Popular Scottish Forenames - H/I

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.

This is from the Gaelic "Seumas" which is the Scottish form of James. This in turn comes from the Hebrew "Jacob". James has royal connotations in Scotland because of Kings James I to VII. Hamish McTavish was a character Scott's "The Highland Widow" and this has come to be regarded as the archetypal Highland name.

Hannah / Hanna
In the past this was not a particularly frequently used name but recently it has risen in popularity and was the 12th most popular name for a girl in Scotland in 1999. It is another name derived from the bible.

Clearly derived from the heather plant, the name only started to be used as a first name in the 19th century. It is now in the top thirty most popular girls' name in Scotland and is the most frequently used of the flower and plant names for girls. A well known current personality with this name provides the weather forecast on Scottish TV, and is known to all as "Heather the Weather". It was 28th in the league table of popular given names in 1999.

From the Greek for "bright one" the name goes back to Helen of Troy. It came into use in early Christian times as a result of St Helena, who died around 338AD and was the mother of Emperor Constantine the Great. Some legends say that she was British. But it was probably the study of classical literature and Homer's story of Troy which brought it to greater prominence. There are a number of variants such as Helena, Helene, Aileen, Eileen, Elaine, Ellen and Eleanor. The Gaelic form is Eilidh.

Holly / Hollie
Derived from the ever-green plant, this name only came into use in the 20th century. It may have become more popular because it was used in Galsworthy's "The Forsythe Saga" and the TV series based on the novel. Holly is the 34th most popular first name but Hollie is no longer in the top 100 names.

Hugh is from an old Germanic word "hug" meaning heart or mind or spirit. It was brought to Scotland by the Normans and it has been popular for a long time - though not currently in the "top 100". Pet forms of the name include Hughie and (particularly in Glasgow) Shug or Shuggie. Hugo is another version of the name. The surnames Hughes, Houston, Hugget and Hewitt come from the same origins. The poet Christopher Murray Grieve took the name Hugh McDiarmid and became the 20th century's most famous poet in Scotland.

Ian / Iain
This is the Gaelic form of "John" (see below) with "Iain" slightly more popular in Scotland (89th most frequently registered first name in 1999) than "Ian" (98th).

An increasingly popular girl's name, it was the 50th most frequently registered name in Scotland in 1999, up more than 10 places from 1997. It is of course derived from the island of Iona, off Mull, where a monastery was founded by St Columba in the 6th century. The origin of the island's name is obscure but may have been a misspelling of "ioua" meaning "island of the yews".

Isobel / Isabel
This is a Spanish/Portuguese version of Elizabeth. It may have come to Scotland via France in the 13th century. Isabel, daughter of David, Earl of Huntingdon, was of royal lineage from William the Lion and it was through Isabel that her great grandsdon, Robert the Bruce, claimed the Scottish throne. Isobel, Countess of Buchan, crowned Robert the Bruce in 1307. There were three queens of England named Isabella - this form was the 6th most popular girl's name in Scotland in 1935 but none of the variants of Isobel are in common use today. Isobel Baillie, the opera singer, was born in Hawick in the Scottish Borders. Variants on the name include Ishbel (an Anglicised form of the Gaelic Iseabhail), Isbel, Isabella.

The name of a river and a glen in Perthshire which has been adopted as a girl's name. The original name may have come from the Gaelic word "aileach" or rocky place. The TV personality and folk singer Isla St Clair and actress Isla Blair have made the name more well known.

Return to Index Page of popular Scottish forenames.

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