Popular Scottish Forenames - S/Z

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.

Not a traditional Scottish name and has been used in Scotland only over the last 40 years, possibly after "High Society" in which Grace Kelly played Tracy Samantha Lord. And it became even more popular in the 1980s, helped by the TV series "Bewitched". It is still the 38th most popular girl's name registered in Scotland in 1999.

From a Hebrew word "Sarai" meaning "Queen" or "Princess" it was a particularly popular name in Scotland in the 17th century because of its bible connections. In 1999 it was the 13th most popular girls' name in Scotland. The Gaelic equivalent to Sarah is Morag. Pet forms of Sarah such as Sally and Sadie are frequently used in Scotland.

Sean / Shaun / Shane
All these names are variations of the Irish form of John which in turn came from the French "Jean" meaning "God's gracious gift". The "Shane" variation is sometimes used in Northern Ireland in memory of Shane O'Neill who defeated the army of Elizabeth I in the 16th century - and was given a boost by the classic Western movie "Shane" starring Alan Ladd. Sean (rhyming with 'dawn') has become popular in part as a result of the fame of Sean Connery. Sean was the 24th most popular boys' name to be registered in 1999 with Shaun 51st.

From the Gaelic 'Seandun' meaning 'old fort' it is most often associated with the place-name and river in County Cavan, Ireland. Other variants based on "Sean" include Sionán and Siobhan. It began to be used as a forename in Scotland in the 1930s but in 1990 only 25 were registered. The name then shot up the "league table" and it was the 9th most popular name in 1998 with over 440 registered, possibly due to Shannon in the Australian "soap" Home and Away. In 1999 it fell back to 15th.

Sheila is derived originally from Celia/Cecilia through the Irish form "Sine" (which is pronounced "shee + nih"). St. Cecilia was a Roman lady who was martyred in the 3rd century and has become the patron saint of music and the blind. Sheila became popular in Scotland in the 1930s and was the 17th most popular girl's name in 1950. Although it is still well used, it has fallen out of the top 100. Other forms include Sheelagh, Sheelah, Shelia, Sheena and the Gaelic form is Shelagh.

Derived phonetically from the Irish Gaelic Seonaid (pronounced like 'shone+aid') and Sinead (pronounced like 'shin+aid') which are the Gaelic forms of Jeannette or Janet. The Normans originated the name as a feminine form of 'Jean' or John. John in turn is from a Hebrew origin, implying "God is gracious".

Usually pronounced "shiv-awn" and indeed variations such as Shevaun and Chevonne are found. Originating in Ireland, the name became popular because of the actress Siobhán McKenna (1923-86) and was the 95th most popular girls' name in 1998. The name is a variation on "Susan" meaning "lily" or "Joan" meaning "God is gracious."

Stacey / Stacie / Stacy
This first name is derived from Anastasia (from a Greek origin, meaning "resurrection") which became fashionable in England in the 13th century. The name was often abbreviated at that time to Anstey or Anstice. The name has always been popular in Russia and when the story that Anastasia, the daughter of the last Czar of Russia, had survived the slaughter of the Romanovs during the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 became a film starring Ingrid Bergman in 1956, the name (and its derivatives) leapt up the popularity charts in other parts of the world, including Scotland. Stacey is the most often found but there is also Stacie and Stacy.

Stephen / Steven
53rd and 43rd most common boys' names registered in 1999, combined they would make 24th. The name originally came from the Greek "stephanos" meaning a crown or garland. It was a popular name in early Christian times and came to Scotland via the Normans in the 11th/12th century. It gave rise to the surnames of Steven(s), Stevenson and Stein. The most famous Scot at the moment with this name is Stephen Hendry, the world champion snooker player.

Stuart / Stewart
Derived from "sti weard" meaning the person looking after the domestic animals but by the 11th century it was applied to the high position of "steward" in the king's household. Robert, 7th High Steward of Scotland, became king on the death of his uncle, David II. "Stuart" is the French version and became established with the close links with France, especially at the time of Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots. "Stuart" was the 50th most popular boys' name to be registered in Scotland in 1999 while "Stewart" was the 95th.

The historical origins of the name are obscure but it may be from the Greek for "an inhabitant of Thera". Thera was an island in the Agean Sea. The name became Theresia in Latin. St Theresa of Avila in the 16th century was a Carmelite nun who founded the convent of St Joseph in Avila to follow a life of poverty, hardship and solitude - a way of life which was adopted by a number of religious orders. St Theresa of Lisieux was a Carmelite nun who, although she died in 1897 at the age of only 24, left a spiritual autobiography which resulted in the spread of her cult. This led to the wider adoption of the name, especially amongst Catholic families (although it was certainly well known enough for Sir Walter Scott to use Teresa for one of his characters in "The Antiquary" earlier in the century). Variants on the name include Teresa, Tess, Tessa. Famous people with this name include Mother Teresa of Calcutta and the opera singer Teresa Braganza.

An Aramaic name meaning "twin". One of the names of the apostles, Thomas did not see Jesus after the resurrection and refused to believe it - hence "doubting Thomas". The name came into Scotland after the Norman Conquest in the 11th century. Thomas Learmounth, also known as "Thomas the Rhymer" lived in the 13th century. The name was very popular in the Middle Ages. The name is often shortened to Tam, Tommy, Tom, Tammy. It was the 25th most popular boys' name registered in 1999 but was 7th in 1935 and as recently as 1958.

Una / Oonagh
Una is the Latin for the number "one" but probably came to Scotland from the Irish Gaelic "Oonagh". In the poem "Faerie Queene" by Edmund Spencer, written in 1596, Una is a heroine who escapes from a fiery dragon and marries the Red Cross Knight. The poem was read and admired in Scotland, giving a boost to the use of the name. In more recent times, Oonagh, the wife of Charlie Chaplin and the actress Una Stubbs have kept it in the public eye.

A diminutive of the Latin "ursa" (a female bear), so Ursula means "little she-bear. St Ursula was a princess who became a martyr at the hands of Attila the Hun in the 4th century. The name became popular in Britain in the 17th century. The name was used frequently by the Scottish Lords Fairfax of Cameron. Sir Thomas Fairfax was the first Lord with that title. He represented Elizabeth I on several diplomatic missions to James VI of Scotland.

Derived from old German words "vila helma" meaning "helmet of resolution". The name was brought to Britain by William the Conqueror and has been popular in Scotland ever since William the Lion became king in 1165. William Wallace was another reason for popularity of the name. Diminutive forms of the name, Willie, Bill and Billy are often used. The name was the 37th most used name for boys in Scotland in 1999.

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