Marianne is a history graduate from Scotland. She is interested in cultural history and how myths have developed over time.
Want to give your little girl a name with a Scottish background? A nod to your Scottish ancestry? Here is a list of both modern and traditional Scottish girl names with information about their popularity in both Scotland and the USA.
Current popular Scottish names
Many of the current popular girls names in Scotland are the same names that are popular all over the English speaking/European world, for example Olivia, Emily, Sophie, Amelia and Ava are in the current top 10.
However here are the names in the top Scottish 100 baby names with a distinctive Scottish flavour.
Isla is the name of a Scottish island (spelt Islay).
This is a name that has been steadily rising in popularity in Scotland. In 2017 it reached the number 3 spot for most common names for baby girls in Scotland, and is the top 5 all over the United Kingdom. In recent years it has grown in popularity in the USA as well reaching 126. So if you want to avoid the most popular names this may be one to avoid.
This may be partly explained by the Australian (with Scottish parents) actress Isla Fisher bringing awareness of the name.
The 21st most popular girls name in Scotland has never registered in the top 1000 in the USA. This is a Scottish Gaelic name and the spelling will often confuse so might be one to avoid outside of Scotland/Ireland if you are concerned about your child forever explaining how to spell their name.
Eilidh is pronounced "Ay-lee" and is said to be a Gaelic version of the name Helen meaning shining light or bright one.
Alternative spelling: Ailidh.
Maisie is a Scottish nickname for Margaret which means Pearl. It is the 33rd most popular name in Scotland. In recent years has been growing in popularity in the USA. It entered the top 1000 in 2014 and by 2016 reached 574 in the charts.
The name has been popularised in Scotland by the "Maisie" children's books, a series of popular children's books mostly published in the 1990s about a small kitten called Maisie Mackenzie. Maisie was even used to decorate some Edinburgh buses in 2011.
Famous Maisies: Maisie Williams, the Game of Thrones actress.
The 39th most popular girls name in Scotland is another Scottish Island name. Skye is a large beautiful island off the West Coast of Scotland.
USA ranking: in the top 1000, peaking at 386 in 2014. Although its usage may be inspired by the common English word Sky rather than the Scottish isle.
Iona is yet another 4 letter Scottish Island name. Iona is a small island known for its spirituality and links with early Christianity. In 1563 St Columbus founded a monastery on Iona. It is thought the name Iona is derived from "Island of St Columbus".
Iona is currently less popular than the trendy Isla, so it is a good option for someone looking something a bit more unusual. It doesn't feature in the top 1000 for the USA, although it was there in the first half of the 20th century, so the name has a bit of history.
This is an old fashioned Scottish name that has recently come back into fashion. Elsie probably has its origins as a nickname for Elizabeth. Evidence suggests that it has been used for centuries, although many Elsies were officially registered as Elizabeth. It became popular as a name in its own right in the late 19th century. It was number 44 in Scotland in 1900, and number 31 in the USA in 1896 and 1897. It shows signs of shaking off its "old lady" shackles and in recent years has reemerged reaching 91 in 2016 in Scotland. In the USA it is still outside the top 300 but the steady upward movement since 2005 means this is one likely to become more popular.
Classic Scottish Names which could make a comeback
Here are the top historically popular Scottish baby girls names which are no longer popular but have a chance of making a comeback.
Scottish version of Margaret which means pearl. In 1900 this was the 15th most popular in Scotland. It's not very popular in Scotland at the moment, but has been in the top 300 in the USA for several decades.
Whilst the name Margaret (or variations) are used in a number of cultures, Margaret has been a common name in Scotland for centuries. A famous 13th century Scottish Queen was called Margaret.
Jeanie is said to be derived from the French Jehane, which is ultimately derived from the same root as John. Means God is gracious.
This is a historically popular Scottish name, in 13th place in 1900.
Related historically common names in Scotland are: Jean, Jennie (not Jennifer!), Jane, Janet.
