 
Similar to Ireland and Wales, a renewed effort to preserve and advance their Celtic roots was promoted in Scotland during the 20th century. Scottish-Gaelic pride is alive and well both inside Scotland and in nations like America, Canada and Australia where many Scottish descendents live today. Perhaps Scotland ultimately became a piece of the United Kingdom through years of war and strife, but at the end of the day, you can’t change the essential character of the Scotsman.   
 
Here are some Gaelic-flavored names currently popular in Scotland:
 
Isla  (EYE-la):  The name of an island “Islay” off the western coast of Scotland
Eilidh (Uncertain):  Diminutive for the Scottish-Gaelic form of Eleanor
Niamh  (NEEV):  From the Gaelic word meaning “bright”
Maisie (MAY-zee):  Diminutive for the Scottish-Gaelic form of Margaret
Orla (OR-la):   From the Gaelic name Órfhlaith meaning  "golden princess"
Skye (SKIE):   Isle of Skye off the west coast of Scotland
Iona (ie-ON-a):  Another island in Scotland
 
Logan  (LO-gen):  Scottish-Gaelic for “little hollow”
Ryan (RIE-en):   From the Gaelic Rían meaning “little king”
Liam (LEE-em):  Irish short form of William
Finlay (FIN-lay):  From the Gaelic Fionnlagh meaning “fair warrior"
Kyle (KIEL):  Scottish derived from the Gaelic “caol” meaning "channel, strait"
Callum (KAL-um):  Scottish for St. Columba (“dove”)
Connor (KAHN-er):   From the Gaelic “Conchobhar” meaning "dog/wolf lover"
Rory (RAWR-ee):  From the Gaelic elements “ruadh”/“rí” meaning “red king”
Euan (YOU-en):  The Gaelic name Eoghan meaning "born from the yew tree"

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