About the Scottish Rintoul surname

Map of Scotland featuring Scottish surname Rintoul.

This post is about the Rintoul surname as part of my series on Scottish surnames.  I have discovered the origin, meaning, and history of this very Scottish surname, as well as as some famous individuals with the surname Rintoul – can you think of one?

The history of the Rintoul surname

This surname has been used in Scotland for over six centuries.  The earliest mention is from the 1360s when a deed mentioned a clausum, another word for an enclosed estate, named ‘Rentoule’ near Milnathort.

Land from the estate was advertised for sale in the 1840s.  It gives an overview of the estate:

1843 advertisement for sale of land at Rintoul farm.
Perthshire Courier, 1 June 1843

The origin of the Rintoul name

Until this week, I had not realised that this Scottish surname originated from a farm on a hill outside Milnathort in the parish of Orwell.  It turns out this farm is a property that I always wanted to live in because of its views over the valley towards Loch Leven.

Image of Rintoul farm near Milnathort on a grey evening.
Rintoul farm on a grey evening – photo credit Daniel Rintoul

Nevertheless, the Rintoul surname is a placename.  The name has evolved over the centuries as shown in the maps below. For example Rentowle in 1642 and Rentoul in 1747.

Variations of the Rintoul name displayed on old maps.
Left: James Gordon’s 1642 map of Kinross-shire. Right: Roy Military Survey Map 1747-1755 (Reproduced with permission the National Library of Scotland)

Scottish people adopted local surnames either because they owned an estate with that name or simply lived in a place and later moved away taking the name with them.

Interestingly, when I was researching a family at a nearby farm at Little Seggie, the tenants were called Rintoul – perhaps a coincidence?

Wait… could it be French in origins?

Like many Scottish surnames, the Rintoul surname may have arrived in the UK with the Normans in 1066.  They were encouraged to settle in Scotland by King David I of Scotland and his successors.  In particular, they were also encouraged to adopt surnames from their land holdings.

Therefore, the surname Rintoul in French, rentoile, does mean ‘to put a new canvas over an old one,’ possibly symbolising a new life in Scotland.

The meaning of Rintoul

So, what is the meaning of the Rintoul surname in Scotland? Sources, such as David Dorward (author of ‘Scottish Surnames’) speculate that it might be related to the Gaelic phrase Rann an t’sabhail, which translates to ‘barn part.’  Alternatively, other Gaelic scholars, such as Lawrence Rintoul of Langley, propose that Rintoul could come from Ruidhe an t-Sabhail, meaning ‘the slope of the barn,’ or Rinn an t-Sahhail, signifying ‘headland of the barn’ or ‘barnhead.’

If the idea of a surname originating from something as mundane as a barn seems unappealing, consider the Scottish Royal Family’s surname, Stewart. Apparently this surname comes from Sty-Ward, meaning ‘keeper of the pig sty’!!

Is there a Rintoul clan?

Since the place name is located between the Highlands and Lowlands, the Rintoul family does not belong to a clan.

Is there a Rintoul tartan?

There is no tartan registered under the Rintoul name.  Although apparently the Perth District tartan is worn by some Rintoul members.

Variations of the Rintoul surname

The surname Rintoul has several variations. These variations reflect the historical evolution and regional adaptations of the name.  Here are some of them:

Rintool, Rintoole, Rintoule, Rentoul, Rentoule, Rentool and Rentoole.

Crieff gravestone of James Rentoul
Gravestone of James Rentoul from Crieff Cemetery

Some Famous people with the Rintoul surname

  • David Rintoul (born 1948) – A Scottish actor, known for his roles in TV series like “Doctor Finlay” and “Pride and Prejudice” (1980), where he played Mr. Darcy.
  • Mairi Hedderwick, née Rintoul (born 1939) – A Scottish illustrator and author, best known for her series of children’s books featuring the character Katie Morag.
  • William Rintoul OBE (1870 – 1936): A British chemist who served as the President of the Faraday Society from 1934 to 1936.

Thank you for joining me on this historical journey about the Rintoul surname. Thank you also to Daniel Rintoul for his image of Rintoul farm and ideas for this post.

I hope you enjoyed reading my post and please remember to leave a comment below.  If you want me to write about your Scottish surname, then let me know below.

Good luck with your research.

Until my next post, haste ye back.


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