This history of McNames - a Scottish surnames McA-Z

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They stem from Scotland, but are spread right across the globe - and no less so than in the North East, where they didn't have far to travel.

Over the centuries millions of Scots have left their homeland to find the fame and fortune around the globe, and they have taken their Scottish names with them, so giving the world McDonalds and Campbell’s Tomato Soup - not to mention Ewan McGregor and Nanny McPhee.

Our sister title The Scotsman has compiled a brief history of them all:

MacAdam

Scottish surname that originated in Ayrshire. The name means ‘son of Adam’, with Adam being the name of the first man in the Bible and believed to mean simply ‘man’ in Hebrew.

MacAlister, MacAllister

Clan that became established in Kintyre and Bute. The name MacAllister means ‘son of Alexander’ or ‘son of Alistair’ with Alexander meaning ‘defender of men’ and Alistair and Alasdair being its Scottish and Gaelic variants. The first chief of the Clan MacAlister was Alexander, a descendant of the famous Somerled, King of the Isles.

MacAslpine, McAlpine

Historic Scottish surname. The name originated with Kenneth, son of Alpin, who in 843 became King of both Pics and Scots, and in the process began a royal dynasty that would rule the new kingdom of Alba until the death of Malcolm II in 1034.

Little is known about Kenneth MacAlpine himself, even whether he was a Scot or a Pict, and the origin of the name Alpin is obscure, but is thought to be of Pictish or Brythonic derivation, coming from the word alp meaning ‘rock’ (also responsible for the name of the European mountain range the Alps).

It is thought that alp derives from the Latin word albus meaning ‘white’, although it is possible that the Latin word might itself derive from an even earlier Celtic word.

MacAndrew, McAndrew

Scottish surname that means ‘son of Andrew’. Andrew is the patron saint of Scotland (as well as Greece and Russia).

MacArthur

Scottish surname and claim that became established in the Lorne district of Argyll. The name MacArthur means ‘son of Arthur’, with the name believed to derive from the Old Gaelic word art for ‘bear’ and Arthur becoming the anglicized form of the Gaelic name Artair meaning ‘bear-like’.

Arthur is, of course, also associated with the legendary Celtic king of the Britons who lived in Camelot and presided over the Knight of the Round Table.

MacAskill, McCaskill


Scottish surname that originated in Lewis and Skye. The name comes from the Gaelic MacAsgaill, derived in turn from the Norse name Arskell or Asketil meaning ‘cauldron of sacrifice to the gods’.

MacAulay, Macaulay

Scottish surname that originated in Lewis, although there are also MacAulays from Dunbartonshire. In most cases the name comes from the Gaelic MacAmhaoibh, which is in turn the Gaelic variant of the Norse name Olaf meaning ‘ancestor’s descendant’.

MacCartney, McCartney

Scottish surname that originates in Galloway. The name means ‘son of Art’ with Art the Gaelic for bear. Famous McCartneys include the Beatle Paul McCartney, who lived for a time not far from Galloway in Kintyre.

McClintock, McLintock, MacLinktock

Scottish surname that derives from the Gaelic Mac Gille Fhiondaig and means ‘son of the servant of Saint Findon’. Saint Findon is believed to have been a 7th-century disciple of Saint Columba, and the name Findom derives from the Gaelic fionn meaning ‘fair’.

MacColl, McColl

Scottish surname that originated in Argyll. The name comes from the surname MacColla and means ‘son of Colla’, with Colla being an old Gaelic first name that possibly means ‘high one’. MacConnell, McConnell Scottish surname. This name does not (as you might imagine derive from the Irish surname Connel, but instead, as with the surname

MacDonnell, is a variation of the surname MacDonald meaning ‘son of Donald’, or its Gaelic from Mac Dhomhnuill.

MacDiarmid, McDiarmid

Scottish surname that derives from the Gaelic Mac Dhiarmaid and means ‘son of Dermott’. Diarmaid a Gaelic and Irish first name meaning ‘freeman’ or ‘free from envy’, and Dermott is the anglicized form of the name. The MacDiarmids originated in Perthshire.

MacDonald, McDonald, Macdonald

The most common surname in Scotland beginning with ‘Mac’. In Gaelic, mac means ‘son of’ and so MacDonald means ‘son of Donald’. Donald is a name of Gaelic origin that means ‘world ruler’ and MacDonald is the anglicized form of the Gaelic Mac Dhomhnuill.

The Macdonalds took their name from a Donald who was the son of the legendary 12th-centruy Hebridean warlord Somerled. The family would dominate the Hebrides in the 13th to 15th centuries from their islands stronghold of Islay, holding the title of Lord of the Isles.

Further north, the MacDonalds of Clanranald were pre-eminent in the northern Hebrides. Other MacDonalds were established at Sleat in Skye, in Ardamurchan, and in Glencoe, where in February 1692 the famous massacre took place with 38 MacDonalds being killed in very cold blood by a Government regiment led by Campbells.

