Scottish surnamesScottish last names divide themselves into two classes: Highland and Lowland.
In very few instances the names were considered before the eleventh century. They became significantly better known only since the thirteen century.
Just like English and other last names, the Scottish surnames have originated in various ways: derived from localities, as Maxwell, Nisbet, Ralston; baptismal names, such as Anderson, Bennett, Lawrence; trades, such as Baxter, Fletcher, and Nasmyth; offices, such as Bannerman, Grieve, Walker; professions, such as Clerk, Freer, Kemp; peculiarities of body and mind, such as Fairfax, Laing, May; armorial bearings, such as Cross, Heart, Horn; nativity, such as Fleming, Inglis, Scott; and from many other sources.
Highland surnames are chiefly patronymics, with various prefixes and additions, as Farquhar, Mackenzie, Robertson ; but there are some exceptions, a few being derived from localities, as Lennox, Murray, Ross; a good number from peculiarities, as Cameron, Campbell, Grant; and some from armorial bearings, and offices, as Frazer, Skene, Stewart.
Lowland surnames having been adopted mainly through Norman influence, are most frequently local, as Carmichael, Ridell, Rutherford; but many are derived from baptismal names, as Dickson, Henderson, Syme; from peculiarities, as Armstrong, Brown, Douglas; from armorial bearings, as Foulis, Heron, Lillie; from office, occupation, and trade, as Baillie, Hunter, Lorimer.
In Scotland, whoever joined a particular clan, no matter what his position or descent, assumed the surname of his chief, and this was accepted as an act of loyalty; it does not follow, therefore, that all who bear the same surname are descended from a common ancestor.
Originally, all last names had a meaning, but in very many cases this has been lost because of the corruptions in spelling, for their orthography has only been fixed in the last three centuries.
It is, therefore, probably impossible to render correctly the origin and signification of all Scottish surnames.