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Title: Scottish Surnames in the Context of Scottish Culture, Historical and Contemporary
Author(s): DORWARD, David
Journal: Onoma
Volume: 34    Date: 1998-1999   
Pages: 77-90
DOI: 10.2143/ONO.34.0.2003441

Abstract :
Scotland has from earliest times been a multinational, multilingual and multicultural society; this circumstance is reflected in its family names. The major source-book is Black's The surnames of Scotland, a repository of virtually all recorded family names of Scottish provenance from the medieval period to the 19th century. But up-to-date historical methods and statistical resources (including the telephone directory) are now employed to give a rather more modern overview of our naming system. English surnames share the same onomastic characteristics as those of the rest of Western Europe, and many of the commoner Scottish names are also to be found in England. What makes Scottish names distinctive is the admixture of elements from Norse and Gaelic. In addition, the feudal system of the Lowlands and the clan structure of the Highlands produced a larger crop of patronymics than elsewhere. MAC names in particular illustrate this point. The spiritual nature of early Celtic culture is illustrated by the frequent adoption of saints' names. Occupational surnames, on the other hand, were less common in Gaelic-speaking regions. It is tempting to believe that Scottish family-nomenclature has had an influence on the ethnology and culture of modern Scotland; and there is no doubt that the immense prestige of Scottish names (carried to the ends of the earth by the Scottish diaspora) has had a recognisable impact on civilised society all over the globe.

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