When was the Menzies Surname used in Scotland

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The following interesting interpretation of the origins of the SURNAME is by Professor Henri Moissett of the University of Angers, France. 1979.

A Linguistic Essay on the treatment of two names belonging to a common Indo-European word for 'The Moon' This development will be considered from three standpoints -

  • Phonology
  • Morphology
  • Semantics


From the Indo-Europen 'stem' *me the Greek forms derive and infixed -/v/-, whose endings vary and imply a stress shift.

In Latin This stem forks into two different developments owing to whether it kept or lost its infixed -/n/-,

a. With the fixed -/n/-, the stem gives:


with fall of the post tonic vowel and shift of the stress back to the stem, except for the -ur- suffix which keeps it.




b. Without the infixed -/n/-, the stem gives:


with loss of the infixed nasal and lengthening of the preceding vowel and and duplication of the sibilant in order to show its unvoiced position between two vowels.




In Norman-French /e/ checked in both stems dipthongs into /ei/ in the viiith century through i-mutation, spelt /ey/ in the North of France and in Normandy.

South of the River Loire and around the Massif Central, the first element of the new dipthong rounds to [oe] and to [o] in the xiith century, while the second element does not vary.

In the xvth century, South of the River Loire the second element turns to semi-vocalisation with loss of its accent which shifts over to the second element; the latter slightly levels down to [e] ;

[oi] -) [wi] -) [we]

with new spelling /oui/,

In the xvth century South of the River Loire, the second element levels down to an [a] with spelling /oi/.

In Scotland on the -n- stem will survive with a special treatment of dipthong /ei/,

Raising of the first element and reduction of the dipthong to a purely long vowel [i;],

In the xvth century, the unvoiced sibilant of the etymological consonantal group /ns/ will be voiced before a vowel and undergo a consonantal change through metathesis;

[ns] -) [nz]

[nzis] -) [niz]

as a rule, unstressed /i/ before a sibilant is followed by an unvoiced /e/ to give the new pronunciation a new spelling /zies/


From the Latin stem mens with bound morphemes -is, -a, and suffixes -ur-, and cum-, the French forms were derived.

In France and Scotland the sibilant was lost in the xith century to give men- forms, then mein- and the meyn- forms.

From the Latin stem mes- and with respect of the treatment of the long stretched vowel /e/, the following forms were derived:

mes -) meis -) mois -)

with addition of the new suffixes or endings, -on, -eur, -et, with or without any weakening of the suffix vowel, and the new ending -eur, between the xith and xvith centuries.


From the common Indo-European trunk

CONCLUSION To be completed



The Normandy ports of France are usually the first landfall for thousands of Scots who go motoring in mainland Europe. The UK motorway network makes Plymouth, Poole, or Portsmouth convenient embarkation ports from Scotland.

Once ashore at Cherbourg, Dieppe, Le Havre, or Caen, the natural urge is to head as quickly as possible for the chosen holiday resort. Unfortunately, most Scots pass through Normandy unaware that in this fertile area of rolling hills lie the roots of many Scottish surnames.

Normandy was colonised by land-hungry Norsemen in the early 10th century. Their leader, Rollo the Viking, signed a treaty with King Charles the Simple in 911 giving the Norsemen a permanent home on French soil. Over the next century and a half, the Vikings intermarried with the local population and adopted the French language. They absorbed the local culture so well their sons had to be taught Norse as a second language.

In 1066 Duke William of Normandy, Rollo’s grandson, set sail with 8000 men in a fleet of Viking longships to conquer England. From the descendants of three knights who sailed with William the Conqueror – de Brus; de Baillieul; and a Breton noble called Fitz Allan – were to come the Scottish Kings of Bruce; Balliol; and the founder of the ill-fated Stuart dynasty.

The Normans delighted in nicknames and puns. Robert de Comines, who sailed with the Conqueror in 1066, took his title from his fief of Comines in Flanders. His compatriots punned this into “cumin”, and aromatic herb, and from this comes the Scottish surname, Cumming. The three apparent wheatsheafs on the Cumming coat of arms originally portrayed bundles of the herb, and obviously the original nicknamed knight could take a joke on himself!

The first Comyn to settle in Scotland, in 1124, was William de Comyn, a prominent churchman who became Chancellor to David I. His nephew Richard de Comyn of Northallerton married the granddaughter of King Donald III in 1144, and thus his descendant became on of the competitors for the Scottish throne in 1291. The Comyns became the most powerful family in Scotland in the 13th century, when nearly a quarter of all Scottish earls were Comyns after their predecessors had married local Celtic Heiresses. Their power was destroyed by King Robert the Bruce after he won the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314, although the Badenoch family survived to become a Scottish clan in its own right. Sir William Gordon Cumming, chief of the clan, still holds the ancestral lands of Altyre in Moray.

Another nickname of “Le Grand” – the Big One, Big Yin even – was given to a knight who held land in Lincolnshire. His descendants moved to Scotland where Le Grand became altered to Grant, Sir Laurence le Grant being Sheriff of Inverness in 1258.

