Campbell Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Select Campbell Meaning
Campbell is a Scottish name and comes from the Gaelic
bent, meaning crooked mouth.
Cailean Mor of
Lochawe was
said to have been given this nickname because he talked out of one side
of his
mouth. He was killed in a skirmish with the MacDonalds in 1296. A cairn still marks the spot where he fell.

Campbell Resources on

Select Campbell Ancestry

Scotland. This Campbell clan base was Argyll in the
Highlands, where their castle, Inveraray castle, built in 1654,
stands. Cailean Mor (the Great Campbell) had established the
family of Lochawe in the late 13th century and they prospered
their close alliance with Robert the Bruce.
The family spelling was initially Cambel and became Campbell

As the Dukes of Argyll, this family was influential in political
life in Scotland and England from that time onwards. The
Campbells are
remembered for the MacDonald massacre at Glencoe in
. Clan
Campbell took the British Government side during the 1715 and 1745
uprisings and thus did not suffer confiscations. Later Dukes were
Field Marshals, Cabinet Ministers, and a Governor General of Canada.

In addition
to Argyll, the main Campbell branches in Argyllshire have been those of:

  • Strachur, the
    oldest of the branches
  • Auchinbeck, which suffered financial reverses in the early
    18th century culminating in their bankruptcy in 1762.
  • and, outside Argyll, those
    of Glenorchy/Breadalbane (in Caithness), Loudoun (in Ayrshire), and
    Cawdor (in
    Inverness and subsequently in Wales).

Not all Campbells who held land were
clan-related. Daniel Campbell prospered as a merchant in Glasgow
in the
early 1700’s and was able to acquire, at a knockdown price, the islands
Islay and part of Jura from the profligate Campbell of Cawdor.

The pipe tune BaillInneraora or The Campbells Are
is a well-known Scottish tune.

Many Campbells moved to Ireland in the 17th century as part of the
settlement. Campbell was the fifth most common name recorded in Ulster
in 1890. It ranked third in Down, fourth
in Armagh,
and was also high in Tyrone, Antrim, Derry, and Donegal.

Campbells were earliest
in Donegal where many may have been descended from Scottish mercenary
Gallowglasses there. Duncan Campbell and his son Patrick were
recorded at
Kilmaccrenan barony in the 1650’s.
There has been a Campbell family of fiddle players from
Glenties for over a hundred years,
starting with James Campbell in the early 1900’s.

Robert Campbell had come
to county Down with three brothers at the time of the Ulster
plantations of the
early 1600’s. His great grandson the
Rev. William Campbell from Newry became the Presbyterian minister of
Armagh in
1764. Another Robert Campbell from
Scotland had fought at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690 and been granted
land in
county Down as a reward. His
Robert embarked for Pennsylvania in 1746.

Some Tyrone
Campbells may have Irish
, from the local Tir Eoghain sept of Mac

America. Campbells in America are either Scots or
Scots Irish in origin.

John Campbell, Scots Irish, had come to Augusta
county, Virginia in 1733. His son
William was born there in 1745. A
militia leader during the Revolutionary War, he was known as the
“bloody tyrant
of Washington county,” but distinguished himself at the Battle of Kings
Mountain. Campbell county in Virginia
was named after him.

Two Scots Irish immigrants into SW Virginia in the 1740’s
were the so-called “White David” and his cousin “Black
David” Campbell. From this stock came:

  • David
    , the Governor
    of Virginia in the 1830’s
  • William Campbell, the Governor of Tennessee in the
  • and Confederate General Alexander Campbell, after whom Fort
    Campbell in
    Kentucky was named.

later Scots Irish arrival from county Tyrone, Robert Campbell, came to
in the early 1820’s and headed west to St. Louis, Missouri. A frontiersman and fur trader, he was an
early explorer of the Rocky Mountains.
His home in St. Louis which he acquired in 1854 and his family
until 1938 is now a museum.

