Unveiling the Anderson surname

Highland cow on a hill to represent the Scottish Anderson surname

About the Anderson family name

The Scottish surname “Anderson” is one of the most common names in Scotland.  In 2022, it was the 8th most common last name in Scotland.  So, it has been added to the list of Scottish surnames where you will find out all about other popular Scottish family names.

What does the surname Anderson mean?

In Scotland, it was common to form patronymic surnames by adding “son of” to the father’s name, so “Anderson” originally meant “son of Andrew“.  Over time, as surnames became permanent, individuals with the name Andrew or their descendants adopted Anderson as their surname.

The name Andrew was originally a Greek name for ‘manly’ or ‘strong’.

Origin of the Anderson surname

Although the Anderson surname is prevalent in Scotland, with many Scottish clans adopting the name, it is also found in England and Scandinavia.

Is Anderson a Viking name? 

The surname Anderson has links to Scandinavia through historical migrations.  Vikings used to raid, establish settlements, and trade with various parts of the British Isles, including Scotland.  This interaction led to the exchange of names and cultural influences.  As a result, some Scottish surnames, including Anderson, have Norse origins.

The history of the Anderson surname

The history of the Anderson surname in Scotland is rich and diverse, like many Scottish surnames.

Andrew was a disciple of Christ.  He later became the patron saint not only of Russia, Romania, Prussia, Amalfi, and Patras in Greece but also of Scotland.  According to legend, the relics of Saint Andrew were transported from Constantinople to St Andrews in Scotland.  Regardless, it was in the mid-10th century that Saint Andrew became the patron saint of Scotland.  Consequently, this led to the widespread popularity of the name Andrew.

Over time, as surnames became more fixed, individuals with the name Andrew or their descendants adopted Anderson as their surname.

Variations of the Anderson name

Over time, variations of the surname have emerged depending on regional accents, immigration patterns, historical factors, and language changes.  Therefore, when you are researching your family history, it is essential to consider these variations to ensure you locate all relevant family connections.

For example, Andersson is a common variant in Scandinavian countries as the double “s” is a common feature in Swedish surnames.  Another example is Andersen which is often found in Denmark and Norway.  It follows the Scandinavian naming tradition of adding “sen” to the father’s name.

Other variations include Andersone, MacAndrew, Andresen, Andreson, Andrews, Androsen, Enderson and Anders.

A gravestone showing the name Andersone
Gravestone in Culross cemetery with the surname Andersone

Clan Anderson

The Clan Anderson is an ancient and historically recognised clan.

It is challenging to pinpoint a single district where the Andersons were the dominant family.  However, several regions in Scotland have been inhabited by generations of Andersons. It is associated with several Scottish clans, including Clan Anderson of Ardbrake, Clan Anderson of Dowhill, and Clan Anderson of Candacraig.

Additionally, Fife has deep-rooted Anderson family ties, while the Lothians and Strathclyde regions also have Anderson connections.

Anderson family crest

Their clan crest has an oak tree, and their motto is “Stand Sure”.  In other words, this motto represents the enduring nature of the Anderson name, just like the oak tree’s strength and longevity.

Anderson family crest

Anderson clan tartan

The tartan has widespread popularity because it has a rich palette of colours and numerous narrow stripes.  It features shades of blue, and elements of green, red, yellow, white, and black.

Anderson tartan

Some famous Andersons

The Anderson surname is relatively common, and there have been many notable individuals with this last name across various fields.  Here are some famous people with the Anderson surname:

  • William Anderson (1884 – 1915) was a Scottish recipient of the Victoria Cross.  He was posthumously awarded the VC during the First World War for his actions during the Battle of Neuve Chapelle in March 1915.
  • Gillian Anderson is an American-British actress known for her roles in TV series like “The X-Files” (as Dana Scully) and “The Crown” (as Margaret Thatcher).  She received critical acclaim for her work in both television and film.
  • Thomas Anderson (1819-1874) was a Scottish chemist known for his work in the field of chemistry.  Born in Leith, near Edinburgh, he is renowned for his contributions to the study of quinine, a medication used to treat malaria.
  • Philip Warren Anderson (1923-2020) was an American physicist who was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1977.  His work was instrumental in advancing our knowledge of how electrons behave in complex materials.

Scots with the Anderson surname have been part of the Scottish diaspora, with significant numbers emigrating to countries around the world.

Overall, the Anderson surname is deeply rooted in Scottish history and is associated with a rich heritage.

If you have an interest in your Anderson family heritage you can reach out to me.  Together we can explore your ancestral history.

Good luck in tracing your Anderson ancestor.

Until my next post, haste ye back.


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