Marianne grew up in and lives in Scotland. She enjoys researching and writing. She has a Masters degree in History.
Scottish Boy Names, From the Traditional to the Unusual
If you want to give your wee boy a name with a Scottish background, here is a list to help. I've listed some of my favourite Scottish boy names and included information about their popularity in both Scotland and the USA.
Most of these names are derived from the Scottish Gaelic language, the indigenous language that was once spoken throughout much of Scotland.
Current Popular Boy Names in Scotland
The current (2018) top Scottish baby names are as follows:
These are names which are popular throughout much of the English-speaking and European world. Jack, James and Lewis are definitely names that have been used a lot in Scotland and associated with Scotland, and I recommend them.
Distinctively Scottish Names With Widespread Popularity
However, in this list, I've tried to focus on identifying names that have distinctive Scottish flavour. I am starting with names currently in the top Scottish baby names list, which are popular over the world.
Logan is based on a Scottish surname. The name comes from a place name which means hollow. The name is very popular in the USA where it peaked at number 13 in 2014, and is also popular in Canada, Australia and New Zealand. It's very popular in Scotland at number 4 in 2018. This is a lovely name, but if you are worried about choosing a name that is too popular, this may not be the best choice at the moment.
This classic Scottish (and Irish) boy name means fire. Its origins are from the old Gaelic Aed or Aodh which was the name of ancient kings. The ending "an" was a common ending to male Gaelic names meaning little Aed.
The name Aidan has been in the top 200 names in the USA since 1998, peaking at number 39 in 2003. The spelling Aiden is most popular in the top 100 since 2003 and peaking at number 9 in 2010 and 2011. Aiden is popular in Scotland, but not as popular as elsewhere.
This is a very popular name in the English speaking world. It has been in the top 100 in USA since 1987. It is derived from Scottish Gaelic and means crooked nose, which is a bit unfortunate. However if the meaning doesn't bother you, this is a lovely boy name. It has also been used for girls, for example, Cameron Diaz, but traditionally is a boy name.
Names Which Are Popular in Scotland, but Not Elsewhere
Some Scottish baby boy names are very popular in Scotland, but not elsewhere. If you live outside of Scotland and are looking for something unusual these are worth considering.
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Rory means red, ruddy. Rory is an anglicised version of the original Gaelic name Ruaridh.
Rory is very popular in Scotland, at number 9 in 2018. Elsewhere in the world, the name is used but is not so popular. In the USA it has had mixed popularity. It was number 280 in 1959 then declined, then 281 in 1982. In 2016 it was 387.
Calum is a traditional Scottish name that means dove. It's origins come from the Latin Columbus, and are probably linked to the early Celtic Saint Columba. Saint Columba was born in Ireland in 521 and is credited with bringing Christianity to parts of Scotland.
Alternative spelling: Callum.
This name has recently started growing in popularity throughout the world, entering the top 1000 in the USA in 2008.
Scottish boy name meaning fair hero. The name's origins are from the Gaelic Fionnlagh.
This name has been popular in Scotland mostly in the top 20 over the last decade, however, it almost unheard of in the USA, having never been in the top 1000.
The shorter Finn meaning fair is a related name choice, from the Gaelic Fionn, this is more popular throughout the world as it entered the top 200 in the USA in 2016.
Angus is derived from the Gaelic Aonghas meaning one choice, or strong. Aonghas was the name of the ancient Celtic god of love and virality.
Angus has never been a popular name in the USA, but did rank in the top 1000 in the early twentieth century, but appeared there for the last time in 1948. It has been becoming more popular in Scotland in the last few years, ranking at 54 in 2018.
Hamish is a Scottish version of the traditional name James. It is pronounced Hay-mish.
Its origins come from Seumas, a Scottish Gaelic spelling of James. Hamish comes from an anglicised pronunciation of Sheumais, which was the way that Seumas was pronounced in Scottish Gaelic vocative case.
The name James derives from the Greek Iakobos, the same source as the name Jacob. According to most theories, the name means supplanter, although some say it means God will protect.
This name has appeared in the top 100 in Scotland a few times over the last few years, and it is used in Australia and New Zealand. However, it has never been in the top 1000 in USA.
Traditional Scottish Names Which Could Make a Comeback
Here are some Scottish baby names for boys that have not been especially popular in the last few years, but may be on their way back into fashion as parents look for classic names.
The name Malcolm comes from the Scottish Gaelic for servant of St Columba.
The first part of the name is derived from the Gaelic for bald, a description of the hairstyle of monks at the time of St Columba. The second part means dove and is derived from the Latin Columbus, like the name Calum which is also on this list.
This name was most popular in the USA in 1928 when it was number 205. It was the 37th most popular name in Scotland in 1900. Malcolm was the name of 4 early Scottish kings, the nineteenth century American Rights activist Malcolm X, and more recently the starring title character in the children's TV show Malcolm in the Middle.
The Gaelic form of Alexander. This name comes from the Greek and means defender of men.
Alasdair was a top 100 name in Scotland in the 1980s and 1990s but has fallen out of favour. It hasn't caught on much elsewhere in the world.
Alternative spellings: Alastair, Alistair
Kenneth means fair and handsome, and comes from the Gaelic Coinneach. This was the name of the famous Scottish King Kenneth McAlpine.
This name was in the top 20 in the USA for much of the 1920s to 1960s, and has followed a similar pattern in much of the rest of the world. If you are looking for a solid traditional name, which is not too trendy, this is a good choice.
Murray is a classic name that has out of favour. It means settlement by the sea, and comes from the Gaelic Moireach. This was originally a place name in the North East of Scotland, although the name of the place is now spelt Moray.
This was a top 300 name in the early half of the nineteenth century in the USA.
Iain is the Scottish Gaelic version of John. John means God is Gracious and comes from the Hebrew.
Like in most English speaking countries, John itself has historically been the most popular boy name in Scotland. Even today the number one Scottish name, Jack is a traditional nickname for John. Iain has never been as popular, but is a good option if you are looking for a name that is more distinctively Scottish.
It can be spelt Iain or Ian. Ian is currently a top 100 name in the USA, but the double i spelling is not often used. In recent years in Scotland, the name Iain has fallen out of fashion.
Graham is a traditional Scottish boy name which was originally a surname. Unlike most of the names on this list, it is not derived from Gaelic but from old English. It probably comes from the English place name Grantham in Lincolnshire meaning gravelly homestead. Despite its English origins, the name has been used in Scotland for hundreds of years. The name was most likely first introduced to Scotland in the twelfth century by the noble Sir William De Graham when he was granted land in Scotland by King David I King of Scots.
This name is currently out of favour in Scotland, but it has been growing in popularity in the USA, reaching the top 200 in 2014.
Alternative spellings: Grahame, Graeme.
The statistics for the top Scottish names are from the National Records for Scotland official lists and the USA figures from the Social Security Administration Site. Most current figures are 2016 as this is the most recent comprehensive data available.