The placenames of Scotland owe their origins to several different cultural groups. While it’s true to say that the vast majority of Scotland’s placenames are Gaelic, or at least are Gaelic in origin, there are also pre-Celtic, Pictish, British, Norse and more modern English names.
The earliest placenames in Scotland – as with many other countries in the world – belong to the rivers, some of which are pre-Celtic.
Whether or not the Picts spoke a Celtic language is a matter for conjecture. Some believe that Pictish was a non-Indo European language with links to modern day Basque, while others argue that it was Celtic and developed into a British language that eventually went on to become modern Welsh. What can be said for sure is that before the Scotti tribe brought the Gaelic language to Scotland, British was spoken in Scotland, and left us the placename elements Aber-, Cat-, Dol- and Pit-.
Later, Norse and English placename elements were brought to Scotland by Vikings in the north of Scotland and Angles in the south-east of Scotland.
To view a list of British / Pictish placenames, click here.
These pages will be updated on a regular basis, so please check back.