Scottish Baby Names to Avoid
While I was researching Scottish baby names recently, I found some weird names on baby name websites. There are some supposedly "Scottish" names that I can confidently say, as someone who grew up in Scotland, most Scottish people would never use. This inspired me to create this list of "Scottish" baby names that as someone from Scotland I recommend you avoid.
I will make the disclaimer that this list is for fun. If I have chosen your name, or a name you love and want to choose for your child, please go for it. Names are a matter of personal taste, and the main person who is going to be impacted by a choice of name is your child themselves. Sometimes a name that you don't like can grow on you when you meet someone really lovely with that name.
1. Strangest Scottish Name on a Baby List: "Scotland"
The strangest name I found on a list of "Scottish" baby names so far is the suggestion to use the name "Scotland."
I know Scotland is a beautiful country, but as a name for an actual person, I don't see how Scotland works.
If you really want to name your daughter or son after the land of the Scots, here are some better suggestions:
- Alba is a trendy girl name which is the ancient Gaelic word for Scotland. For a boy, you could go with Alban.
- An ancient Roman name for Scotland was Caledonia. Whilst I don't especially recommend Caledonia as a name either, it sounds nicer than Scotland.
- If you really like the "Scot" you could go with the more traditional name Scott or even Scottie. (Although someone called Scottie might have to deal with lots of jokes about beaming him up.)
Or just chose a different name entirely.
2. Names of Depressing Scottish Places
Paisley is a baby name that has massively risen in popularity over the last few years in the USA, making it into the top 50 in 2015. But in Scotland, not so much.
Paisley is the name of a town in Renfrewshire, Scotland that was once the centre of the weaving and textile industry. Unfortunately, the textile industry declined over the 20th century. Paisley became a somewhat depressed place, not the sort of place that the average Scot would name their child after.
Aberdeen or Glasgow
I have also seen Aberdeen and Glasgow on baby name lists. Both these Scottish cities have good points and things going for them, but they do have negative reputations. Glasgow has the highest murder rate of any UK city. Aberdeen was the 2015 winner of a Carbuncle Award for the "most dismal town in Scotland". (The Carbuncle Awards are architectural prizes given by the Scottish magazine Urban Realm.)
My main objection isn't really about the places themselves though, I mostly just don't think Aberdeen or Glasgow work as names. If I met someone and they said, "Hi, my name is Aberdeen," I would think I hadn't heard them properly.
Here are some other "dismal towns" award winners as a precaution--not yet seen on any baby name lists, but in case they ever appear one day...don't name any children:
If you really want to name your child after a Scottish place, the Scottish islands have much more romantic connotations, for example, the fashionable Isla, or Skye or Iona for girls, or Lewis or Harris for boys.
Do You Agree?
Would you name you baby any of these names?
Apparently, Balmoral is a Scottish baby boys name, after the place name in Aberdeenshire. However, so far I haven't managed to find any examples or evidence of the existence of actual real-life people called Balmoral.
Balmoral Castle is the royal family's Scottish Highland holiday home. It was the holiday haunt of Queen Victoria and her husband Albert in the nineteenth century and is used by the Royal family to this day. Balmoral is also the name of a sort of cap, a sort of shoe and a petticoat.
Balmoral also makes me think of Balmoral Chicken, a Scottish dish consisting of chicken breast stuffed with haggis and wrapped with bacon; very tasty, but I wouldn't name a child after it.
4. "Old Men's Names"
There are some Scottish names where I just have too much trouble picturing them belonging to a baby or a child. There is a trend for many old-fashioned names becoming popular again, but in my head, some names can only ever belong to old or middle-aged men or women. (Although I admit I could be proved wrong.)
- Archibald - although if you use Archie as a nickname it is not so bad
- Bruce - sorry but babies can't be called Bruce
- Bryce - ditto
- Dougald - either someone very old or a classic Children's TV Skye Terrier
- Magnus - people with this name are all ancient Norwegian/Viking kings
- Agnes - popular around 1900 - 1920
- Euphemia - I suppose you could shorten to Effie?
- Betty - Conjures up an image of a nice old lady in a nursing home
- Jean - this is actually currently popular in Scotland as a middle name, but as a first name belongs to Great Aunts and Grannies.
The Classic Children's TV Character Dougald
Can These Names Become Fashionable?
Do you disagree and think any of these names can come back?
5. "-Ina" Names
Historically it was a Scottish trend to create girls names by adding "-ina" onto the end of boy's names.
To me, these sound like made-up names, and also very old-fashioned. I prefer Ina, which was a very common girl's nickname when these names were popular over a hundred years ago.
