The name Campbell has two probable origins, with similar names being formed independently in Ireland and Scotland before merging together over time.
The name was mainly formed in Scotland, and comes from the ancient Gaelic words for crooked, ‘cam’ and mouth, ‘Béal‘. This would have started out as a nickname and then over time, evolved into a surname passed down from fathers to their sons.
Many surnames can be traced back to nicknames relating to a physical appearance or occupation.
The Irish version of Campbell is a derivative of MacCathmhaoil. Cathmhaoil is a name made up of two Irish Gaelic words. “Cath” means battle and “maol” means chief, and the Mac is added to the name to say the “son of”, so MacCathmhaoil meant “Son of a Battle Chief”.
The name MacCathmhaoil evolved and was anglicised into various versions including McCowell, McCall and Campbell. The pronunciation of Campbell in Ireland was “Cammle”, exactly the same as the Scottish name “Cambéal”. As the ancient Celts of Ireland and Scotland mixed over time, the two versions merged together to form Campbell.
The name travelled around the world, firstly to England as Scottish and Irish people left their homes to find work. Then later to America, Canada and Australia, as thousands of Campbells left Ireland, England and Scotland in search of a better life in the new world.
Campbell has become such a popular name worldwide, that there are countless people who have achieved great success in various fields with the name.
Some of the most notable Campbells in sport are Sir Malcolm Campbell, an English racing driver who held the world record for speed on both land and water in the 1920s. His son Donald Campbell then carried on the family traditions and also set speed records on land and water.
Nathaniel Campbell III is a former professional boxer from Florida. He unified the WBA, IBF and WBO lightweight championship belts in the 2000s.
Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman was the Prime Minister of England in the early 1900s and Kim Campbell became the first female Prime Minister of Canada in 1993.
Neve Campbell is a Canadian actress, most famous for her lead roles in the series of Scream horror movies, in which she is often left as the only main character that survives the duration of the film.
Naomi Campbell is a British supermodel who has become one of the most recognisable faces in fashion of the last 20 years.