Traditional Scottish / Gaelic Names for Highland Calves

Choosing a name is very personal and while there are numerous ways of doing this, many like to use names that have a Gaelic derivation in keeping with the centuries of history of this breed back in Scotland. Some of these names can be quite difficult to pronounce and through this article we will try to give some assistance with pronunciations where possible.

Some breeders will use place names after perusing a map of Scotland, and especially the islands of the west coast of Scotland where the breed is heralded to originate (e.g. Skye).

Click on these links below for some suggestions for names:


Some Naming Systems

In many of the folds back in Scotland, a heifer calf will be given the same name as her dam but will have a number after this to differentiate between them (like if Morag 4th had a heifer calf, this calf would be named Morag 5th). All females in this line would have the same name so that the line can be followed over the decades. Many use this because they believe that the female lines are extremely important.
Some will do a similar thing but just name the calf with a name beginning with the first letter of the dam's name. If Morag has a heifer calf, they might call her Meghan. Here the first letter denotes the female line.
Many breeders have two names, the first name being what you call the calf, and the second being a descriptive word for that animal (often a colour). Like Morag Ruadh with ruadh meaning red.

We have gathered a number of traditional names over time that we have listed here but you can also purchase a number of Celtic or Gaelic baby name books for inspiration. Even a Scottish/Gaelic-English dictionary can help finding that name or word that best describes that beautiful calf.

Some Tips with Pronunciation of Gaelic Words

The first ones are fairly straight forward:
'a'    -    a short 'a' as in 'bat'
'e'    -    a short 'e' as in 'bet'
'i'     -    a short 'i' as in 'bit'
'o'    -    a short 'o' as in 'cot'
'ar'   -    a long 'a' as in 'car'
'ee'   -    a long 'e' as in 'bleach'
'oo'  -    a long 'o' as in 'cool'

Some sounds not common in English:
'eu'    =    should be said as in French 'fleur'
'bh'    =    'v' as in 'very'
'ch'    =     as in Bach, made from the back of the mouth as if trying to clear an obstruction
'dh'    =    'y'as in 'yell' when in contact with 'i' or 'e', or
          =    'gh' as in 'ugh' when in contact with 'a', 'o' or 'u'
'fh'    =    always silent in nouns
'gh'   =    almost the same as 'dh'
'mh'  =    'v' but with some air of going through the nose
'ph'   =    'f' as in 'farm'
'sh'    =    'h' as in 'hill'
'th'    =    'h' as in 'hill'

Click on these links to see a list of names we have gathered over the years. Some of the names will work for both sexes as many are just descriptive words.




1) Traditional Gaelic Boy Names - web page with an extensive list of male names, pronunciations and meanings.

2) Traditional Gaelic Girl Names - web page with a short list of male names, pronunciations and meanings.

3) Scottish Gaelic Pronunciation - web page with some great tips on how to say they nearly unpronounceable names.