Edited by Carole P. Biggam, Carole Hough, Christian Kay and David R. Simmons
[Not in series 167] 2011
► pp. 161–170
Colours in the community
Surnames and bynames in Scottish society
The hundred most common surnames in Scotland include seven colour terms. Surnames developed from bynames, as extra names given to individuals to distinguish them from others of the same name. Bynames are still in use within some communities, including in some areas of Scotland. By investigating how colours are used in bynaming in a present-day community and comparing this diachronically with the colour bynames from which some surnames originated, it is possible to gain an insight into how people use colours in naming more generally. Interviews were used to investigate bynames synchronically in a close-knit community in the Western Isles of Scotland. This is a bilingual community where both Scottish Gaelic and English are spoken. Gaining examples from interviews, rather than written records, allows for a firmer understanding of why these names were bestowed. This can contribute towards explaining why and how colours were assigned to people in the past.