Most common Scottish surnames


23 March 2021
The most common last names in birth, marriage and death registers in Scotland were revealed by the National Records of Scotland (NRS) in 2020. Find out more about Scottish surnames and

The National Records of Scotland (NRS) revealed the most common surnames of 2020 in data published on 23 March 2021.

The paper on which the data is based, Surnames in Scotland over the last 140 years, was originally published in 2003.

The names Smith, Brown and Wilson have been the top three most common surnames from 1975 through to 2020.

Most common Scottish surnames

The lists of the surnames that occur most often in Scotland’s registers of Births, Marriages and Deaths count the surnames of each child for births, of both parties (e.g. bride and groom) for marriages, and of the deceased for deaths. Different spellings are counted separately. Surnames which occurred fewer than ten times (in total) in a year do not appear in the list for that year.

The surnames from the birth, marriage and death registers may not be representative of the surnames of the population of Scotland as a whole, as:

  • they include the surnames of non-residents who were born / married / died here
  • they exclude the surnames of residents who were born / married / died elsewhere
  • some age-groups have very low birth, marriage and death rates, whereas others account for most births, marriages and deaths
Content continues after advertisements

The 10 most common Scottish surnames 

The 2020 list is (with 2020 occurrences in brackets):

  1. Smith (2,719)
  2. Brown (1,970)
  3. Wilson (1,886)
  4. Robertson (1,796)
  5. Campbell (1,749)
  6. Stewart (1,675)
  7. Thomson (1,658)
  8. Anderson (1,511)
  9. Scott (1,194)
  10. MacDonald (1,146)

Read the full surname data on the National Records of Scotland website.

Scottish surnames and family history

For the genealogist, Scottish surnames offer a rich and intricate tapestry of history, tradition, and heritage.

Rooted in the Gaelic, Norse, and Anglo-Saxon languages, Scottish surnames often reveal clues about an individual's ancestral origins, occupation, or physical characteristics.

From familiar Scottish surnames like MacLeod, Campbell, and Stewart, which denote kinship and clan affiliation, to more descriptive names like Armstrong (meaning 'strong arm') or Black (indicating dark hair or complexion), each surname carries with it a story that can provide valuable insights into a family's past.

Read more about surnames

Find out more about one-name studies

Founded in 1979 the Guilld of One-Name Studies is the world’s leading organisation for one-name studies and surname research. Find out more by visiting the website.