Popular Scottish Forenames - B

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.

Ben / Benjamin
A biblical name meaning "son of my right hand", the Gaelic form was 'Beathan'. It arrived in Scotland at an early date - one of the first bishops of the Celtic church was named Benjamin. It became more frequent in Scotland after the Reformation. In 1999, Ben was the 31st most frequent boys' name registered in Scotland and Benjamin was 67th. Combined, they would be in the top 30.

Originating from the surname Blair based on a number of places of that name which incorporated the Gaelic "blàr" for "a level field," the name has been in use since the 12th century. Whether the former UK Prime Minister, Tony Blair, has any influence on this being a common boy's name in Scotland, is debatable. In the USA it is sometimes used as a female name but in Scotland it has almost always been male.

The Scots word "bonnie" (meaning attractive or pretty) came into the language from the French words "bon" and "bonne" (meaning "good"). As a first name, however, it was originally used in the USA and was subsequently imported into Scotland, though it is not found very frequently. It became popularised as a result of the book and film "Gone with the Wind" where it was used as the nickname of Scarlett O'Hara's daughter. The actress Bonnie Langford and Bonnie Parker (of Bonnie and Clyde fame) are famous examples of the name.

This name was almost unique to Scotland until the 20th century and was at one time common in the Shetland Islands where it may have originated from the old Norwegian word "brandr" meaning "sword". Others believe it is derived from the Welsh "brenhinol" meaning "royal".

Brendan / Brandon
This name is found all over the Celtic world in various forms (Brittany celebrates St Brendan on 16 May). Possible derivations include the Welsh word "brenin" meaning "king" or the Irish Gaelic "breun" meaning "filthy" (or "bran" meaning "raven) or the Old Norse word "brandr" meaning "sword". In Scotland it is often associated with those of Irish descent - there were a number of Irish Saints named Brendan and the Irish legend of Brendan the Navigator who sailed the Atlantic in a coracle. In modern times the Brendan form is no longer as popular as a first name but Brandon was the 46th most popular first boy's name in 1999.

There are many variations on Bridget or Brighid - such as Bride, Bridie, Brigid, Brigit, Brigitte, Biddie, Biddy and Birgitta. It is one of the most widely used names in Celtic communities and is particularly associated with Ireland or descendants of those who came from Ireland. Bríd was a Celtic goddess, variously of agriculture, healing or poetry and fire. The Irish word "brígh" means power, strength, virtue. St Brigid of Kildare who lived between around 452 and 523AD was an early bearer of the name. She was a pupil of St Patrick and is reputed to have been buried in the same grave as St Patrick. She founded a monastery in Kildare which was the first convent in Ireland. Her feast day is February 1st and it is thought this may be a relic of the pagan celebration of the victory of light over darkness as the season progresses out of winter. Her name spread to England and Scotland where a number of churches were founded under the St Bride form of her name. There were so many Irish girls with the name who became maids, particularly in America, that "Biddy" became a generic term for any girl from Ireland. The French form, Brigitte became famous as a result of Brigitte Bardot the actress.

Originally a surname originating in Normandy, it leapt to prominence due to the Earl of Carrick - Robert the Bruce. It did not start to be used as a forename until the 18th century. At one time it became the most popular boys' name in Australia.

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