McIntosh Surname Meaning, History & Origin

McIntosh Surname Meaning

Mackintosh is the anglicized form of the Gaelic Mac an Toisich, meaning “‘son of the chief.” Mackintosh later became McIntosh.

Mackintosh is also, through the pioneering work of Charles McIntosh, a term for raincoat and, because of farmer John McIntosh, an apple variety.  MacIntosh had a second lease of life when Apple named their computer the Macintosh.

McIntosh and Mackintosh Surname Resources on The Internet

McIntosh and Mackintosh Surname Ancestry

  • from Scotland (Inverness)
  • to England, America, Canada and Australia

Scotland.  There appears to have been two original septs of this name, one in Perthshire and the other more importantly in Inverness.

Mackintoshes in Inverness date back to the 13th century when the Gaelic name of Mac an Toisich was first adopted. Moy Hall near Inverness became the home of the clan chiefs. The clan was involved in the war for Scottish independence and subsequently spent much of their time feuding with neighboring clans.

They were Jacobite supporters in 1715 and in 1745. 

Lady Anne Farquharson-Mackintosh rallied 350 men of the Mackintosh clan to fight at Culloden.  “She famously greeted her husband with the words: ‘Your servant, captain,’ to which he replied: ‘Your servant, colonel,’ thereby giving her the nickname of ‘Colonel’ Anne.”  Bonnie Prince Charles was received by Lady Mackintosh at Moy and the Prince’s bed is still to be seen in Moy Hall today.

Mackintosh has remained very much a name of NE Scotland, and in particular of Inverness. Many McIntosh families were recorded as working on the Grant Balmacaan estate in Glenurquhart in the 1700’s. Sir James Mackintosh, the distinguished jurist and historian, came from the Killochy branch of the family in Inverness.  

The MacIntoshes of the Raigmore estate overlooking the Moray Firth have been commemorated in the tune Mrs. Macintosh of Raigmore.  John Mackintosh of Aberarder was Provost of Inverness between 1794 and 1803.  And one family traces itself back to John McIntosh who was born in Petty in the Nairn valley and married Isobel Cameron there in 1776. His family were fishermen.

England. There were Mackintoshes south of the border.

John Mackintosh and his wife Violet bought a pastry shop in Halifax, Yorkshire in 1890. In order to attract customers they decided to sell a special toffee developed by Violet which blended the traditional brittle English butterscotch with soft American caramel. In time Mackintosh’s became a brand known for its toffee and later, under sons Harold and Eric, for confectionaries such as Quality Street and Rolo.

America.  John McIntosh Mor moved his family to Georgia in 1736 with a group of a hundred Scottish settlers, founding the town of Darien, Georgia. Lachlan McIntosh was an American general during the Revolutionary War; while his cousin William McIntosh moved among the Creek Indian nation to recruit them to the American side.

William’s son Chief William McIntosh was known as the “White Warrior” and became a full-fledged chief of the Creeks. However, he was murdered by irate Creeks in 1825. His son Chilly survived the attack and he, like his half-brother Daniel and nephew Roley, were prominent Creek leaders in Georgia and the Indian territory which later became Oklahoma. McIntosh county in Georgia was named after this distinguished family. The book A History and Genealogy of Chief William McIntosh was written by Harriet Corbin in 1967.

Canada. John McIntosh immigrated to Canada from Inverness in 1796 and settled to farm in Dundas county, Ontario. Fifteen years later he discovered the original tree which was to bear the famous McIntosh apple. His sons and grandson were to oversee the transformation of the McIntosh from a locally celebrated apple to an important commercial orchard fruit.

Australia.  James McIntosh and his family arrived in Australia in 1837 and settled on the Limestone Plains (where Canberra now stands). He was a shepherd, as were his two young sons Malcolm and John.  Susan and Kevin McIntosh’s 2017 book The Highland Shepherd covered this family line.


McIntosh Surname Miscellany

Mackintosh Clan Origins.  The Macintosh clan claim descent from the royal house of Duff, through Shaw or Seach MacDuff, the second son of Duncan Macduff, Earl of Fife. Shaw was part of a force led by King Malcolm IV which repressed a rebellion in Moray in 1160.

For this action he was awarded the lands of Petty and Breachley in Invernesshire and appointed the Constable of Inverness castle.  Assuming the name “Mac-an-toisch” which means “Son of the Thane or Chief,” he began his own clan.

