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Scottish Clan Names

Examples of clan crests by Celtic3d

There is a lot of information on the web related to Scottish clan names and clan history.  Not all of it is accurate and some sites seem to throw up pretty random material in response to searches for family names or related to ancestry and genealogy.  At Celtic3d we aim top respect heraldic rules and seek out authoritative sources on which to base our designs.

We got you covered

To check if we have products relating to your specific clan or family name, search for your family name in the search box at the top of the page.  One we have created a design, it is straightforward to produce that design in different formats,.  For most designs, we produce a key-ring in 3d printed steel,  a more refined version that is 3d printed in wax and then cast in bronze or other metal and for 3d printing enthusiasts, we often release the 3d files so you can download, modify and print the items on your own 3d printer.

Clan Map of the Highland Clans of ScotlandDuring our research, we uncover a lot of interesting information about the clans and their backgrounds.  We are keen to share that information as well.  To give that some structure, we have created a Google Maps rendition of the Highland Clans which you can use as a reference.

Clan Crests – how to spot the Real MacKoy

When we develop a new design for a Scottish clan crest, it starts with research.  There are strict rules covering heraldic crests and the way that these can be presented.

Some key points to look out for:

Heraldic authority

The Court of the Lord Lyon is the legal authority for heraldic designs in Scotland.  Check the website of the Lord Lyon if you are unsure whether a rule is fact or myth. It has some clear guidelines on the usage of clan crests and the forms that should be used by Clan Chiefs, Armigers (those who have been granted arms) and Clansmen / Clanswomen.

Entitlement to display arms and a crest

The Lord Lyon awards crests and arms to individuals, not to families or those bearing the same surname.   Formally, the crest is the design that sits ontop the helmet and originally was intended to identify an individual when dressed in a full suit of armour.   Only that individual is entitled to display the crest.  Anyone else is pretending to be that individual.   This has been against the law for many centuries, and still is.  There are many internet sites offering to create your family crest,  they are ignoring basic heraldic rules and should not be taken seriously.

Clan Chiefs

Scottish Clans can be broadly split into Clans that have a current Clan Chief,  a living person who owns his or her Crest,  and Clans where the line of the Chief has died out and have no current Chief.  Although the official desciption of the crest is registered with the Court of the Lord Lyon, sometimes the clan chief will  express a preference to how their crest is presented.  We try to find where such preferences exist and respect the wishes of the Chief.

Heraldic language

The formal description of the crest is known as a “Blazon”.   The blazon will describe the components of the crest in heraldic terms.  These are quite precise and often specify which hand a sword should be held, whether the blade is horizontal, vertical or angled, whether a figure is shown full length, cut off at the waist or showing just the head.  Even detailing whether the cut-off should be a clean line or jagged.   There is a whole vocabulary to describe the stance to depict animals which includes how they are facing, how many feet on the ground, and so on.    We are primarily designing for single colour materials but Heraldic language also specifies colour for each element.

Heraldry is a fascinating topic in it’s own right,  you can read more at the Heraldry Society of Scotland:


A clan badge where the crest of the clan chief is encircled by a belt and buckle, and bearing the motto of the Clan Chief, can be worn by followers of the chief, and by extension, anyone who bears the clan name or associates themselves with the clan.  This is the basic form that we use in our designs.

This form is recognised by the Lord Lyon as the proper form to use to show allegiance to a clan.

MacKay Clan Crest in Polished Grey Steel
Clan MacKay Crest. The exclusive property of the Clan Chief and may not be displayed by anyone else unless within a belt and buckle design denoting a clan member.

Other Sources of Reference

At Celtic3d,  we use the excellent  Clan List on Wikipedia as a quick check that we are on the right lines with our designs.   We particularly like this list as it gives you the Crest description, or Blazon and often includes a line-drawing to give a rough idea what the crest should look like.

For detailed heraldic information, there is a book The Complete Guide to Heraldry, available online at Wikisource.

In addition to checking Wikipedia, we also check the individual Clan Association websites.   The Clan Association sites in particular are a good source to find out if there is any controversy about which design to use,  whether the design has been updated recently and whether there are any sensitivities or common mistakes made in the way the design is presented.   There is a good list of Clan Associations in the US at the Council of Scottish Clans and Associations, with an excellent website, but don’t overlook the Clan Associations in the rest of the world, there are several.

Note: We previously imported some Wikipedia pages to our site and have recently re-organised to include the links to the original material instead.  If you were redirected here, apologies for the inconvenience.   The link to the Clan List on Wikipedia should get you back on-track, or use the search box at the top of this page to find Celtic3d products related to specific clans.

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