A popular Scottish girls name in its own right, or a nickname for Jean so also means God it gracious. The Scottish name is not a version of Jessica, although obviously the name Jessie can be. This was number 11 in 1900 in Scotland and popular in the USA at the same time too. Another -ie name that may come back into fashion?
A Scottish version of Elizabeth. This is not a fashionable name anywhere, and only 14 girls born in Scotland in 2016 were given this name, possibly because in Scotland is still needs to overcome its "old lady" connotations. However it is one to watch in future years. Can be shortened to the more popular and fashionable Elsie. Elspeth was number 86 in 1900.
Upcoming and unusual Scottish Names
On to the more unusual Scottish names.
Another island name, this one may appeal to parents who like Isla but are after something a bit more unusual. It is pronounced Ale-sa It is also the name of the island "Ailsa Craig" on the West Coast of Scotland. This name has one of the most interesting meanings. It is said to come from Old Norse meaning island of Alfsigr or 'elf victory" or magical victory, after viking raids to Scotland.
An alternative theory is that it is an anglicised version of Ealasaid, the Gaelic Elizabeth.
Alba is not a traditional Scottish baby name, but it is Scottish Gaelic word for Scotland and a cute 2 syllable name. Gaining in popularity it has recently reached 116 on the Scottish baby name list. The name is used in a variety of languages and has different meanings. In Spanish, Italian, Romanian and Catalan it means dawn, and it is a common Spanish surname. In Spanish Italian, Romanian and Catalan it is the word for dawn. In Latin it means white, bright or dawn.
As in most of the world Mary is historically the most popular name for girls in Scotland. If you want to use this name with a particular Scottish flavour you would use Gaelic version and spelling of Mairi. Mhairi is another alternative for this. "Mh" in Scottish Gaelic is pronounced like a V so Mhairi is pronounced Var-ee.
There are different versions and theories about the meaning of Mary. Possibilities are: beloved, strong waters, rebellion, wished for child, beautiful.
This is a traditional Gaelic Scottish name, although what it means seems to depend on what source you refer to. Some sources say it means great sun in Gaelic. It is also said to be a version of the names Mary, Marion and Sarah. Sarah means princess. Pronounced MORE-ag.
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Scottish Names That Are More Popular Outside of Scotland
Here are some Scottish girls names which are more popular outside of Scotland.
The name Paisley has massively risen in popularity over the last few years in the USA, making it into the top 50 in 2015. But not in Scotland, Paisley is the name of a town in Renfrewshire, Scotland. It is not the sort of place that a Scot would name their child after.
A Scottish word for beautiful. This name has risen in popularity over the last few years, reaching 116th in Scotland in 2016. However it has never been as popular in Scotland as in other places in the English speaking world. In the 1940s it was in the top 40 in the USA.
Mackenzie is a traditional Scottish surname meaning son of Kenneth from the Gaelic MacCoinnich. This name has been in the top 100 girls names in the USA since 1995, peaking at number 40 in 2001. However in Scotland this barely registers as a girl's name.
Have I missed any names?
Have I missed any Scottish names that should be included? Comment below and add to the list.
The statistics for the top Scottish names all come from the National Records for Scotland official lists, and the USA figures come from the Social Security Administration Site. Most current figures are 2016 as this is the most recent complete data available.
Questions & Answers
Question: Should the name Sine be pronounced SHEE-na; shee- NAY; or sin- AY?
Answer: As Sheena. Sine is a Scottish Gaelic version of Jane which is a version of John meaning God is gracious.
Question: "Craithie" was my Grandmothers name. She was Craith. What do you think about this name?
Answer: Craithie is the name of a village in Aberdeenshire, I've never heard of it used as a first name, although it has been used as a surname, probably for people from the village.
It is popular to use Scottish surnames as first names, although more for boys than girls, so if you like the sound worth considering.
Craithie comes from the Gaelic, and either means hard stony fields or ridges intersected with trees.
Demmi on June 25, 2019:
Breagha Scottish Gaelic for beautiful pronounced Bree-ah