Mairead and Scott are expecting their first child -- a little girl -- in a few weeks. They are both Scottish (complete with a typically Scottish surname), but are currently living abroad.
Mairead contacted me to say that she and Scott are struggling to agree on names. Mairead is keen to have a Scottish name that is "preferably something quite unusual" as she wouldn't want their daughter to be one of several in her class, either were they live, or in the UK. Isla is out for example because, although she likes it, it's too popular.
Scott would like a Scottish name but he is not as adamant about it as Mairead is. He is also concerned that an unusual Scottish name would be difficult for people to pronounce. This doesn't bother Mairead -- in fact she quite likes it -- as she has often found people not knowing how to pronounce her own name a good conversation starter.
The only name they currently agree on is Breagha. They also both like Ailsa, but it is currently in use in the family so would consider it for a middle name.
Mairead's list (Scott isn't keen):
Scott's list (Mairead isn't keen):
Isobel - Mairead has convinced Scott that Ishbel would be a better option but neither of them love it.
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I fully sympathise with you both. One is pulling towards the unusual -- the other is moving towards traditional. The good news is that by selecting a Scottish name, you both share the same goal. The common ground to work with is finding an underused or off the radar Scottish name that isn't to hard to pronounce.
Familiar but not too popular:
There are some fantastic Scottish-heritage choices which are outside the top 50 in Scotland and the rest of the UK.
Arabella -- Though she travels, remarkably well, Arabella's routes are thoroughly Scottish. It's similar to Scott's Isabella, but much less common. It ranks only #319 in Scotland and #157 in England and Wales. For an even rarer choice, how about the medieval Scottish variants Arabel or Orabel.
Annabel -- Like Arabella, Annabel also started life in Scotland, as a variant of Amabel (Latin for "lovable"). The spelling Annabelle is in the top 100 in England and Wales (but lower down at #63) whereas it's #123 in Scotland. Annabel is even less common.
Iona -- With just as much femininity and history as Isabella and Imogen, Iona is a fantastic Scottish choice (and remarkably beautiful island) that is little used outside of Scotland. It is #62 in Scotland, though that only equated to 85 births in 2013.
Alba -- Nothing says Scotland better than the Scots Gaelic name for the country. As an added bonus, Alba is fashionable but outside of the top 100.
Una -- A Scottish classic, Ùna (or Oona if preferred) both means lamb in Gaelic and "the one" in Latin, making it more broadly accessible.
Of the radar gems:
I've opted here for uncommon choices that aren't to hard to pronounce internationally, yet will still be conversation starters by virtue of their unique quality.
Vaila -- Derived from a Old Norse name Valey, possibly meaning "Celt island, battlefield island" or "mighty island,", lovely Vaila is a little island in Shetland. It has had some use as a given name, but is remarkably uncommon. Only 183 (including as a middle name) have been registered in Scotland between 1855 and 2013 -- mostly in Shetland itself.
This is probably my favourite underused Scottish gem. It's easy to pronounce (VAY-la), has lovely lyrical syllables and a pretty island namesake.
Lilias -- Lily is popular, and yet pretty chic vinatge choice Lilias is very underused. A beautiful and striking Scottish form of Lilian, Lilias can also be spelt Lillias or Lileas (LIL-esh).
Marsaili -- Marsaili looks very Scottish, sounds very Scottish (is very Scottish) but isn't a headache for non-Scottish natives -- far from it. It is uncommon and little known out side of scotland though, which makes a great conversation starter. Maisie has often been used as a diminutive.
Eriska -- Much like Vaila, Eriska is a little Scottish island that I'm surprised hasn't caught on more given the popularity of Isla, Skye, Ailsa etc. It has had use as a given name, though it's extremely uncommon (11 since 1855).
Kerrera -- And for my last island offering, how about Kerrera, or Gaelic spelling Cearrara, a pretty island in the Hebrides? Much like Eriska, it does have usage as a given name but it is very rare (12 since 1855).
Merrilees -- Melodic Merrilees is another Scottish placename, this time hailing from West Lothian, but now only found as a surname and given name. File it in the "uncommon" section with only 121 registrations since 1855. and alonside celebrity chef/TV presenter Merrilees Parker.
Andrina -- Once upon a time, the Scottish were famous for their feminising popular masculine names, generally with the suffix -ina. Williamina, Alexandrina, Thomasina and even Hughina and Magnusina were common once, all generally with the sweet diminutive Ina. Andrina is one of thos traditional Scottish feminisations that sounds delightfully modern and underused. As are Alexina and Adamina.
Bethia -- Bethia is the British form of the biblical name Bithiah, given a distinct Scottish heritage by its popular use for centuries to render Beathag into English. These days it's all but a forgotten relic, ripe for revival.
Ailish -- A lovely Scottish form of Alice, technically the phonetic form Aileas.
Senga -- A uniquely Scottish phenomenon which was once generally thought to be an anagram of Agnes but is actually morely from the Gaelic word seang "slender."
Merren -- Mirren is currently #88 in Scotland (understandably -- it's lovely!) but pretty variant Merren is very neglected. Both are Scottish forms of Miriam.
Ealasaid -- If you want a name that will start conversations, Ealasaid is so quintessentially Scottish, uncommon and with a slightly tricksy pronounciation.
Elspeth -- Although it it quite quintessential as Scottish names go, this lovely vintage gem was worth a mention, not only as it is now thoroughly underused, but also because I love the old Scottish nickname of Elspie.
Hopefully some of these ideas will help. I'm sure the fabulous readers here will have more ideas for you.