Sloan Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Sloan Surname Meaning

Sloan has Gaelic origins.  The name comes from the Gaelic name Sluaghadhan, meaning “leader of a military expedition” and from shaughadh “expedition” or “raid.”  Sloan is the anglicized form.

The word appears in early times in both Scottish and Irish records.  A certain Sluagadagh went forth to Rome around the year 966, according to the Chronicle of the Picts in Scotland.  The Annals of the Four Masters recorded the name of Maelpatrick O’Shuaghadh, a Celtic bard, in 1015 in Ireland.  Sloan developed later as both a Scottish and Irish surname.

Sloan, Sloane and Slone are the main spellings today.

Sloan Surname Resources on The Internet

Sloan and Sloane Surname Ancestry

  • from Scotland (Ayrshire)
  • to Ireland (Down), America, Australia and New Zealand

Scotland.  Early examples of the Sloan surname date from the 16th century:

  • William Slowane who held a tenement in Dalkeith, Midlothian in 1504
  • John Aslowane who was a burgess in Edinburgh in 1562
  • and John Sloane who held lands in Traquair, Peebleshire in 1565

However, the greater frequency of the name at that time was on the west coast of Scotland.  Sloans there included Donald Showan the sheriff of Ayr, John Sloan a merchant in nearby Maybole, and the Sloans at Kirkcudbright near Galloway.  A branch of this family migrated to Ulster, while James Sloan was a prominent Glasgow merchant in the early 19th century.

William Sloan from Dalry in north Ayrshire was a 19th century missionary to the Faroe Islands. After his death in 1914 his youngest son Andrew continued the practice there.  An Ayrshire farmer Andrew Sloan started Sloan’s Dairies in 1911 for milk delivery in the Glasgow area.  The business expanded and continued until 1972 when it was sold to Express Dairies.

Today the Sloan name in Scotland is most common in Ayrshire and around Glasgow.

Ireland.   The Sloan name is mainly to be found in the Ulster counties of Down and Antrim.  In fact in the southern part of county Down known as the kingdom of Mourne, Sloan is the second most common surname in the region.

Sloans of Catholic Irish origin form the larger number here.  One Sloan family has been traced to the 18th century and Henry Sloan, born in Drummonds in Kilkeel parish.  His descendants continue to farm there. Other Sloans were and are to be found at Attical, Glenloughlan, and Greencastle.

There were Protestant Sloans as well.  Alexander Sloan had arrived from Kirkcudbright in the early 17th century as one of the Scottish planters.  He settled at Killyleagh to the north of Mourne by Strangford Lough.  He was of the landed or merchant class and held the office of Receiver General.  Sir Hans Sloane of this family was an avid collector and bequeathed his collection to the British Museum.  His name lives on as Sloane Square in London.

England. There were few Sloans from England.  The largest number of Sloans in the late 19th century were to be found in Cumberland and Lancashire in NE England, reflecting either Scottish or Irish Sloan arrivals.

America.  Sloans in America came from England, Scotland and Ireland, as well as a few from Eastern Europe (possibly Slones from Slovenia).  The largest number, however, came from Ireland.

These Sloans in the 18th century included arrivals into Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and the Carolinas.

William Sloan came from Ulster to Rutland, Massachusetts in the 1720’s. He and his family were later one of the first settlers of Lyme, New Hampshire.

Hanover, Pennsylvania contained many Sloans, starting with John Sloan who died there in 1741. The Sloans of Rockbridge county in Virginia, first evident in the 1750’s, were thought to have come via Pennsylvania.

Samuel Sloan was an early settler in Westmoreland county, Pennsylvania in 1768. Captain John “Bigfoot” Sloan of the same county was an officer in the Revolutionary War and a well-known Indian fighter.  Andrew Sloan arrived in Pennsylvania after the War was over.  His descendant Earl Sloan was the inventor of Sloan’s Liniment.

Caleb Sloan from county Antrim meanwhile came to North Carolina in the 1730’s.  And David Sloan from county Down arrived there some fifty years later and settled in South Carolina.

Australia.  From north Ayrshire came Alexander Sloane and his wife Annabella in 1849.  He became a successful cattle farmer at Mulwala, NSW.  His son Thomas continued his father’s merino stud farm.  But he is best remembered for his collection of ground and tiger beetles and his published work on new varieties of these beetles.

New Zealand.  Walter Sloane arrived in Auckland as a young lad from Glasgow in 1862.  He was an inn keeper there but died apparently in Sydney, Australia.

Sloan and Sloane Surname Miscellany

Sloan, Sloane, and Slone.  Sloans in Ireland could be Catholic or Protestant, the Catholic being Irish and the Protestant originating from Scottish incomers.  One story is that the Protestant arrivals added the “e” to Sloan so that they could be distinguished from the Catholic Sloans.  In certain parts of America it was said that “the Sloanes were rich, the Sloans were the regular crowd, and the Slones were the poor folk.”

Sloan is the most common spelling of the name.  There are Sloans and Sloanes in Britain and Ireland.  Sloane hardly appears in America.  But Slone does.  The Slone name can be found in Kentucky and West Virginia. Slone may also refer to an immigrant from Slovenia or may be a shorter version of the Sloniminsky Eastern European name.

Reader Feedback:  I once read that if you had money you could buy an extra vowel and become a `Sloane.` John Sloan, New Zealand.

Reader Feedback – Sloan’s Dairies in Glasgow.  I came to the site to see the history of my surname and found out that my great grandmother who wasn’t a Sloan but a Kelley worked for Sloan’s Dairies! How amazing is that, she worked for the family business before it was in her family.  I have made a new generation of Sloans with my wife.

