Clan Arthur Names

Copy of the Hearth Tax Records for Argyll and Bute 1694
The Hearth Tax Records for Argyll and Bute 1694

The Variant Spellings of MacArthur

Clann Artair is the Gaelic spelling of Clan Arthur and the original form of the ancient family name - Meaning simply "The Children of Arthur." Mhic is the Gaelic for "son of" and Nhic is the Gaelic for "daughter of". It is from these ancient words that the modern "Mac" or "Mc" have been derived. The original spelling of MacArthur was Mhic Artair, meaning "Son of Arthur", hence the name Arthurson. Nhic has passed out of current usage, but was still prevalent amongst our female ancestors as "Nc" and "Nik" until a few centuries ago. The corruption of the ancient Gaelic language by the modern English tongue, coupled with historic bad spelling, indecipherable writing and regional accents, has given rise to a host of spelling variations of the Clan name. These include:

MacArtair, MacArthur, MacCarter, MacArtur, MacArtuir, MacArtor, MacArter, MacArther, Macarthur, Maccaiter, MacArtar, MacArta, MacArthor, MacArteer, MacAirtair, Maccart, Macart, Makarthour, Makarthure, Makarta, Magarta, Mecarta, Makcairter, Makcairtour, Mackartar, Makarturicht, Makarthricht, Makkerthur, and Makkerthyre.

Literacy was low in ancient Scotland and when the British Redcoat soldiers took Gaelic prisoners, rather than write Mhic repetitively, they recorded the names as M' followed by their best interpretation of the Gaelic surname, which is the cause of many of the spelling variations in all Clans. The M' gave rise to the very common Mc abbreviation (the apostrophe being changed to a flying c), which led to:

McArtair, McArthur, McCarter, McArthor, McArthure, McHarter, McCarthair, McKarter, McKerter, McKairtour, McArter, McArtor, McArtour, McCartor, McCartur, McArtur, McArther, McCarthair, McArta, Mcharter, and M’Arthur, M’Carter, M’carther, M’Carthur, M’Erther, M’Erthir, M’arthur, M’Carthair, M’artour, M’Carthour, M’Artoure, M’Arthor, M’Cartur, M’Airthour, M’Caiter, M’Kartur, M’Cairtter, M’Cartour, M’Arthure, and VcHarter.

It would appear that anyone carrying the variant of M' or Mc in their name can be fairly certain that at some point their ancestor(s) names were recorded by the British Government in some official capacity.

All of the names above are considered to be variant spellings of the surname. Chief John MacArthur, of that ilk, welcomes all those with the MacArthur surname into the clan, however you spell it.


A Sept is a stem or branch from the main clan, often headed by a younger brother of the chief line, or a family that followed another family's chief, or part of the extended family that hold a different surname. These smaller septs would then be part of the chief's larger clan. A sept might follow another chief if two families were linked through marriage, or, if a family lived on the land of a powerful laird, they would follow him whether they were related or not. Septs of Clan Arthur have historically included:

Arthur, Arthurson, Carter, Campbell, Dewar of Islay, MacSimon, and MacIndeor of Islay.

Arthur, Arthurson, and Carter are now considered variant spellings of Mhic Artair (see above), likely changed due to regional influence from migration to the Scottish Borders and England. Those names have also had variant spellings that include:

Artur, Airtair, Artuir, Arteer, Arthor, Arthure, Carther, Cartter, Caitter, Caiter, Cartur, Cartuir, and Carretter.

Campbell: see History.

Dewar derives from the Gaelic Deoradh which originally meant "Pilgrim" or "Wanderer" but later came to mean "Custodian", and the original Deoradh were the custodians of St.Fillan's relics. St.Fillan or Feolan came to Scotland from Ireland in the early 8th century with his uncle, St.Congan, and his mother St.Kentigerna (The daughter of a Prince of Leinster). Feolan eventually settled in Glen Dochart at the head of Loch Tay and left his mark in the place name of St. Fillans at the foot of Loch Earn to the south.

Before his death in 777AD, Feolan gave charge of his most precious items to his five most faithful lay brothers: Deoradh Coigerach (Custodian of the Pastoral Staff) Deoradh Bernane (Custodian of the Bell) Deoradh Fergy, Deoradh Meser and Deoradh Mayne. The last three are now forgotten objects, but Alter, Armbone and Manuscript have been suggested, although Meser (Mazer) is usually accepted as being a Holy cup used for the Mass ritual (learn about the Bute Mazer used by Robert the Bruce).

Dewar is also listed as a sept of Clan MacNab and Clan Menzies, clans who were prominent with the MacArthurs around Loch Tay, and it appears that the original Deoradh were drawn from these families.

MacSimon, MacSymon, McKimmon, McKimon, or McKeeman are variations of the name MacShiomoun a sept of the MacArthurs (George F. Black, Ph.D., The Surnames of Scotland - Their Origin, Meaning and History, ISBN 978-1-62654-059-0, page 564).

Several poems by the Balemartin Bard, John Maclean, spoke of a Malcolm MacArthur (Calum MacArtuir). In one verse it's remarked: "Mac Shiomoin ort mar fharainm 's MacArtair anns an rinndeal." Translated: "You're called Mac Shiomoin as a nickname and MacArthur in the rental." This verse refers to the Scottish practice of calling a person after their father's name (son of Simon) and the British legal practice of referring to your surname in legal transactions, such as rentals. So, according to the verse, Calum MacArtuir, called MacShiomoin, would have been the son of Shiomoin MacArtuir or Simon MacArthur. Everybody called him Calum Mac Shiomoin, but in all legal documents he was Malcolm MacArthur. It seems this branch of the family adopted the surname MacShiomoun after Calum. MacSimon, McKimmon, etc. are all Anglicizations of that Gaelic surname.

MacIndeor translates as "Son of the Custodian" (See Dewar).

In 2002, Chief James MacArthur, of that ilk decreed that all septs were released from Clan Arthur with the names Arthur, Arthurson, and Carter being accepted as variant spellings of MacArthur, and all other septs being released from obligation to the clan. However, it's understood that many in Campbell, Dewar of Islay, MacSimon, and MacIndeor of Islay may feel a strong connection to the clan, and are still welcome as members.

Irish Connections

MacCarthy derives from the Irish Mac Carthaigh and is the most common "Mac" name on The Emerald Isle, prominent in the South. Kings of the ancient Irish Kingdom of Munster (now known as County Cork) the MacCarthys had their main residence at Blarney Castle. Apart from the ancestral relationship between MacArthur and MacCarthy through the High Kings of Ireland, the Munster Coat of arms also displays a shield bearing three gold crowns on an azure background similar to Clan Arthur's.

MacArtain, MacArtan, MacCartan and MacCarton are names common in Northern Ireland around County Down and County Armagh. The name originates from Art or Artan in the diminutive. The oldest form of the name is MacAirt from Cormac MacAirt, a third century Dalriadic "king" of Ireland who has strong associations with Argyll - The homeland of Clan Arthur.

MacCartney and MacArtney translate as "Son of Artaine" and share the same root as MacArthur. The names were common in Galloway and Ayrshire from whence it spread to the Northern Irish counties of Antrim, Down and Armagh. Glen Artney and Strath Gartney are to be found in Central Scotland.