6. Names Beginning with "Mac" for Girls
Names for girls beginning with "Mac" like Mackenzie, Mackenna, and Mackinlay are increasingly popular in the USA. In 2016 Mackenzie was the 85th most popular name for girls in the USA. In 2001 it reached a peak as the 40th top name in the USA.
These are Scottish (or Irish) surnames. Whilst there is some tradition of naming boys in Scotland using former surnames, there is no tradition of this for girls. It seems strange to me to use surnames beginning with "Mac" or "Mc" for girls as they literally mean "Son of." Mackenzie is an Anglicised version of the Scottish Gaelic Mac Coinnich. This literally means son of Kenneth.
7. Names with Unfortunate Meanings
There are some Scottish names that sound nice enough, but they have unfortunate meanings.
- Cameron is a name I like the sound of, but the fact it means crooked nose is a negative.
- Campbell is a Scottish surname sometimes used as a first name which means crooked mouth
- Calvin means bald
- Deirdre - after a tragic character who committed suicide in an ancient Irish/Scottish Gaelic legend. This name means fear, brokenhearted, sorrow.
- James - this very common Scottish name of kings means supplanter
- Kennedy - there are some different theories about what this means, but one is that it means ugly head
Are any of these names nice enough you would use them despite the meaning?
8. Names You Can't Pronounce
Many Scottish names are based on Scottish Gaelic, the Celtic language native to parts of Scotland. These names are challenging to pronounce or spell for anyone not familiar with Gaelic. For example, popular ones are Eilidh for girls (pronounced Aylee) or Ruairidh for boys (pronounced Roo-ah-ree).
I'm am not advising against giving a child a Gaelic name. Scottish Gaelic is a minority language and should be celebrated. If Scottish Gaelic is part of your heritage, and you like a Scottish Gaelic name, go for it.
Some tips: make sure you have researched how to pronounce the name. It may also be a frustration for your child to constantly have to explain how to spell their name, with its curious (to people who don't know Gaelic) dh's or mh's, so this is something you will need to teach them about.
Also bear in mind that while your child will have fewer pronunciation problems in Scotland and Ireland (Irish Gaelic names overlap with Scottish ones a lot), there are many Gaelic names where only native speakers are likely to know where to start. At the last census only just over 1% of Scots reported they were able to speak Gaelic.
Here are some names for baby boys found on a Scottish Gaelic baby name list:
Flaithbheartach with the pronunciation FLY-vyurch-tuch. The English version of this is Flaherty.
Dòmhnallaidh looks very intimidating but the pronunciation is more simple DOLE-ee or DOE-nul-ee.
These are not names for the faint-hearted. If you chose a Scottish Gaelic name (unless you are a native speaker surrounded by native speakers), chose a shorter one, not one which leaves your child cursed with having to go through life spelling out their 15 letter name that no one can pronounce right.
Other Tricky Scottish Names
It's not only Scottish Gaelic names that can cause pronunciation problems. There are plenty of common Scots language names that are tricky too.
For example, Dalziel is another Scottish surname that has made its way onto baby boy name lists. It is not pronounced like you would expect but more like Dee-ELL.
Another example is Menzies which is traditionally pronounced MING-iss.
Mackenzie nowadays is usually pronounced how you would expect, but once it was commonly pronounced MacKenyie.
This relates to the old Middle English/Scots letter "yogh". Yogh is no longer in use as a letter, but it remains a sound in a small number of Scottish place names and surnames. A "Z" is used to represent the "yogh" in print.
9. Sometimes You Just Don't Like Certain Names
This are some names I personally don't like the sound of, but I can't really articulate why. These are mine:
10. Names That are Really Popular
I like the name David, but I know a lot of people called David.
I have Davids in my family, I went to School with several Davids, at University I met more Davids, and at my work, I can easily think of at least another 5 Davids. It can be a bit confusing.
This is not surprising as David was the number 1 top baby boys' name in Scotland from 1974 until 1992. David is now declining in popularity, so perhaps it is now possible to call your son David without him being destined to be one of 3 in his primary school class.
However, I think it is a good idea to try to avoid the most popular names. Luckily these days, the problem of numerous people with the same name is decreasing. Popular names have varied more in recent years and the percentage of babies given the top names has declined as parents seek out more unusual unique names. For example in 1975, just over 5% of boys born in Scotland were given the number 1 boy name of David. However, in 2016 only 1.7% of boys were given the number 1 boy name Jack.
Nevertheless, you might want to check the National Records of Scotland baby name statistics to find the most recent list of top baby names in Scotland, or similar statistics from wherever you live.
Examples of consistently popular names over the last couple of decades in Scotland are:
James (this was in the top 10 in 1975 and is still there)
Jack - top 10 since 1995