Is my Surname Irish or Scottish?

Is your surname Irish? Maybe you're not sure if it's Irish or Scottish. You're not alone, many of my readers ask me if their surname is Irish or Scottish. In this letter I hope to answer this question for you and give you some facts about Irish vs Scottish surnames.

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Is my Surname Irish or Scottish?

One of the most frequent questions I get asked by my readers is; ‘Is my surname Scottish or Irish?’ One of them (with the surname Scott!) asked  “Is Scott Irish or Scottish?” (I had to read that one twice).

Now, I don’t know about her particular circumstances, but I thought it was a great question to open up some facts about Scottish versus Irish names.

Is your surname Scottish or Irish?

My original (and somewhat smart!) answer to her was “If I told you Scottish comes from the Latin for Irish, but the surname Scott is one given by the English, and found in Ireland would you believe me ?”

And that kind of explains the complications around how surnames such as Scott evolve over time.

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The original Latin name for Scotland was “Alba”. The original Roman name for an Irishman was “Scotus”. Overtime, the area to the north of Scotland (where the Gaels were) became known as “Scotland” (or – land of the Irish!).

Back to the Scott surname.

In the highlands of Scotland, you had the Gaels (and the language they spoke was Scots Gaelic – an offshoot of old Irish) – and in the lowlands near the border with England, you had the non-Gael Scottish.

There was a particular clan in this border area that came to be known as the “Scotts” by the English – and they adopted the name as their own clan name. So, you could say that Scott is a Scottish name – named so by the English!

What about the Scotts in Ireland?

Well, many of this particular clan moved to the north of Ireland in the 1600s to escape religious persecution at the time. Today you will find Scott as a very popular surname in Northern Ireland. Mostly in counties Down and Antrim – centred in the Belfast and Lisburn areas and the Ards peninsula.

And one final “complication”! When the Scottish “gallowglass” came to Ireland (mercenary soldiers from the western isles of Scotland) – they were initially known “Albanach” in Ireland (Alba was the earlier Roman for Scotland). However over time as surnames were taken – Albanach became known as “Scott” in Ireland. So, do you have a Warrior Gallowglass surname? Click here to see if your surnames on our list.

So that’s the answer – Scott was originally a Scottish name, they just got named that by people from other countries!

Hopefully that gives you a clearer picture of whether your surname is Irish or Scottish.

Slán for now,


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