Another pioneer, this time in Texas, was Thomas
Lopton Campbell, a Texas Ranger and contemporary and friend of Sam
Houston. In 1889, at
the age of 79,
was one of the Sooners to stake a
land claim in Oklahoma.
His grandfather had arrived in America from Scotland and fought
in the
Revolutionary War.

Campbell’s Soup was started in Camden, New Jersey by Joseph
Campbell in 1869. His forefathers had come
to New Jersey in the early 1700’s and his father
James had been a blacksmith in
Fairfield township.

were in Nova Scotia from the 1750’s. One
of the first was Robert Campbell who had arrived with
Cornwallis, its first British Governor. Robert became a prominent
merchant in Halifax. James Campbell came to Londonderry township
from Ulster in
1762. Later arrivals were Loyalists like
Colin Campbell who had left New York for Shelburne in 1783


Select Campbell Miscellany

The Campbell Name.  It was Sir Cailein Mor Campbell’s grandfather Dugald of Lochawe who is said to have been the first given the nickname
“Cam Beul” since he apparently had the engaging trait of talking out
of one side of his mouth. Cam beul
means curved mouth in the Gaelic. This Duncan was so much loved by his
that they took his nickname as their family name and held to it even

The spelling of the name was
originally Cambel. Then when Robert the Bruce’s son King David came to
throne as King of Scots he brought with him a number of Norman knights
to whom
he gave lands in an attempt to introduce Norman efficiency in
David had been at the English court and admired the Norman system of
feudalism.  The use of the spelling
may perhaps have been as a result of Norman rather than Gaelic scribes
attempting to write the Gaelic name.

name Cambel was first used by the family in the 13th century.  The first chief of the clan to appear on
record as “Campbell” may well have been Sir Duncan of Lochawe when he
was created Lord Campbell in 1445.

Inveraray Castle.  An Inveraray Castle has
been standing on the shores of Loch Fyne in Argyllshire since the
1400’s.  But the castle seen today is much
later in
origin.  It was in fact inspired by a
sketch by Vanbrugh, the architect of Blenheim Palace and Castle Howard,
in the

foundation stone to the
castle was laid in 1746 and what followed was the construction, to a
design by
the architects Roger Morris and William Adam, of a baroque Palladian
Gothic-style castle.  Both architects
died before the castle was completed forty three years later in 1789.

remodeling occurred after a fire in
1877.  There was a second devastating
fire almost a hundred years later in 1975.
After that time central heating was installed for the first time.  The castle remains the home of the Duke of
Argyll, the chief of clan Campbell.

The Campbells and Their Reputation Post-Glencoe.  The
Irish writer Robert Bell wrote in 1988:

Campbells of Argyll

  • despite
    their leading the Covenanters
    against Charles I
  • despite their support
    for Cromwell (costing the 8th Earl his head)
  • and
    despite coming out for the Monmouth rebellion (costing the 9th Earl
    his head)

in power through the 17th century at the expense of the
McDonalds, the Lords of the Isles.   They
were avid supporters of the English Crown and led government forces
against the
Jacobites in the 1715 and 1745 rebellions.
Under government orders, Robert Campbell of Glenlyon in
Perthshire, a
cadet of the house of Argyll, carried out the massacre of the clan Iain
MacDonalds of Glencoe in Argyllshire, which gave rise to the famous
clan feud.”

Campbell’s consistent support of the English Crown against the forces
Scottish nationalism during the late 17th and early 18th centuries did
make the
Campbells unpopular in many quarters in Scotland.  The
Glencoe massacre in 1692 has continued to
be seen as a particularly notorious example of their support.

