Murray (surname)

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Murray (About this sound listen ) is both a Scottish and an Irish surname with two distinct respective etymologies. The Scottish version is a common variation of the word Moray, an anglicisation of the Medieval Gaelic word Muireb (or Moreb); the b here was pronounced as v, hence the Latinization to Moravia. These names denote the district on the south shore of the Moray Firth, in Scotland. Murray is a direct transliteration of how Scottish people pronounce the word Moray. The Murray spelling is not used for the geographical area, which is Moray, but it became the commonest form of the surname, especially among Scottish emigrants, to the extent that the surname Murray is now much more common than the original surname Moray. See also Clan Murray.

The Irish version derives from Ó Muireadhaigh. However there were many Scottish Catholic Murray immigrants into Ireland during the Middle Ages and so a Murray of Irish heritage today could be descended from either source of the name.


A considerable number of present bearers of this surname are of Scottish origin, especially in Ulster. Possible etymologies are:

  • From Moray in northeast Scotland, which came from the Scottish Gaelic for "sea settlement".
  • As a native Irish of this name, from Mac Muireadhaigh or Ó Muireadhaigh "descendant of Muireadhach" or Mac Giolla Mhuire "descendant of the servant of the Virgin Mary".

The motto for Murray is "Imperio". "Murrays" trace their heritage back to the 12th century and take their name from the great province of Moray, once a local kingdom.

It was during this time that the Flemish lords crossed the North Sea and established themselves in the Scottish realm. Among them was Freskin.

It is possible that either Freskin or his son William intermarried with the ancient royal house of Moray. The senior line of the Murrays took the surname of Sutherland and became Earls of Sutherland by 1235.

Thereafter the chiefs of the Murrays were the Lords of Petty in Moray who also became Lords of Bothwell in Clydesdale before 1253. An heir of this line, Sir Andrew Moray, was the brilliant young general who led the Scots in 1297 in their first uprising against English rule. He was mortally wounded while winning his famous victory at Stirling Bridge.

His son, Sir Andrew Murray, 4th Lord of Bothwell, third Regent of Scotland, married Christian Bruce, a sister of King Robert the Bruce. He was captured at Roxburgh early in 1333 and was a prisoner in England at the time of the Battle of Halidon Hill. He obtained his freedom in time to march to the relief of his wife, who was defending Kildrummy Castle. Sir Andrew commenced with unabated spirit to struggle in the cause of independence and died in 1338.

The last Murray Lord of Bothwell died in 1360 of the plague. By the 16th century, the Murrays of Tullibardine in Strathearn had assumed the leadership of the Murrays. This was formally confirmed by Bands of Association in 1586 and 1589.

Sir John became the 1st Earl of Tullibardine in 1606. Thus, the Tullibardine hegemony was firmly established among the Murrays; and George Iain Murray, 10th Duke of Atholl was also Marquis of Tullibardine as recognized in Lyon Register as Chief of the Murrays. The 2nd Earl of Tullibardine married Lady Dorothea Stewart, heiress of the Earls of Atholl in 1629 and Marquises from 1676. To their medieval peacock's head crest (motto-Praite), they added the mermaid (motto-Tout Pret), as Lords of Balquidder; and in the seventeenth century, they took the demi-savage holding a sword and a key commemorating the capture of the last Lord of the Isles by the 1st Stewart Earl of Atholl in 1475: hence the motto Furth, Fortune, and Fill the Fetters. (Go forth against your enemies, have good fortune, and return with hostages and booty).

Since 1703, the Murray's chiefs have been Dukes of Atholl. For a time in the 18th century, the Murray dukes were also Sovereign Lords of the Isle of Man, with their own coinage and parliament, The House of Keys. The 1st Duke's younger son, Lord George Murray, was the Jacobite general responsible for the highlander's successes through the early part of the 1745 uprising.

Much of the above information about the Murrays was taken from the book The Highland Clans, by Iain Moncreiffe of that Ilk.

Lord George's descendant George Murray, 10th Duke of Atholl, died in February 1996. The new Duke of Atholl is John Murray, 11th Duke of Atholl, a South African. The new Duke has taken the chiefship of the Murrays.


Murray may refer to many people (see also Clan Murray):





















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