Elliot (also spelled Eliot, Elliott, Eliott and Elyot) is a personal name which can serve as either a surname or a given name. Although the given name was historically given to males, females named Elliot have increased from 414 in 2009 to 770 in 2013. The origin of the surname is obscure, perhaps due to much of the genealogy of the Eliott clan being burnt in the destruction of the castle at Stobs in 1712 AD.
The clan society usually accepts that the name originated from the town and river Elliot in Angus, Scotland. Some other sources suggest it may be derived from a French form of Elias, which is itself derived from the biblical name “Elijah”. Yet other sources claim that the Scottish surnames (Eliott, Elliot) originate from the Ellot Scottish border-clan, from a transformation of the name Elwold. There are also records in the Domesday Book of the name spelled “Ailiet”, thought to originate from an old English name “Æþelgeat” (meaning “noble gate”) and leading to the English and Scottish given name spelled “Elyat”, which in turn leads to the modern alternative spelling of the name “Elyot”.
The name Eliott is believed to derive from the village of Eliot in Angus although the Old English form of Elwold also appears in Scotland. Little is known of the early history of Clan Eliott because few records survive. This could be because Stobs Castle where clan records were kept was burned down in 1712.
See also: Elliot on Wikipedia
Legend has it that the extra “t” in Eliott arose when a branch of the Eliotts adopted Christianity. The “t” was in reality meant to be a cross. The differences in spelling can be distinguished in this rhyme:
The double L and single T / Descent from Minto and Wolflee, / The double T and single L / Mark the old race in Stobs that dwell. / The single L and single T / The Eliots of St Germans be, / But double T and double L, / Who they are nobody can tell.
Robert Bell in The Book of Scots-Irish Family Names adds: “For double L and double T, / the Scots should look across the sea!” He pointed out that 71 of 76 births of children by that name in Ireland in 1890 spelt it “Elliott.” Elliot(t)s emigrated or were sent to Ireland in the early 17th century after the unification of the English and Scottish crowns. The Elliot(t)s were notorious reivers – cattle thieves – in the Scottish-English border area and, as such, a thorn in the side of both governments. Many settled in county Fermanagh.
Elliots and Armstrongs have always been closely related, and were two of the largest and most notorious of the border clans. The word “raiding” is apparently derived from the mispronounciation of the word “riding”. Any time you saw an Elliot or an Armstrong on the back of a horse, they were probably up to no good, raiding. They were not friendly with any of the English nor many of the Scots. They held a special disdain for Highlanders, and many of the lowland Scots as well and well known for only pledging alligence to blood, not flags or kings.
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According to folklore from the Viking Sagas Elliot and Armstrong were the names of the first twin boys born to an Icelandic princess and fathered by a polar bear. Legend has it that they were the first of the Vikings and there is a blood oath between the clans, that if one ever calls on the other in a time of need, they are bound by that oath, to kill or die for the other. There is an old tradition among the Christians in the clans, to baptize all male infants, immersing their entire bodies, save the right arm. In the case that they ever have to kill for the clan, they are to do it with their right arm only, and remove that arm, before (or at the time of) death, so as to meet their maker with a clear conscience. Hence the right arm holding the cutlass or falchion on the badge or crest.
It is generally agreed that spelling of the surname originated in the early 13th century as “Eliot” as there is reference to “Geoffrey Eliot”, Abbot of Hyde, in documents linked to the creation of the Magna Carta.
Among the many famous people with this name are the authors T. S. Eliot and George Eliot (pseudonym of Mary Ann Evans). Jane Austen’s last completed novel Persuasion includes characters belonging to the Elliot family of Kellynch Hall; Sir Walter Elliot, Bart., and his daughters Anne and Elizabeth.