Popular Scottish Forenames - L/M

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.

Lachlan is very much a Scottish name and there are two possible derivations. The first is that it derives from the Scandinavian/Viking word "Lochlan" meaning "Land of lochs/lakes/fjords" (in other words, modern Norway). The second is that it comes from Irish gaelic "lough-lann" meraning "loch habitation". Clearly, both are similar. There is a Scottish clan MacLachlan, descended from Lachlan, son of Gilpatrick, in the 13th century. There is a tradition that the MacLachlans were descended from the kings of Ireland. The home of the clan is Strathlachlan in Argyll. The name was particularly popular in the Hebrides and the western Highlands. Short forms of the name include Lachie, Lachy, Lackie and Lacky.

With no particularly Scottish link, this name has nevertheless become more popular in Scotland in recent years, reaching third top on the list of most popular girls' names in 1996 and 199 (but not in the top ten in 1958). It is a variant of Laura (a feminine form of Laurence). It is possible that the repeated showings of films of Lauren Bacall has had something to do with the rise in popularity of the name.

From the Hebrew for "tender eyed". The name came to England with the Puritans in the late 16th century and grew in popularity in the 19th century. It declined in popularity but recovered again by the 1970s and has now reached 55th in the table of most registered girls' first names.

Leslie / Lesley
Derived from the lands of Lesslyn, now Leslie, a place name in Aberdeenshire which means "protector of the grey fort". Originally a surname, the first Leslie was Bartolph the Fleming who came to Scotland from Flanders around 1057. The name has been used as a first name since at least the 18th century. Lesley Baillie, of Mayfield in Ayrshire, inspired Robert Burns to write the poem, "Saw ye Bonnie Lesley" in 1792.

This name has recently swept up the popularity league in Scotland and was the second most popular first name registered in 1999. While related to the French form Louis, the name in Scotland owes more to the Island of Lewis (from the Scandinavian "ljoth-hus" or house of song and the Gaelic "Lothais"). Lewis Grassic Gibbon was the pen-name of J Leslie Mitchell who wrote the classic story of the north-east farming communities in "A Scots Quair".

Lillian / Lilias
Lillian, and the shortened version Lily, are derived from the Latin word for the lily flower. According to the traditional story, the lily sprang from Eve's tears as she left the garden of Eden. As such it came to represent innocence and purity. Lilias was very popular in Scotland for many centuries, though it dropped down the popularity table in the 20th century. Lilias is derived from the Italian Liliana, also meaning lily.

This is the Irish form of William which in turn was a Germanic name Willhelm meaning "strong protection". The name came to Britain in 1066 with William the Conqueror but in its French form "Guillaume". It is likely that Liam is based on this rather than a truncated form of William. The name has become very popular in Scotland (8th in popularity in 1999) possibly as a result of the rock star Liam Gallagher.

Lisa / Elizabeth
Derived from the Hebrew "Elisheba" or "oath of God". In Scotland the name has often been used as "Isobel" and the Gaelic version is Elisaid or Elasaid while the diminutive "Betty" in Gaelic is Beitidh. There are many other pet names derived from Elizabeth and "Lisa" has now become as popular in Scotland as Elizabeth - Lisa is 59th most recorded name in 1998 while Elizabeth was 56th. Other popular versions of the name in Scotland are "Beth" (52nd most used, though it may be derived from the Gaelic "beatha" meaning "life") and Elspeth. In history, Queen Elizabeth I of England reigned from 1558 to 1603 and Queen Elizabeth II came to the throne in 1952.

This name was a creation of the writer R D Blackmore, in his 19th century novel "Lorna Doon". It was derived from a place-name Lorne, the home of the MacDougalls. The name became quite popular and nowadays is just outside the "top 100" girls' names registered each year in Scotland.

Louise / Louisa
The French and Latin forms of Louis (which is now only popular as a boys' name in the spelling "Lewis"). Louisa was originally the popular form of this name for girls but in recent times Louise is preferred, being the 29th most popular girls' name registered in 1999. Pet forms include "Lulu".