Aaron Sloan (

Sloans in the Kingdom of Mourne.  The Kingdom of Mourne forms a coastal plain in the southeast of county Down.  Mourne covers some 70 square miles in a narrow strip which is no more than five miles in width.  It is bordered on one side by the boggy foothills of the mountains of Mourne and on another by the Irish Sea.  If you or your ancestors are from this part of Ulster in what is today Northern Ireland, the chances are that your name is Sloan or you are related to a Sloan.

Sloan after Cunningham is the second most common name in Mourne.  The greater number of these Sloans appear to have been native Irish and Catholic.  Perhaps some of them were Gallowglass mercenaries for the Scots, allowed to settle on the “waste lands” of Mourne in the 16th century which they reclaimed.  They preserved old Celtic customs.  In 1878 a Victorian writer watched as a family of Sloans carried their mother’s coffin three times around an old Celtic rath before they buried her.

There are also Protestant Sloans in the area, descendants of Scottish planters in the 17th century.  The most notable of them have been the Sloans or Sloanes of Killyleagh (or White’s Castle) to the north of Mourne at Strangford Lough.

William Sloan in the Faroe Islands.  Why should William Gibson Sloan leave his home on the west coast of Scotland for a small windswept island under Danish suzerainty halfway between Norway and Iceland?

William had become a missionary.  While in Shetland, Catholic-born Sloan had come in contact with local Plymouth Brethren and became exposed to the “believers baptism” and “the breaking of bread.”   Sloan converted and became “baptized by immersion in the water” and thence “broke bread” with the local Shetland Baptists.

It was in this belief that he in 1865 decided to become an evangelist to the Faroe Islands, which he had heard about from Shetland fishermen who earned their living by fishing in the vicinity of these islands.

For many years, his work in Faroe had little effect.  But eventually a few people started gathering in Sloan’s Hall which he had built at Tórshavn.  The congregation eventually grew into the biggest independent congregation in the islands, second only to the established church.  Approximately 12% of the population now belongs to the local Brethren Congregation that had been founded by “Old Sloan” as he was referred to in the Faroe Islands.

William Sloan died in Torshavn in 1914 at the age of seventy six. 

Reader Feedback – Robert Sloan in Hartford, Connecticut.  Searching for any connection with Robert Sloan, born in 1714 in England, who died in Hartford, Connecticut in 1796.  He married Mary Prout (born in 1715) in 1736. Trying to find origin in England.

Ruell Sloan (

Sloan’s Liniment.  Earl Sawyer was the inventor of Sloan’s Liniment.  His Irish grandfather had immigrated to Pennsylvania in the 1780’s after the Revolutionary War was over and his parents had moved west to Zanesfield, Ohio where Earl himself was born in 1848.

As a youth he went to Missouri where he joined his brother in buying and selling horses.  He had previously dabbled in veterinary medicine and, while thus engaged, prepared an experimental liniment for disabled animals. By chance he discovered that the remedy he applied to their ailments and bruises would also relieve human beings similarly affected.  He placed his preparation on the market as “Sloan’s Liniment.”

Its increasing use placed it in the forefront of similar remedies and it soon became widely known. In 1903 he organized the Dr. Earl S. Sloan, Inc. manufacturing company, of which he was the president and sole owner.  At the time of his death the company had annual sales of approximately $750,000.

The Disappearance of Walter Henderson Sloane.  Walter Sloane had arrived in Auckland, New Zealand as a young lad from Glasgow in 1862.  He married Maggie Robertson six years later and become a hotel keeper (the Queen’s Ferry Hotel) in Auckland.  However, around 1898 Walter just faded from all records in New Zealand when he was in his mid fifties.

In 1913 a Mark Walter Stonehill died in Sydney, Australia. In his will he stated that he was commonly known as Walter Stonehill Sloane, late of Auckland where he was a hotelkeeper.  But the only Sloane who practiced as a hotel keeper in Auckland was Walter Sloane and there were no persons with the surname of Stonehill in Auckland between 1880 to 1910.

If this was a match then he must have been quite naughty.  He married Ada Elizabeth Stonehill and taken her surname, despite being still married in New Zealand! At the time of the filing of his will in 1910 he listed his occupation as an ‘electrical engineer.’  His estate was worth less than £21.

Sloan Names

  • Sir Hans Sloane was an 18th century Irish physician and collector, whose collection became the foundation of the British Museum.  Sloane Square in London was named after him.
  • Samuel Sloan, born to Irish immigrant parents, was the 19th century Philadelphia-based architect and best selling author of architecture books.
  • Tod Sloan was an American-born jockey who made his mark in both America and Britain at the turn of the 20th century.
  • Alfred P. Sloan was the long-time CEO of General Motors and the man who, after Henry Ford, transformed the US automobile industry.
  • The Sloane Ranger, a term invented in the 1980’s, described the upper-class lifestyle of a woman who lived in the neighborhood of Sloane Square, a fashionable area of London.

Sloan Numbers Today

  • 12,000 in the UK (most numerous in Glasgow)
  • 18,000 in America (most numerous in Texas)
  • 11,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada)

Sloan and Like Surnames 

These are surnames from the Scottish Lowlands.  Some are clan names; some – like Gordon, Graham and Hamilton – have Anglo-Norman antecedents that crossed the border into Scotland; and some – like Douglas and Stewart – were very powerful in early Scottish history.  Stewart in fact became the royal Stuart line.


Click here for return to front page

Written by Colin Shelley

Leave a Reply

Required fields are marked *