MacDonnell

Scottish surname and clan that became established on the Scottish mainland in Glengarry in the Highlands and Keppoch in Lochaber.

The name derived from the clan name MacDonald meaning ‘son of Donald’.

MacDougall, MacDougal

Scottish surname and clain that became established in the Lorne region of Argyll. As with the Clan MacDonald, the MacDougalls were descended from the legendary warlord Somerled, in this case from his son Dougal.

The name MacDougall derives from the Gaelic MacDhugaill and means ‘son of Dougal meaning ‘dark stranger’.

MacDuff

Scottish surname that means ‘Son of Duff’. The name Duff comes from the Gaelic duibh meaning ‘black’. The MacDuffs were the famous Thanes of Fife who helped Malcolm Canmore regain the throne from Macbeth in 1057.

MacDuff is forever remembered from William Shakespeare’s Macbeth which is often misquoted as ‘Lead on, MacDuff’. The actual line spoken by Macbeth is ‘Lay on , MacDuff’.

MacEwan, McEwan, MacEwan

Scottish surname that means ‘son of Ewan’ Ewan is a version of the Gaelic name Eoghan, which is of obscure origin, but might possible mean ‘of the yew tree’ or ‘of youth’.

MacFadyen, McFadden

Surname that is the anglicized form of the Gaelic Mac Phaiden meaning ‘son of little Patrick’. The Macfadyens were Irish in origin before settling in Mull in the 14th century.

There are several variations of MacFadyen, the most common being McFadden. MacFarlane, Macfarlane Scottish surname and Loch Lomond clan from the 13th century. The name means ‘son of Paran’ with Parlan being the Gaelic for Bartholomew, the name of one of Jesus’ disciples, which in Aramaic means ‘son of Talmai’, with Talmai meaning ‘farmer’.

MacFie, McPhee

Scottish surname that became established on the small Hebridean island of Colonsay and is the anglicized form of Mac Duibshithe meaning ‘son of Dubshithe’. Duibshithe is an old Gaelic personal name that means ‘dark peace’.

MacGill, McGill

Scottish surname that originated in Dumfries and Galloway. The name comes from the Gaelic Mac an Ghoill and means ‘son of the stranger’ (referring to an incomer to the area).

MacGowan, McGowan

Surname that derives from the Gaelic Mac Ghobhainn and means ‘son of the smith’ (the smith in question being a metalworker, such as a blacksmith or silversmith).

MacGregor, McGregor, MacGregor

Scottish surname meaning ‘son of Gregor’. Gregor was the Scottish form or Gregory, a name that comes from the Greek meaning ‘watchful’ and was a popular name for popes. Another theory is that the name originates with a 9th century Scottish prince called Gregor.

The MacGregors were concentrated between Aberfoyle and Balquhidder in the Trossachs, and were involved in decades of conflict with the Campbells and the Scottish crown. This ultimately led to them being dispossessed of their lands, and the entire clan was outlawed from 1603 until 1774.

MacIan, McKean

Scottish name that means ‘son of Iain’ or ‘son of John’ The clain MacIan became established in Ardnamurchan. Anglicized variations of MacIan included McKean and Caine. MacInnes Scottish surname and clan that means ‘son of Angus’.

The name derives from Aonghus, the Gaelic form of the name Angus, which is pronounced ‘Innes’. The surname MacInnes is not connected to the surname Innes (which comes from the Gaelic inis meaning ‘small island’.

The MacInneses were found on the west coast and in Perthshire.

MacIntosh, Mackintosh, Macintosh

Scottish surname and clan from perthshire and the Highlands. The name comes from the Gaelic mac an toisich meaning ‘son of the chieftain’, with the Scottish Gaelic toisich being similar to the Irish word taoiseach that is the title of the Irish Prime Minister.

MacIntyre, McIntyre, Macintyre

Scottish surname and clan from Glencoe. The name comes from the Gaelic mac an t-sair meaning ‘son of the carpenter’.

MacIntyre is often anglicized to the surname wright. MacIver, MacIvor Scottish surname that became established in Argyll. The name comes from the Gaelic Mac Ionhairr meaning ‘son of Ivor’, with Ivor being a popular male first name that derives from the Scandinavian Ivarr meaning ‘bow’ and ‘army’.

MacKay, Mackay, McCoy, MacKie, Mackie

Scottish surname meaning ‘son of Aodh’ or ‘son of Aed’. The Gaelic name Aodh means ‘fire’, and would be anglicized as hugh. The MacKays were found throughout Scotland, but became established in Sutherland.

The Highland Clearances of the 19th century saw many MacKays scattered around the world. MacKay is also a coastal town of 90,000 people in Queensland, Australia, named after Scottish explorer John Mackay.

The phrase ‘the real McCoy’ used when talking about something that is the ‘genuine article’ is of uncertain origin. However it is likely to be a variation of the surname Mackay, and the phrase ‘the real Mackay’ was used in the 19th century in Scotland to promote whisky.

