The Origin and History of the Scott Surname

Scott surname featured on a gravestone in Callander cemetery

This latest blog post explores the history, origin, and meaning of the Scott surname.  It has roots embedded in the historical landscapes of Scotland, particularly in the Scottish Borders.  So join me as I unravel this family name as part of my series on Scottish surnames.

Origin of last name Scott

The Scott surname has Irish roots, tracing its origin to the Latin term “scotti.”  Initially, this term referred to Gaelic-speaking people from Ireland.

Over time, it became associated with Scottish people who left their native land.

What does the last name Scott mean?

The name simply means a man from Scotland.

How common is the surname Scott?

In 2022, the Scott surname was the 9th most popular name in Scotland.

In particular, it is very common in the Scottish Borders.  The Scott family became the Dukes of Buccleuch who are based in the Borders.  Today, Richard Scott is the 10th Duke of Buccleuch.

The history of the Scott surname

The Scotts have a long history of military and political involvement.  They were known for their loyalty to the Scottish crown and played important roles in various conflicts and battles.

The earliest confirmed mention of the name dates back to Uchtredus filius Scotti, who was alive about 1130.   The Scotts of Buccleuch and the Scotts of Balwearie trace their lineage directly from him.

Descendants of Richard Scott, between the 12th and 14th centuries, received land grants near Ettrick.  The land extended along the Teviot and into Eskdale and Liddesdale, near the English border.  There the Scott surname gained prominence during a time when there were regular raids between feuding clans along the Scottish and English border. 

As early as the 13th century, the Scott surname was widespread. Michael Scott, known as the Wizard, died around 1235 and is likely to have been born in the Tweed Valley.

During the final decades of the 13th century, the last name Scott emerged in Fife. Michael le Scott, also known as Lescot of Fife, agreed to serve Edward I abroad in the year 1297.

Clan Scott

Clan Scott was part of the Border Reivers, a group of clans known for their raids and feuds along the English and Scottish border during the late medieval period.

Like many Scottish clans, it has a motto.  The motto of Clan Scott is “Amo,” which means “I love.” This reflects the values of love, loyalty, and commitment.

Scott clan crest

Tartan Scott

There are over 20 variations of the Scott tartan. Different branches of the Scott family will have their own specific versions.

It commonly features a combination of green, black, white, and blue with horizontal and vertical stripes.

Scott clan tartan

Variations of the surname Scott

As with many surnames, the spelling of Scott has evolved over time and can be found with various spellings, such as Scot, Scotte, and Scotto.

Variation of the Scott surname on a gravestone
William Scot buried in Meigle cemetery, Perthshire

Famous people with Scott surname

  1. Sir Walter Scott (1771–1832), was and still is an influential Scottish novelist and poet. His literary works, including “Waverley” and “Ivanhoe,” had a profound impact on Scottish literature.
  2. Ridley Scott (b. 1937): is a British film director and producer. He is known for his work on iconic films such as “Blade Runner,” “Alien,” and “Gladiator.”
  3. David Scott (b. 1932) is an American astronaut and engineer. He was the commander of the Apollo 15 mission and became the seventh person to walk on the Moon.
  4. Montgomery Scott, commonly known as “Scotty,” is a fictional character on the starship USS Enterprise in Star Trek. He is the chief engineer known for his engineering expertise, Scottish accent, and his famous phrase, “I’m givin’ her all she’s got, Captain!”
  5. Robert Scott (1857 – 1918) is a Victoria Cross recipient for bravery displayed during the assault on Moirosi’s Mountain on April 8, 1879. He volunteered to throw time fuze shells as improvised hand grenades over stone barricades. His actions helped to disrupt the enemy’s position.

In essence…

the last name Scott is rooted in the Latin term ‘scotti’. Over the centuries, it has evolved into an enduring family name. 

Thank you for joining me on this historical journey about the Scott surname.  I hope you enjoyed reading my post and if you want me to write about your ancestral Scottish surname, then let me know below in the comments.

Good luck with your research.

Until my next post, haste ye back.


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