Colonel Anne Farquharson-Macintosh.  Anne Farquharson had married Angus Mackintosh, the 22nd chief of Macintosh, in 1741.  Four years later, with the outbreak of the rebellion, she dressed herself in male attire and raised two battalions of the clan for Bonnie Prince Charlie.  Her contingent was the first to take the field at the battle of Culloden.  For her leadership was the first woman in Scottish history to be given the title of Colonel.

The story goes this woman and a handful of her clan, fearing arrest and imprisonment, scared off 1,500 British regulars by banging pots and pans, shooting off muskets and running feverishly through the woods near Moy Hall, thereby confusing the approaching British and convincing them they were far outnumbered. This incident became known as the Rout of Moy.

Colonel Anne was also famous for helping Bonnie Prince Charlie evade capture by the British and allowing him to stay at Moy during the 1745 uprising.

Scottish author Janet Paisley wrote a novel based on Lady Anne’s exploits, White Rose Rebel published in 2007.

John Mackintosh of Aberarder.  John Mackintosh of Aberarder was Provost of Inverness from 1794 to 1797 and from 1800 to 1803.  The Provost used to boast that he had been wounded at Culloden.  In fact he had been too young to fight and the real story ran as follows:

“A significant testimony to the wanton cruelty of the English troopers existed in the person of Provost John MacIntosh of Inverness, father of the late Mr. Charles MacIntosh of Aberarder.

Being an infant of eighteen months at the time of the Prince’s stay at Inverness, he had been sent with his nurse, to be out of the way, to a house somewhere in the neighborhood of Culloden.  A few days after the battle a party of dragoons had gone into the house in the nurse’s absence and, finding the child in a cradle, they after pillaging the house placed the cradle with the infant in it on the fire. When found by the nurse, the embryo magistrate was a good deal scorched; and till his dying day bore the marks on his arms.”

He had two sons, William and Phineas, who left to seek their fortunes in the West Indies.  William died unmarried, it is not known where.  Phineas Mackintosh, known as Phinny Fool, was later well known in Inverness for his eccentricity and extravagance.

The Mackintosh Raincoat.  Charles Macintosh devoted all his spare time in Glasgow to science and in particular to chemistry.  In this he was highly successful.  His experiments with one of the by-products of tar, naphtha, led to his invention of waterproof fabrics, the essence of his patent being the cementing of two thicknesses of India rubber together, the India rubber being made soluble by the action of the naphtha.

He patented his invention for waterproof cloth in 1823 and the first Mackintosh coats were made in the family’s textile factory, Charles Macintosh and Co. of Glasgow.  By 1830 the company merged with the clothing company of Thomas Hancock in Manchester. Early coats had problems with smell, stiffness, and a tendency to melt in hot weather.  Hancock further improved their waterproof fabrics, patenting a method for vulcanizing rubber in 1843 which solved many of the problems.

John MacIntosh Mor and His Kin in Georgia.  John MacIntosh Mohr had his adventures in Georgia.  He became a storekeeper in the colony, traded with the Indians, and fought the Spanish.  He was in fact taken prisoner by the Spanish, transported to Spain, and languished in prison there for some time before being eventually released and returned to Georgia.   He died there in 1756.

His son Lachlan was a prominent figure in the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War. But he is best remembered in Georgia history because of his affair of honor with Button Gwinnett.  Their duel fought on the outskirts of Savannah in 1777 resulted in the death of Gwinnett, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence.

Accompanying John MacIntosh Mohr and his company of Highlanders to Georgia were two of his cousins, Roderick and John (sons of Benjamin MacIntosh whom historians have identified as the natural son of Brigadier William MacIntosh from the Jacobite Uprising of 1715).

Roderlck and John MacIntosh did not tarry long at Darien but plunged further into the wilds of the Creek Indian country and settled at MacIntosh Bluffs on the Tombigbee river in what is now Alabama.  Roderick, known as “Old Rory” was a choleric, eccentric bachelor, held a commission as a captain in the British Army, and fought against the Spanish in the south. John his brother was also a British captain, lived at MacIntosh Bluffs, and married a Scotch lady of the MacGillivray clan.

Chief William McIntosh and His Son Chilly.  In February 12, 1825 Governor Troup of Georgia and Chief William McIntosh with eight other chiefs signed the Treaty of Indian Springs which ceded the Creek lands east of the Chattahoochee river to the state of Georgia.  Despite Governor Troup’s promise to protect the Chief, McIntosh was traced back to his home in Carroll county by angry Upper Creek Indians.  There he was killed, his slaves run off, his crops burned, and his cattle slaughtered.