Not a particularly Scottish name and not covered by some of the Scottish reference books. But those that do, say that the name is derived from the Latin "lux" meaning light and was originally used as "Lucia". The male form of the name is/was Lucius. In the past, it signified a child born at dawn and the goddess Lucina was the patroness of childbirth. Sir Walter Scott used the name in his novel "The Bride of lammermoor" (Lucy Ashton, daughter of Sir William) and in "Waverley", Lucy St Aubin is a "beautiful and wealthy maid". Other forms of the name include Lucille, Lucinda, Lucilla, Lucia, Lucette.

Lynette / Lynn
Lynn is a short form of Lynette which is derived from the Celtic word "Eluned" meaning "idol" or "icon". There are various spellings of Lynette - linnet is a small song bird, often called a linty. As a result, the word is often used to describe a songstress - "She can sing like a linty." Other forms are Lyn and Lynne.

The name originated from the Latin "magnus" meaning "great" (from which a number of words in English have derived, such as magnificent and magnify etc). Emperor Charlemagne was known as "Carolus Magnus" (King of the Franks, King of the Lombards, and generally considered the first Holy Roman Emperor) and this prompted admirers to use Magnus as a personal name. St Olaf of Norway (born in 995) who seized the throne of Norway, enlarged it and introduced Christianity to the country, named his son Magnus. As a result, the name spread to places such as Iceland, Orkney, Shetland and Ireland. The addition of "Mc" meaning "son of" gave rise to the surname McManus. The first name Magnus rose in popularity in Scotland in recent years as a result of Magnus Magnusson, the author and TV personality, who was born in Iceland but educated in Edinburgh.

Derived from the Gaelic "maol Caluim" meaning "follower of the dove" (meaning Saint Columba), there have been four kings of Scotland bearing the name Malcolm. Malcolm Canmore was the son of King Duncan I who was killed by Macbeth. Malcolm later defeated Macbeth to regain the throne. The Gaelic version of the name is Calum. Sir Malcolm Campbell was the holder of land and water speed records. The name has also become a surname.

Margaret is thought to have come down to us, via the Greeks, from a Persian word meaning "child of light" - the Greek word meant "pearl" as it was believed that they were made from dew touched by moonbeams. Margaret became well known and well used in Scotland following the marriage of the Saxon Princess Margaret to King Malcolm III in the 11th century. She was a devout and popular queen who brought many civilided ways to the Scottish court. She was later canonised. Another Queen Margaret was the "Maid of Norway" who was the granddaughter of King Alexander III of Scotland and the daughter of King Erik of Norway. Margaret became one of the most popular names in Scotland. In 1900 it was the second most popular girls' name and was the most popular in 1950. In recent years its popularity has waned - in 1975 it had dropped to 26th place and in 2000 it had fallen out of the top 100. Variants of the name include Margery, Margo, and Madge; pet forms of the name include Maggie, Meg, Peggy and Greta. The Gaelic form of the name is Mairearad.

Marion / Marian / Marianne
Marion is a fusion of the two Biblical names Mary and Ann (which, when you look at it, seems sensible). Consequently, the name has the same derivation as Marianne. The name has been common since the Middle Ages and is on record in Scotland since the 15th century. As an aside, in the early 20th century the name was also applied to boys - Marion Michael Morrison (later better known as the actor John Wayne) was of Scots descent.

The Latin word "martius" meaning warlike and Mars, the god of war, became the Roman name Marcus. The second book of the New Testament was written bt Mark, though some scholars say that it is the oldest of the Gospels, written around 70AD. Relics, said to be of Mark, were taken to Venice and the basilica and square of St Mark are there to this day. The Venetian merchants influenced the development of banking and their symbol, the winged lion was stamped on coins and led to currency being named "mark". Despite its biblical roots, the name only came into widespread use after the Reformation. It was the 36th most popular name recorded by the Scottish Registry Office in 1999.

