The Douglas surname

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A surname or family name is a name added to a given name. In many cases, a surname is a family name and many dictionaries define "surname" as a synonym of "family name". In the Western Hemisphere, it is commonly synonymous with last name because it is usually placed at the end of a person's given name there.

The concept of a "surname" is a relatively recent historical development, evolving from a medieval naming practice called a "byname". Based on an individual's occupation or area of residence, a byname would be used in situations where more than one person had the same name.

While surnames are usually one word, in some cases a surname comprises more than one word.

In the Western tradition of surnames, there are several types of double surname (also double-barrelled surname). If the two names are joined with a hyphen, it may also be called a hyphenated surname.

In British tradition, a double surname is heritable, and mostly taken in order to preserve a family name which would have become extinct due to the absence of male descendants bearing the name, connected to the inheritance of a family estate. Examples include Douglas-Hamilton and Douglas-Bate, or even Douglas--Scott-Montagu,  as used by Baron Montagu of Beaulieu.

Compound surnames in English and several other European cultures feature two (or occasionally more) words, often joined by a hyphen or hyphens. However, it is not unusual for compound surnames to be composed of separate words not linked by a hyphen, for example Andrew Douglas Miller, whose surname is "Douglas Miller" and the 10th Duke of Buccleuch is Richard Walter John "Montagu Douglas Scott".

Douglas as a surname

Douglas was the name of one of the oldest and most powerful of the Scottish noble families.  There is the following tradition in regard to the origin of the name. In the year 770 Solvathius king of Scotland, obtained a victory over Donald Bain of the Western Isles, by the assistance of a man who was unknown to him. After the battle, being desirous to see one who had done him so signal a service, he was pointed out to him with these words: "Sholto Dhuglass," behold that swarthy man.  In Argyllshire this surname is used as an Englishing of Maclucas (Maclugash).

The ancient Pictish/Scottish family also existed in Moray, where the family has a lomg and distinguished history.

William de Duglas, the first of the family in record, between 1175 and 1199, witnessed a confirmation charter by Jocelin, bishop of Glasgow to the monks of Kelso (Kelso, 454), and was a witness to another charter to the canons of Holyrood by William the Lion about the year 1200 (LSC., p. 44). Between 1204 and 211 William de Duueglas also witnessed a charter by Thomas, son of Thancard, in favor of the Abbey of Arbroath (RAA., I, 99). His son and heir, Archibald (Archabaldus, Archembald, Arkembaid, Arkenbald, Erkembald or Erkenbald) de Duueglas appeurs as a witness to numerous charters in the chartularies of Melrose, Kelso, Newbattle, and Moray.

Variations of the spelling have been recorded over the centuries: Dawgleiss 1540, Dogles 1633, Douglace 1504, Douglase 1429, Dougleische 1583, Dougles 1529, Douglles 1688, Dovglas 1499, Dowglace 1511, Dowglas 1679, Dowglass 1559, Dowglasse 1684, Dufglas 1225, Dulglace 1454, Dulglass 1433, Duueglas 1220, Dwglas 1688, Dwglass 1399. The old pronunciation of the name was Doo-glas, the modern Dug-las.

French spelling
If you have never studied French, you have more of a problem, but not the one you may think. You need to know how French is pronounced. Phonetic spelling occurs wherever the two languages meet. A francophone Notary will usually spell Douglas with a double ‘ss’, Douglass, because Douglas with one ‘s’ is pronounced Doog-lah. The Irish Bridget family settled for a while in Lotbinière County and their name became Bridgette, so neighbours would pronounce the last ‘t’. If you do speak a bit of French, you will understand how, and not be surprised that, O’Brien became Aubry, and Sauvé turned into Sophy.

However, there is a problem with this theory - most French Douglases use only one s.


Douglass Doeglas Dougluss Degalas
Dougllas Dooglas Dougalus Dikeoulias
Douglasi Doglass Decoulas D'Aglas
Dougalas Douglos Douglese Digalas
Dougleas Dogulas Dugglass Dicolas
Douglaas Dugalas Douglas-Aia D Glass
Douglase Duuglas Douglas-Way Dglassa
Douglaus Doglasi Daglas Dikulas
Douglasa Dogalas Dugles Dogales
Dougulas Duglasi Dogles Doglous
Doouglas Duoglas Deglas Dogoles
Douglaws Douglls Duklas Doguals
Douiglas Deuglas Diglas D Colas
Douglaes Dogolas Duclas Deculas
Douuglas Dugllas Doklas Dekolas
Duglas do Glas Doglos Decouls
Doglas Douglasyoh Duglus Dugalus
Dougls Dauglass Duglos Duclass
Douuglass Dougless Doglus Tugglas
Douglasii Dakoulas Toglas Dugloss
Dougleass Dougalis Dugals Duggles
Dougllass Douklias Diakoulas Dauglss
Doiuglass Douglous Daglass Dugglus
Douglassw Dougalss Dugless Dugllis
Duglass Dougleus Dagleas Duclaus
Dougles Deoglasi de Glas Duglous
Dauglas Dogolasi Duclias Dogless
Douglus Dugalase Decolas Dugglis
Deoglas Douglace Daglasi Daugles
Dowglas Dougloss Dokolas Doucles
Dougals Dowglass Dagalas

See also:
Origins of the Douglas surname



Sources for this article include:

• Bowman, William Dodgson. The Story of Surnames (London, George Routledge & Sons, Ltd., 1932)

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Last modified: Monday, 25 March 2024