Etymology & Historical Origin of the Baby Name Duncan

Duncan is the English form of the Scottish-Gaelic name Donnchadh from the elements “donn” meaning “brown” and “cha(dh)” meaning “warrior”. Donnchadh originated as an ancient Celtic nickname for a brown-haired Scottish warrior. The name was famously borne by an 8th century Scottish saint and two medieval Kings of Scotland (one of whom was famously murdered by Macbeth). Duncan is also a clan name originating in southwestern Scotland where the Celtic Scotti (Scots) first settled in the 4th century. In fact, Dúnchad mac Conaing was a 7th century king of western Scotland (known then as Dál Riata) until being defeated by the Picts (another Celtic tribe). It is uncertain if he’s considered the ultimate patriarch of the Duncans, but their clan motto is “Disce Pati” (Learn to Suffer or Endure). Sounds a little masochistic if you ask us. Probably the most famous Scottish Duncan, however, would have to be 11th century King Duncan I of Scotland (Alba) who was highly fictionalized in William Shakespeare’s play “Macbeth” (c. 1606). In essence the real King Duncan had a relatively uneventful and short-lived reign; although he was indeed murdered by Macbeth who would then assume the High Throne of the Scots after him. King Duncan II of Scotland was Duncan I’s grandson by his elder son Malcolm III. Although he reined only briefly (seven months) his story is interesting as well (see historical references below). Duncan is one of those super-Scottish male names along the lines of Malcolm, Colin, Bruce, Kenneth and Donald. Ironically, though, it’s really not that common in Scotland anymore.

All About the Baby Name – Duncan

Personality

OF THE BOY NAME DUNCAN

The Three energy is powerful and enthusiastic. These personalities are cheerful, full of self-expression, and often quite emotional. They have an artistic flair and "gift-of-gab" that makes them natural entertainers. Their joyfulness bubbles over, and their infectious exuberance draws a crowd. The Three personality is like a child - forever young and full of delight. They are charming, witty, and generally happy people. The Three personality lives in the "now" and has a spontaneous nature. Threes seem to live with a bright and seemingly unbreakable aura that attracts others to them. In turn, they are deeply loyal and loving to their friends and family. Luck also has a tendency to favor number Threes.

Popularity

OF THE BOY NAME DUNCAN

Duncan has managed to achieve regular (yet sporadic) usage since the 19th century. Most likely back then the name was primarily used among Scottish immigrants. As we turned into the 20th century, Duncan was bestowed on baby boys with only the lightest of moderation. The name became pretty unpopular by the late 1970s and came awfully close to falling off the charts altogether. Fortunately, this little Scottish charmer reversed his course on the charts and would achieve his peak popularity in the late 1990s at position #377 on the Top 1000 list (1997). In other words, Duncan has never been trendy and certainly never overused. Today the name is back down to rare usage. Unfortunately too many people associate this name with “Dunkin’ Donuts” or Duncan Hines. When in reality Duncan is one of the oldest Scottish names out there of Celtic/Gaelic origin. It has manly, “warrior”-like roots and a lot of Scottish pride. A great choice for a little brown-haired baby boy!

Quick Facts

ON DUNCAN

GENDER:

Boy

ORIGIN:

Celtic

NUMBER OF SYLLABLES:

2

RANKING POPULARITY:

821

PRONUNCIATION:

DUN-kәn

SIMPLE MEANING:

Brown warrior

Characteristics

OF DUNCAN

Communicative

Creative

Optimistic

Popular

Social

Dramatic

Happy

Cultural References to the Baby Name – Duncan

Literary Characters

OF THE BABY NAME DUNCAN

King Duncan is the first victim of the merciless husband and wife team in William Shakespeare’s tragedy, Macbeth, believed to have been written between 1603 and 1607, and superstitiously referred to in the theater as “the Scottish play”. Although based upon an historical figure, Shakespeare fictionalizes our Duncan, the King of Scotland, into a fair and kindly ruler who has one fatal flaw – he is unable to distinguish among those who are true to him and those who are not. It is his misfortune to believe in his distant relative and trusted captain, Macbeth, a trust ill-placed. Once tempted by the three witches to believe he might be king, Macbeth, and his wife beside him, will not rest until Duncan is put to death in order to make the prophecy come true. Even more dastardly is the fact that Macbeth kills Duncan while the king is visiting his household in order to praise him for his successes in battle. The gracious and unsuspecting Duncan is led to the chambers of hospitality that become chambers of horror. With the benevolent king’s death, anarchy reigns and more and more blood is shed in order to stabilize Macbeth’s rule. It is not until Duncan’s son, Malcolm, regains the throne, that the order and peace that were Duncan’s legacy are restored. In the meantime, we may be sure that the death knell that tolled summoned Duncan not to hell, but heaven.

Macbeth

Popular Songs

ON DUNCAN

I Love To Have A Beer With Duncan
a song by Botany Bay Singers

Duncan and Brady
a song by The Johnson Mountain Boys

Duncan
a song by Paul Simon

Famous People

NAMED DUNCAN

Duncan I (11th century King of Scotland)
Duncan II (11th century King of Scotland)
Duncan Hines (namesake of food products)
Duncan Keith (hockey player)
Duncan Sheik (singer/songwriter and musician)
Duncan Ferguson (Scottish footballer)
Duncan James (English singer)

Children of Famous People

NAMED DUNCAN

We cannot find any children of famous people with the first name Duncan

Historic Figures

WITH THE NAME DUNCAN

We cannot find any historically significant people with the first name Duncan