Origins of the Name

New Research Paper by Keith Elliot Hunter

Click here to download the paper.


Miscellaneous Information

In Scotland it is frequently the case that the spelling of a place name seems quite unrelated to its pronunciation.  For example, Hawick, which is situated about 20 km north of our Chief's estate, Redheugh, is pronounced 'Hoik', as my wife and I found out when corrected by locals on our first visit to Scotland.

In all official records prior to 1500 our family and clan name was written in Old English as either 'Elwald' or 'Elwold', but it was always pronounced 'Elot', and it still is today in some parts of the Borders.  By 1600 the phonetic spelling had almost completely replaced the original spelling, and we were all Elots, both phonetically as well as officially in the written records.

Around 1650 someone added an 'i' to our name to make it Eliot, which, in the book: “The Elliots”; Lady Eliott says was “without a doubt, unfortunate”, as it confuses the Clan with a well known English Norman family called Eliot who settled in West England and South Wales, and whose name was derived from the Scandinavian 'Alyot', and who are not related to us.  Does that mean that all 'Eliots' are not related to Elliots, Eliotts, and Elliotts?  Not necessarily.  While there are some Eliots who are not Clan, but descended from the Norman Alyots,  DNA testing tells us that some Eliots are indeed Clan.  The word “clan” means “children”, so we are children, of children, of Elliots, who were children of the Elots, who were children of the Elwalds, who were  a fierce Celtic fighting Clan, originally from Angus, and then from around 1320, inhabiting the Border Regions of Scotland.  So, if “Eliot” derived from the Norman name “Alyot”, how can some Eliots be DNA or  genetically related to the Elliots of Scottish descent (Picts, Angles, Celts, and Britons)?  I have heard two explanations:

  1. intermarriage - our immediate past president, Peter Eliot probably did inherit his surname from the Norman Eliots of St. Germains, but in tracing his family tree he found he had some distinguished lady Elliots in his ancestry who were, in turn, descended from eminent and even famous male Elliots, and because of this, the Dowager Lady Eliott of Stobs, Clan historian and mother of the then Chief, Sir Arthur Eliott, was happy to welcome him into the family;
  2. literacy - the clergy at the level of Parish Priest, who were then also registrars of births, deaths , baptisms, and marriages,  were not very literate in the earlier parts of the last millennium, and would often spell things phonetically.  If they got it wrong at a baptism then neither Mum nor Dad were qualified to correct or even notice the mistake, so it is entirely likely that over the decades and centuries, some Elliots became renamed as Eliots;

 Where did the Elliotts with two “L”s and two “T”s come from?  I have also heard the following explanations:

  • hyphenated names - when an Eliott of Stobs married and Elliot of Minto and each wanted to show they were from the other place, instead of hyphenating their names as the Smythes and Jones would do to become the Smythe-Jones family, and because  Elliot-Eliott would look silly, maybe by her taking one of his “L”s and he taking one of her “T”s they could become  the Elliott family, not wholly from Minto, nor from Stobs, but with a foot in both camps;
  • religion - apparently some of the Elliots, with a single “T”, were the first family group within the Clan to take on Christianity as their religion, and just as some Christian groups today put the fish symbol on their car or after their name on business cards, these Elliots are said to have added the crucifix to their signature to indicate their religion, and this cross eventually became the second “T”.
  • relocation - after the "pacification" of the Scottish Borders in the decade following 1603, Elliots, Armstrongs and Johnsons, were hanged, outlawed and banished, and many went to Ulster, Ireland, during the 1609 Plantation. They settled particularly in Fermanagh where they seem to have formed a cohesive group, strong enough to ride in the 1641 rising (Irish Rebellion). Elliott with 2 “L”s and 2 “T”s is the most common spelling in Ireland. From Ireland Elliotts migrated to he USA, Canada, Australia, and new Zealand, as did Elliots directly from Scotland, hence the diversity of spellings.

With regard to who can be a Member of any Clan, The Lord Lyon, King of Arms, has decreed that:

“Every person who has the same surname as the Chief is deemed to be a member of the clan. Equally, a person who offers allegiance to the chief is recognised as a member of the clan unless the chief decides that he will not accept that person's allegiance”, and he goes on to include all lineal descendants of members of the Clan, so if your mother, grandmother or maternal grandfather was an Elliot, then even though your surname might be otherwise, you are qualified to be a member of the Clan if you so wish. Specifically, with regard to the various spellings of our name, the Lord Lyon has decreed that all Elliots, Eliotts, Elliotts, Eliots, and their descendants, are qualified to be Clan members and wear the Tartan.

As a matter of interest:

  • the official spelling of the name of the Clan and the Clan Societies, worldwide, is “Elliot”;
  • the Chief's surname is spelled “Eliott”;
  • my surname is spelled “Elliott”; and
  • the immediate past president spells his surname “Eliot”;

but we are all Clan, and all descendants of the Elots and Elwalds, once described by a French General as the “finest light cavalry in all of Europe”.


  • “The Elliots - the Story of a Border Clan”, by The Dowager Lady Eliott of Stobs, and Sir Arthur Eliott, 11th Baronet of Stobs, former Chief of the Elliot Clan.
  • “Clan” - David P. Elliot.
  • Various documents found by researching the Internet.

Elliot Crest

Boldly and Rightly

Clan Chief

Clan Chief Margaret Eliott
Chief Margaret Eliott
Margaret of Redheugh
Roxburghshire TD9 0SB