What is the origin of the last name Keith?

The last name Keith originates from Scotland and has both Celtic and Norse roots. It is derived from the Gaelic personal name "Ceiteach," which means "forest," "wood," or "dweller in the forest." This Gaelic name was later anglicized to "Keith" during the medieval period. Additionally, the surname has connections to the Old Norse word "Ketill," meaning a cauldron or helmet, which suggests Viking influence on the name's formation. The Keith family played a significant role in Scottish history, with notable figures holding titles such as the Earl Marischal of Scotland.

Countries of origin for the last name Keith

The last name Keith is of Scottish origin, derived from the Gaelic name MacDhaibhidh.

One of the earliest recorded forms of the surname is “Keth,” found in the 12th century. It is believed to have originated from a place called Keith in East Lothian, Scotland. The name evolved over time, with various spellings such as “Keth,” “Keath,” and “Keathe” appearing in different records from the 14th to the 16th century.

Keith is a patronymic surname, indicating that it was originally used to identify individuals as the son of someone named David. The prefix “Mac” in MacDhaibhidh means “son of” in Gaelic, and “Dhaibhidh” is the Scottish Gaelic form of David.

The MacDhaibhidh clan, originally from the Keith area, held lands in the northeastern part of Scotland. They were prominent during the medieval period and played a significant role in Scottish history. The clan is known for its association with the famous Castle of Keith, which was their strongholds for generations.

During the 17th and 18th centuries, many Scots, including those with the last name Keith, immigrated to North America. This led to the spread of the name across the United States, where it is still relatively common today.

As with many surnames, the popularity of Keith as a given name has contributed to its prevalence as a last name. It is also worth noting that the last name Keith has been adopted by individuals of non-Scottish origins, possibly through marriage or other connections.

Etymologically, the name Keith can be analyzed as follows: the Gaelic MacDhaibhidh consists of “Mac,” meaning “son of,” and “Dhaibhidh,” the Gaelic form of David. The name David is derived from the Hebrew name דָּוִד (Dāwīḏ), meaning “beloved.” Therefore, the last name Keith can be understood to signify “son of the beloved,” reflecting its roots in the patronymic system and possibly highlighting the significance of the name David within the family lineage.

While the known facts about the last name Keith provide a solid foundation of understanding, much remains unknown about its individual bearers throughout history. Their specific stories, accomplishments, and contributions are lost to time. However, the rich history of the Keith name and its association with Scottish heritage continue to captivate our imagination, leaving ample room for speculation and further exploration.

Interesting facts about the last name Keith

  • The surname Keith is of Scottish origin.
  • It is derived from the Scottish Gaelic personal name “Ceiteach,” meaning “forest descendant” or “woodland dweller.”
  • The surname Keith can be traced back to the ancient Clan Keith, one of Scotland’s oldest clans.
  • The Clan Keith takes its name from the ancient Pictish province of Marischal, located in present-day Aberdeenshire, Scotland.
  • One of the most famous bearers of the surname Keith is Sir William Keith, the 4th Earl Marischal, who played a significant role in the Jacobite uprisings of the 17th century.
  • Keith is a relatively common surname in Scotland, particularly in the northeastern parts of the country.
  • Over time, the surname Keith spread to other parts of the world through Scottish emigration, notably to countries like Canada, the United States, and Australia.
  • The surname Keith has also been anglicized or translated into different variations, such as Keath, Keithe, MacKeith, and McKeth.
  • Notable individuals with the surname Keith include American journalist and author Brittany Pettersen Keith and Scottish composer Toby Keith.
  • The name Keith gained popularity as a given name in the mid-20th century, partially due to the influence of 20th-century American actor and singer Brian Keith.

Name Rank


There are around 48487 people with the last name Keith in the US

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