Some Norman adventurers took their titles from their newly-acquired estates in England. One Anglo-Norman knight styled himself “de Graegham” after his new manor which derived its name from Anglo-Saxon words meaning “Grey Home.” His descendants moved to Scotland where the name became Graham.

Another took his title “de Ramesai” from his new estate in Huntingdonshire and this became Scottified into Ramsay. One adopted his name from the manor of Hambledon in Leicestershire, and this became altered to the historic Scots name of Hamilton. Walter de Hamilton was first recorded in Scotland in 1200.

David I or Dauíd mac Maíl Choluim (Modern: Daibhidh I mac [Mhaoil] Chaluim; (c. 1084 – 24 May 1153) was a 12th-century ruler who was Prince of the Cumbrians from 1113 to 1124 and later King of Scotland from 1124 to 1153. David I King of Scots, spent much of his time in England, and was brother-in-law to the Anglo-Norman King Henry I of England. He had also married a Norman heiress, and greatly admired the efficient Norman administration.

When David inherited it in 1124, Scotland was a wild and savage land divided into seven provinces, each ruled by a Celtic Mormaer or sub-king prone to rise in rebellion. So when David returned to Scotland he brought with him the young Anglo-Norman knights who had been his companions in England, to help him establish a proper government. He gave these incomers grants of land and privilege, and over the next 50 years they were to found most of the great families of the Lowlands, among them the Houses of Bruce, Balliol, Boswell, Chisholm, Crichton, Comyn, Fraser, Gordon, Gifford, Lindsay, Maxwell, MENZIES, Melville, Montgomerie, Oliphant, Seton, Sinclair, Turnbull, and many others.

The new Norman Scots brought over religious communities from France and began to build great abbeys at Kelso, Melrose, Holyrood, Brechin and Dunblane. They divided Scotland into sheriffdoms to administer justice, and founded burghs to regulate trade. They married into the local Celtic aristocracy, and in many cases acquired a ready-made clan who in later years would adopt their chief’s territorial title as a surname.

The Charter of Sir Robert de Meyneris – MENZIES – gave him extensive land in Rannoch and specifically also granted him “the following”, the local tribal clan. Within a generation these Norman Scots would become almost more Scottish than the indigenous inhabitants.

Some younger sons also acquired land, and took their title from local place-names. The Gordons took theirs from Gurdon in Berwiskshire. The word comes from the Brittonic gor din, or Great Hill Fort. The Gordons were to acquire their traditional clan lands in the north in 1320, when Sir Adam de Gordon was granted land Strathbogie for services to Scottish independence. Similarly the family of Chisholm took their name from Cheseholm, in Roxburghshire, which means “the waterside good for producing cheese”. Some gave their own name to the lands they acquired. A minor knight called Hugo acquired an area of what is now Renfrewshire and established a small hamlet which he called, in Norman French, Hugo’s Ville. In time the suffix became the Anglo-Saxon word for a township: -ton. The bold Hugo’s -ton eventually became Huston and then Houson. Another knight called Maccus founded a hamlet in the Borders and named it Maccus’s Ville which in time became Maxwell. His descendants became one of the most powerful families in the land.

However, the majority of the Scots names that derive from the incoming Norman-Scots have their roots in Normandy, and the places from which they sprang still exist. The port of Dieppe is a good place to start. In the church of St Jacques is the Scottish Chapel, burial place of Bishop Reid and the Earls of Cassilis and Rothes, sent to witness the marriage of Mary, Queen of Scots to the Dauphin of France.

The main D1 road running south from Dieppe by-passes the little village of Mesnieres-en-Bray from whence comes the name of MENZIES.

The first recorded of that name in Scotland, Robert de Mesnieres or Meyneris, became Chancellor of Scotland in 1249 and was granted lands around Weem in Perthshire where Castle Menzies stands today.

A short detour from Mesnieres is the little village of Baileul-Neuville, in whose church lies Jeanne, sister of Edward Bailliol, although the principal lands of the Balliol family were at Bailleul in Flanders. The family provided two kings of Scots – John Balliol from 1292-12-96 and Edward Balliol from 1332-1333. The first of the name recorded in Scotland was Bernard de Baileul in the reign of David I.

Another short detour, west of Mesnieres, leads to Fresles from which derives the proud Scots names, Fraser. This is probably another pun on a place-name, for a similar sounding word is fraises meaning strawberries, and the Fraser coat-of-arms portrays this plant. Simon de Fresles, or Frissel, was granted land in West Lothian in 1160, and about 1360 his descendant Simon Fraser married another Norman Scot heiress and through her acquired land around Beauly, where the Frasers have been ever since.

Near Neuchatel-en-Bray is the village of Mortemer, from whence come the Mortimers. Ralph de Mortemer followed the Conqueror in 1066, and a descendant came north with David I. Mortimer’s Deep in the Firth of Forth is named after Allan de Mortemer, who gifted lands in Fife to the island monastery of Inchcolm on condition he was buried there. Unfortunately, his lead coffin fell overboard and disappeared into the watery depths now called after him!

The remarkable Normans have left their mark on almost every facet of Scottish life – from Sheriffs who administer justice, to feu duty paid on property. They have also passed on their Normandy names to millions of Scots all over the world.

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