The Campbells Are Coming.  The Gaelic name of this well-known tune is Baile Ionaraora or The Town of Inveraray,
the place where
the Campbell clan castle stands.  Some
say it was composed around 1715 by a piper-composer inspired by a local
wedding.  However, the words handed down
have a more martial air.

song may
therefore have materialized at the time of the Jacobite uprisings.  The Campbells were Loyalist to the Government
at this time.  One historian ascribed the
song to one of the bagpipe tunes that accompanied the entrance of the
Highlanders into Perth and Dundee.
Robert Burns wrote a version of the song.

words are fairly simple and go as

the Lomonds I lay, I
Upon the Lomonds I lay, I lay,

looked down to bonnie Lochleven
three perches play-hay-hay!   The
Argyll he goes before,
makes the
cannons and guns to roar,
o’trumpet, pipe and drum,
are coming, Ho-Ro, Ho-Ro!   The
they are a’ in arms,
loyal faith
and truth to show,
rattling in the wind,
Campbells are
coming Ho-Ro, Ho-Ro!    Chorus:
Campbells are coming Ho-Ro, Ho-Ro!
Campbells are coming Ho-Ro, Ho-Ro!
Campbells are coming to bonnie Lochleven
The Campbells are coming Ho-Ro, Ho-Ro!”

Campbells in County Tyrone.  The Tyrone Campbells tended not to be the Scottish Campbells, but a native Tir Eoghain sept, Mac Cathmhaoil (from Cathmhaol meaning “battle-champion”).

sept got its name from Cathmhaol:

  • descended
    from Feradhach
  • son
    of Muireadhach
  • son
    of Eoghan
  • who
    was the son of Niall Naoighiallach.

MacCathmhaoils were the
leading sept of Cenél Fearadhaigh and
thus were often called Cenél Fearadhaigh.
They were to be found in the Clogher area of
county Tyrone.  They became an important
church family. 

Governor David Campbell and the White David Campbells.  David Campbell, Governor of Virginia in the 1830’s, had the following to say, in a
letter he wrote in 1840, about the White David branch of his family:

Campbell family from which I am
descended was originally from Inveraray in the Highlands of Scotland. They came to Ireland in the latter part of the
reign of Queen Elizabeth and thence to America.  John
Campbell, my great grandfather and the
great grandfather of General William Campbell of the Revolution, came
Ireland with a family of ten or twelve children and settled near
Lancaster in
Pennsylvania in the year 1726.

eldest son Patrick was the grandfather of General William Campbell.  His youngest son David, White David, was the
father of Colonel Arthur Campbell and my grandfather.  The
family remained in Pennsylvania but a few
years and then removed itself to the frontiers of Virginia and Augusta
Here they lived many years. John Campbell, my father and the eldest son
of Colonel
Arthur Campbell, was born, raised and educated in this county.”

Campbells were probably in Augusta
county, Virginia by 1738 when Patrick Campbell acquired 1,546 acres of
land at
Beverley Manor.


Select Campbell Names

  • Cailean Mor was the forebear
    of the Campbell clan in Scotland.
  • Duncan
    was the first Campbell to be ennobled , as Lord
    Campbell of Argyll, in 1445.
  • Archibald Campbell, the 5th
    Earl of
    Argyll, was a leading figure in Scottish politics in the 1560’s and 1570’s.
  • Robert Campbell was a mid-19th
    century frontiersman, fur trader, and businessman of the
    American West.
  • Sir Malcolm Campbell was the
    British holder of the world land and water speed records in the 1920’s.
  • Glen Campbell is a well-known
    country music artist.

Select Campbell Numbers Today

  • 116,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in Glasgow)
  • 140,000 in America (most numerous in Texas)
  • 108,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada)


Select Campbell and Like Surnames

The Scottish Highlands were Gaelic-speaking and their clan names appeared first in Gaelic and only later in an English version.  Each clan controlled its own local territory and frequently fought with neighbors.  Many, however, took the clan name in order to receive clan protection.

The clan downfall came following the 1715 and 1745 uprisings with the Battle of Culloden when the clan culture was broken up and clan tartans banned (although they came back into fashion with Queen Victoria a hundred years later).  The Highland clearances, supplanting people for sheep, was a further blow and many Highlanders were forced into emigration, still speaking their native Gaelic, to Canada and then to Australia and New Zealand.

Here are some of the clan surnames that you can check out.




Return to Main Page


Leave a Reply