Mary / Mhàiri
Mary is probably from the Hebrew word "rama" which means "high" or "longed for child". It is equivalent also to Miriam. Mary was of course the mother of Jesus in the New Testament. The name has been popular in many parts of the world, including Scotland. In 1900, for example, it was the most popular girl's first name in the register of births and it was still in the top ten in 1950. However, by 2000 it had slipped out of the top 100. Perhaps the most famous bearer of the name in Scotland was Mary Queen of Scots. Mhàiri or Mairi is the Gaelic form of the name - there is a well loved folk song Mhàiri's Wedding. Other forms include Molly and Maidie while the French form Marie has become increasingly popular in Scotland.

Originally a Welsh name, Megan is a diminutive form of "Margaret" which in turn is derived from the Greek "margaron" meaning "pearl". It was the second most popular first name for girls being registered in 1998 (6th spot in 1999).

From the Hebrew name meaning "who is like" God" this was the 16th most popular first name registered in Scotland during 1999. One of the archangels was Michael and the name was frequently used in the Middle Ages. Michael Scott (1175-1230) in the Scottish Borders had a reputation as a wizard and "The Great Michael" was a Scottish warship in the early 16th century. Michael gave rise to the surname Mitchell.

This is the phonetic form of the Irish name "Máire". This was the name used in Ireland for the mother of Jesus. For that reason, it was rarely used as a first name until the end of the 15th century (just as the Celts would not give a child the name Jesus). There are many variations in the spelling of Máire including Maria, Mariam, Marie, Maisie, Molly - and Moira. Moira became popular in Scotland at the beginning of the 20th century, due no doubt to the influx of immigrants from Ireland. It became even more popular in the mid-20th century, reaching 21st in the table of most popular girls' names that year. Well-known bearers of the name include the ballet dancer Moira Shearer, news reader Moira Stewart and the singers Moira Anderson and Moira Kerr.

This is said to be the Gaelic equivalent to Sarah (from a Hebrew word "Sarai" meaning "Queen" or "Princess"), though some books suggest that it is from the Gaelic "mor" meaning "great" and "ag" or "og" meaning small. So the combination is "great young one". It was largely unknown outside of Scotland until the 20th century but has become increasingly popular. When it was dangerous to use Bonnie Prince Charlie's real name after Culloden in 1746, his followers sometimes used the name Morag to refer to him.

Morven (land), is a mythical kingdom of Fingal in a poem by Ossian (the narrator, and supposed author, of a cycle of poems which the Scottish poet James Macpherson [1736-1796] claimed to have translated from ancient sources in the Scots Gaelic). There are hills in Aberdeenshire, and Caithness named Morven (from the Scottish Gaelic "A' Mḥr Bheinn" meaning "great hill). The name should not be confused with the mountainous peninsula, southwest of Fort William, known as Morvern.

This name originated in Ireland from "bun" meaning "mouth of" and "roe" meaning "a river". In Gaelic the 'b' often becomes an 'm' and hence "Munro". The place name Munro in Ireland became used as a surname but when it was taken to Scotland it began to be used as a first name also.

Muriel was recorded in Brittany in the 11th century and was brought to Britain by Norman adventurers. In Irish Gaelic it is "Muirgheal" meaning "bright as the sea" and in Scottish Gaelic "Muireall" is interchangeable with Marion. It became popular in the Middle Ages as Merrall and Murrell, but gradually fell out of favour. The novelist Muriel Spark is a well known 20th century example of the name. Molly is sometimes used as a diminutive.

Murine / Murron / Muirne / Myrna
Murron MacClannough, Wallace's sweetheart in the film Braveheart, certainly brought this little-used Celtic name to the fore in the late 1990s. It is more often found as Murine and can also be spelt Muirne - mùirneach is the Gaelic for "dearly beloved". It is the origin of the more well-known name "Myrna" as in the Hollywood actress Myrna Loy.

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