Popular Scottish Forenames - A
This page is one of a series giving the origins of popular first names in Scotland. See the link at the end of the page if you wish to go to sections relating to other letters of the alphabet.
A Hebrew biblical name, it was almost unknown in Scotland, despite appearing in Sir Walter Scott's novel "Guy Mannering". In recent times it has increased in popularity - it was the 38th most frequently used boys' name in 1999.
An Old Testament Hebrew name, it appeared in Scotland in the 17th century. It became more popular in the 18th century when writers such as Swift and Fielding used it in their novels. The pet name Abbie is now used more frequently but if Abigail, Abbie and Abby are combined, they would be in the top twenty of most popular girls' names. Other diminutives of the name are Gail and Gayle.
The 20th most popular boy's name in Scotland in 1999, it is a biblical name from the Hebrew meaning "red earth." It arrived early in Scotland with Christianity - St Adamnnan ( a diminutive of the name) was an abbot in Iona in the 7th century and a biographer of St Columba. The name was used a lot by the Gordon family - Sir Adam de Gordon was one of the ambassadors who took the Declaration of Arbroath, declaring Scotland's independence, to the Pope in 1320. Adam Smith was a pioneer economist and Adam Faith was a pop singer.
Derived from the Greek word "agneia" meaning "pure and chaste". Agnes Dunbar held Dunbar Castle from the invading English in the 14th century. The name is sometimes used in reverse as "Senga" and often became "Nancy". It became very popular in Scotland in the early 20th century, rising to 7th most popular in 1935, but is outside the top 100 in 1998.
Pronounced 'aid + in' and derived from the Irish Gaelic 'aodh' meaning fire, it was the name of a son of Gabhran, King of Dalriada (574-606) and a 7th century Irish saint who took Christianity to Northumbria and became Bishop of Lindisfarne. It was revived in Victorian times, lost ground and has seen a recent revival in popularity - 40th most registered boy's name in 1999. There is a little used feminine form, Eithne.
This is from 'Eilidh' the Gaelic form of Helen, which in turn is from the word Greek word 'helios' or sun or ray of sunshine. Variations are Eileen, Eilean and Ilene.
Pronounced like "ale+sa", it is said to be derived from Old German meaning "noble maiden". Ailsa Craig in the Firth of Clyde has kept the name visible in Scotland and originally its use as a first name was unique to Scotland. It was the 97th most popular of girls' first names in 1999.
Ainslie / Ainsley
The name is derived from Old English for "hermitage wood" and in Scotland it is used both as a boy's name as well as for girls. It is not currently in the top 100 of most used names.
Possibly derived from the Greek poet Olen, the name emerged in Brittany. The name came to Britain with the Norman invaders - Alan, Earl of Brittany was given land by William the Conqueror. Alan Fitz Walter took the surname Stewart from the office of High Steward of Scotland and founded the line of Stewart monarchy. It was the 88th most popular first name in 1999.
The feminine form of Alan although there is an Irish form, Alanna, from the Gaelic "a leanbh" or "o child". The name Lana (as in Lana Turner) is probably derived from Alana which was the 93rd most popular girl's given name in 1999 - up two places from 1998.
From the Greek word meaning "defender" the name has been around for over 2,000 years. Alexander the Great (356BC to 323BC) was an early bearer of the name. The name Alexander was brought to Scotland by Margaret Atheling, wife of Malcolm Canmore. Their son became King Alexander I. There were a further two kings of Scotland with that name. The short forms of Alex/Alec and Sandy are also found. Alexander is the 34th most frequent boys' name in Scotland in 1999.
Alistair / Alasdair / Alister
This is the Scots Gaelic form of "Alexander" (see above) and there are many variations on the spelling. Alistair was the 96th most frequently registered first name in 1999.
Alice / Alison
From Old French and German words meaning "nobility" the name is first recorded in Scotland in the 12th century. It was popular until the early 19th century and is currently the 64th most common girl's name. Lewis Caroll's "Alice in Wonderland" is the most famous use of the name. At one time, the diminutive form Alison overtook Alice in popularity but it is currently 92nd. No doubt Ally McBeal will have some impact on the popularity of another form of the name.
The fifth most popular girl's name in 1999 (second in 1996), it is derived from the French "aimée" meaning "beloved" and is sometimes spelt Aimee. Amy Johnson was a pioneer aviator who was the first wife of another flyer, Glasgow-born Jim Mollinson (1905-59).
The 7th most popular first name in Scotland in 1998, Andrew originated from the Greek "Andreas" meaning brave or virile. St Andrew became the patron saint of Scotland after relics of the saint were brought to Scotland in medieval times. Legend has it that a white cloud formation in the form of the St Andrew's cross was seen in a blue sky before a decisive Pictish victory - and the design became the Scottish flag. Feminine forms such as Andrea and Andrina are also found.
"Aengus Og" was a god of love and poetry and the Gaelic "aon-ghus" means 'unique choice'. Angus was one of the three sons of Erc who came from Ireland to Argyll in the 6th century and created Dalriada. The clan of Angus settled in Islay and Jura but were driven out by the Vikings. In the 19th century it was one of the top 20 first names in Scotland (particularly in the Highlands) but it was no longer in the top 100 first names in 1998 but became the 73rd most popular given name in 1999.
Anna /Anne / Ann
From the Hebrew name Hannah meaning 'grace', the name has been popular in Scotland since earliest times. The Gaelic form Anna is currently most often used today - it was the 27th most popular girls' name registered in 1999. Ann/Anne were not in the first 100.
Archibald comes from the Old German words meaning "bright gold" and "noble and bold". Erkinbald, possibly descended from the Baldwins, Counts of Flanders, came to Scotland in the 12th century. He married the daughter of Lord Lochawe, from whom the Campbell chiefs are descended and the name has always been popular amongst the Campbells. At one time it was a very popular name across Scotland - it was the 14th most frequently used name for births registered in 1900 but had dropped to 40th by 1950 and was out of the top 100 by 1975. Archibald also became a surname.
The name Arthur is suggested by some to be derived from the Celtic "Artu" or "Artos", a bear, or the Irish "art", a stone. There was also a Roman family named Artorius. The earliest recorded example of the name Arthur in British records occurs as Arturius in Adomnan's "Life of Columba", written in the 7th century AD, where it is the name of a 6th century prince of the Scots, Arturius, who was the son of Aidan. Aidan was a king of the Scots from 574 AD. Later on, there is a record of an Arthur of Kincorth in 1435. The name is also found as a surname and also as MacArthur who were a clan in Argyll in the 14th century, believed to have the same roots as the Campbells, but claims that further back they are descended from the legendary King Arthur, are unprovable. The US General Douglas MacArthur was the son of General Arthur MacArthur who became a colonel in the Civil War at the age of 20. He later became military governor of the Philippines.
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