Celebrating the heritage of the lands our surname derived from.

Meaning of the Kincaid name

The Kincaid surname is of territorial origin being taken from the lands of Kincaid in the Parish of Campsie, Stirling County, Scotland. 1 The lands are located north of Kirkintilloch, in the north-west angle formed by the River Kelvin and its tributary the Glazert. They are located about 9.5 miles north east of the center of Glasgow City.

It has been thought that the placename is Gaelic in origin. One notable source suggested that it is likely derived from the Gaelic ceann càidhe, meaning "at the head of the quagmire", or from the Gaelic ceann cadha, meaning "at the head of the pass." 2 Another source, suggested the interpretation of the Kincaid name is that of ceann cath meaning "head of the battle." 3

The first suggestion seemed possible as the Kincaid lands were indeed bounded on the south by quaggy land. It is believed that the Romans had caused the Glazert and Kelvin rivers to flood the area in front of the Antonine wall - located on the other side of the Kelvin river and opposite the southern boundary of Kincaid lands - as an extra defense feature. Much of the area became swampy and the higher points formed little islands resulting in the Inch (ie. island) prefix to a number of points in the vicinity. The area was subsequently drained but has been prone to flooding throughout its history. 4 The suggestion of ceann cadha also seemed plausible since the Kincaid lands are situated at the head of the narrow valley between the Kilpatrick Hills and Campsie Fells. Many have preferred ceann cath and felt that it signified that the Kincaid founder was a warrior who led his army into battle. However, it is clear that the Kincaid name was first associated with the lands. Regarding a battle site, there were legends in the area of a battle with the Danes in the nearby Craigmaddie Moor. 5 Technically the battle could have started or ended on the Kincaid lands.

However, it is now believed that the placename is not Gaelic in origin. The name first appears on record in Latin charters in 1238/9 as Kyncaith.6 It is certainly a Brythonic name whose meaning is unknown and perhaps lost in time.7 This is supported by knowing that the town of Kirkintilloch, which lies adjacent to the Kincaid lands, was Brythonic in origin; namely Caerpentaloch for "the fort at the end of the ridge."8 Kincaid likely once started with Pen before being replaced with the Gaelic Cinn.7 It was probably originally neoBrittonic "Pen ced."9


  1. Black, George F. The Surnames of Scotland: Their Origin, Meaning, and History. New York: The New York Public Library, 1946. 399.
  2. Johnston, James B. Placenames of Scotland. London: John Murray, 1934. 224.
  3. Sims, Clifford Stanley. The Origin and Signification of Scottish Surnames. New York: Avenel Books, 1969. 63.
  4. Cameron, John. The Parish of Campsie. 1892. Glasgow: Strathkelviv District Libraries & Museums, 1985. 216-217.
  5. Nimmo, William. The History of Stirlingshire. 2 vols. Glasgow: Thomas D. Morison, 1880. I: 56-58.
  6. "Cartularium Comitatus de Levenax: Ab Initio Seculi Decimi Tertii Usque Ad Annum M.CCC.XCVIII." Ed. James Dennistoun Jr. Edinburgh: Maitland Club, 1833. Published in Notices From The Local Records of Dysart. Glasgow: James Hedderwick & Son, 1853. 30-31. Charter No. 29.
  7. William F. H. Nicolaisen, Honorary Research Fellow, Aberdeen University, Scotland. Email to Peter A. Kincaid dated 8 August 2000. Professor Nicolaisen is the leading expert in Scottish toponymy and is internationally known in the field of onomastics. He is the author of Scottish place-names: their study and significance (London: Batsford, 1976).
  8. Horne, John, (ed). Kirkintilloch, by select contributors. Kirkintilloch: D. MacLeod, 1910.
  9. Dr. Alan G. James. Email to Peter A. Kincaid dated 28 June 2007. Dr. James is an expert on neoBrittonic placenames being the compiler of Place-Name evidence for Brittonic/Cumbric in N. England and S. Scotland. This is a searchable database of P-Celtic elements in place-names being installed on the website www.spns.org.uk of the Scottish Place-Name Society under the title BLITON (the Brittonic Language in the Old North).