The surnames MacKie and Mackie are also variations of Mackay. MacKenzie, McKenzie, Mackenzie Scottish surname that means ‘son of Kenneth’. It is the anglicized version of the Gaelic Mac Coinnich meaning ‘son of Coinnich’.

Kenneth means ‘handsome’ or ‘fair’ and was the name of three of Scotland’s earlist kings. The MacKenzies were concentrated in Wester Ross. MacKinlay, McKinley Scottish surname that originated chiefly in Perthshire.

The name means ‘son of Cionadh’ with the Gaelic name Cionadh meaning ‘beloved of Aodh’ (Aodh being the Celtic god of fire). McKinney is a city in Texas with a population of over 100,000.

Mackinnon

Scottish surname that originated chiefly in Mull and Iona. The name means ‘son of Finegon’ and is the anglicized form of Mac Fhionghuin, with Fingon being a descendant of Kenneth MacAlpine whose name means ‘fair born’.

MacLachlan

Scottish surname that is the anglicized form of Mac Lachlainn meaning ‘son of Lachlan’. The name Lachlan comes from Gaelic name Lochlann meaning ‘land of the lochs’ and historically referred to a person who came from Norway.

MacLaren, McLaren

Scottish surname that originated chiefly in Perthshire. The name means ‘son of Laurence’ and is the anglicized form of the Gaelic Mac Labhruinn. The male first name Laurence or Lawrence derives from the Latin Laurentius referring to a person from the ancient town of Laurentum.

It became a popular male first name after the 3rd-centruy Christian martyr Saint Laurence.

MacLean, McLean, Maclaine

Scottish surname that means ‘son of a follower of St John’. The name is the anglicized form of the Gaelic MacGille Eoinoinnich. The founder of the clan was called ‘Gillean of the battle-axe’ and the MacLeans became concentrated in Mull and Tiree.

The surname MacLaine is a variation of MacLean and originated in Mull. McLeish Scottish surname that derives from the Gaelic Mac Gille Iosa meaning ‘son of the servant of Jesus’. It is a variation on the Scottish surname Gillies.

MacLennan, McLennan

Scottish surname that is the anglicized form of the Gaelic Mac Fhinneain and means ‘son of a servant of Saint Finnan’. Saint Finnan was a 7th century Irish saint whose name is derived from the Gaelic name Fionn meaning ‘white’.

MacLeod, McLeod, McCloud

Scottish surname that means ‘son of Leod’. The name Leod derives from the Norse word ljotr and unfortunately means ‘ugly’ The clan MacLeod was concentrated in Skye and Lewis. The American surname McCloud, familiar as the totle of a 1970s television show, is a variation of

MacLeod. MacMillan, McMillan, Macmillan

Scottish surname that derives from the Gaelic mac mhaolain or Macgille Mhaoil meaning ‘son of the tonsured one’. The name is therefore believed to originate from monks. The MacMillans became established in first Argyll and then Kintyre and Galloway.

MacNab, McNab

Scottish surname that is the anglicized form of the Gaelic Mac an Aba, which means ‘son of the abbot’ or ‘father’s son’. The MaCnab family became established near Killin. MacNeill, McNeill Scottish surname that means ‘son of Neil’.

This name comes from the Gaelic Mac Niall meaning ‘son of Niall’, with Neil or Niall meaning ‘champion’. The name is long associated with the island of Barra, where it is said that the name orginated from an Irishman called Niall who settled there in the 11th century.

MacPhail, McFall

Scottish surname derived from the Gaelic name Mac Phail. The name means ‘son of Paul’, with Paul being a popular male first name derived from the Latin name Paulus meaning ‘small’. It was popularised through Saint Paul, who was converted to Christianity on the road to Damascus and was instrumental in founding the Christian church. The surname McFall is a variation of

Macphail. MacPherson, Macpherson

Scottish surname that means ‘son of a parson’.

Macquarrie

Scottish surname from the island of Mull. The name comes from the Gaelic Mac Guidhre meaning ‘son of a proud man’. Famous Macquarries include Lachlan Macquarie from the small island of Ulva, near Mull, who was Governor of New South Wales in the early 19th century and is often called ‘the Father of Australia’.

Numerous place names and instituations in Australia are called Macquarie after him.

MacQueen, McQueen

Scottish surname that does not have any connection with any Scottish queen. It is an anglisized variation of the Argyll surname

MacSween, which either means ‘son of Suibne’ (with Suibne the Gaelic for ‘pleasant’) or ‘son of Sweyn’ (with Sweyn a Norse name meaning ‘servant’). MacRae, McCrae Scottish surname that became established in Wester Ross.

The name is the anglicized form of Gaelic Mac rath and means ‘son of grace’.

MacTaggart

Scottish surname that is derived from the Gaelic name Mac an T-Saigart and means ‘son of the priest’

The name comes from the days when priests were allowed to acknowledge their children. MacTaggarts were first found in Ross and in Dumfries. MacTavish, McTavish Scottish surname that is derived from the Gaelic name Mac Tamhais.

The name means ‘son of Thomas’. The biblical name Thomas is of Aramaic origin and means ‘twin’.