Local legend has it that his son Chilly escaped from his family’s burning home on the McIntosh reserve on that fateful day in 1825. He had apparently been sleeping in an outbuilding as there was no room in the main house.

In 1828 Chilly led the first party of Lower or McIntosh faction Creeks out of Georgia into Indian territory.  He went on to sign the major Creek treaties of the period, including the 1861 treaty of alliance with the Confederate States of America.  He in fact served as a Confederate officer during the Civil War.   After the war he retired to his farm near Fame in present-day McIntosh county, Oklahoma where he died in 1875.

The McIntosh Apple.  John McIntosh was born in New York state in 1777, the son of Scottish immigrant Alexander McIntosh who was a loyalist during the American Revolution.  He emigrated to Ontario sometime between 1795 and 1801 and settled in South Dundas township.

While clearing his property in the spring of 1811, McIntosh discovered a number of seedling apple trees growing wild. He transplanted them to his garden. By the following year only one had survived. Several years later, the tree was producing the crisp, delicious fruit that is now well known. The discoverer eventually dubbed it the ‘McIntosh Red,’ which is still the apple’s official name.

The apple’s subsequent fame would probably have come as an enormous surprise to John, an illiterate and pious Methodist farmer who had the good fortune to own the land on which the “one of a million” tree was found.

It wasn’t until 1870, nearly a quarter of a century after his death, that the apple was officially “introduced” and named.  Its qualities only began to be recognized twenty years later. The horticulturist William Macoun remarked in 1907: “It is only during the past ten or fifteen years that the fruit has become widely known. So great is the popularity at present that the nurserymen cannot meet the demand for trees.”

The tree that spawned this legacy was damaged by fire in 1894.  The McIntosh family nursed the old tree along until 1908, the last year it produced a crop.  In 1910 it fell over. A flat headstone now marks the spot where the stump had remained for years.

Robert McIntosh (1781-1829).  Born in Perthshire, Robert Mcintosh enlisted as a private soldier in the 46th Regiment of Foot in 1813.  He was given a bounty of eleven guineas and his pay was to be one shilling per day. In May 1814 he was promoted to Sergeant in succession to the demoted Sergeant Samuel Watts.

Robert McIntosh had arrived in Australia in February 1814, on the Windham as Regimental Sergeant Band Master. His wife Ellen, daughter Elizabeth and sons Robert and John accompanied him.

He left the army in 1817 and became a landholder and constable in Pittwater, NSW.  In 1820 he was convicted of an unknown crime and sent to Newcastle for four years. Returned to Sydney in 1821, he was assigned to his wife Ellen as a servant.  He died in 1829, aged 48.

McIntosh and Mackintosh.  Charles Rennie Mackintosh – the world-famous architect, artist and designer – was born in Glasgow in 1868.  But was he always known as Charles Rennie Mackintosh?

In short – no! Charles’ father William McIntosh worked for the City of Glasgow Police for over 40 years. He founded the police athletics club and even participated in the Glasgow International Exhibition in 1888, held in what is now Kelvingrove Park.  William McIntosh was recorded to have changed the spelling of the family name to what we all know today as ‘Mackintosh’ in the late 1880’s. There is little information or resources available as to why this happened – but with a bit of digging into Scottish census records we have a possible solution!

McIntosh, their original surname, was one of the most popular surnames in Scotland in the 1800-1900’s; whereas Mackintosh was far less common.  So potentially William McIntosh saw Charles’ potential and thought he would better stand out from his peers with a more unique surname.

Reader Feedback – McIntosh and MacIntosh.  My great grandfather was named Alexander Hamilton McIntosh. We’ve known him as of Scots heritage. However, my son went to Scotland and when searching for plaids was told that his is an Irish name and if Scottish it has to be MacIntosh. Trying find what is the truth.

Karen Heskin (

McIntosh Names

  • Lachlan McIntosh was an American military and political leader during the Revolutionary War.
  • John McIntosh pioneered the McIntosh apple from his farm in Dundas county, Ontario in 1811.
  • Charles McIntosh invented in 1823 the waterproofing of cloth with a rubber solution, hence the term “mackintosh” for raincoat.
  • Charles Rennie Mackintosh, born in Glasgow, was a Scottish architect and designer of the early 20th century. He was a designer in the Arts and Crafts movement and also the main exponent of Art Nouveau in Britain.

McIntosh Numbers Today

  • 22,000 in the UK (most numerous in Morayshire)
  • 14,000 in America (most numerous in Florida)
  • 23,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada)

McIntosh 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.



Click here for return to front page

Written by Colin Shelley

Leave a Reply

Required fields are marked *