Determining the origins of place-names anywhere in Scotland is no easy task and this is no less so in the northeast of the country. Place-names are frequently descriptive based, for example, on physical characteristics but they may also refer to an event of historical significance or on an association with an important person or institution. Difficulty arises with language: Scotland has had at least four languages all of which are still evident in place-names throughout the country. The languages of the Picts and Britons (P-Celtic) and Scots (Q-Celtic) along with Old Norse (or possibly Old Danish) eventually lost out to the advance of the Anglian-based 'Scots' and English, but all have left evidence of their existence in place-names with some having an amalgam of languages. Local pronunciation and etymology compound the problem of interpretation.

The derivation of the name 'Brechin'is almost certainly Celtic but its meaning is lost in antiquity. There are, however, several plausible suggestions including:

1) Named after a Druid leader, Broichan.

2) Druidical centre of justice - Brehon. (These two suggestions possibly relate to the Druids after the Romans expelled them from Wales and their consequent exile in Angus. Association of Brechin with similar names in Anglesey and elsewhere in the principality can be made.)

3) Named after an Irish prince, Brychan, who also had a connection with Wales and, possibly, after whom Brecon was named. (It is not outwith the realms of possibility that Broichan and Brychan are the same.)

4) Reference from Gaelic, Bri-achan, meaning 'the place of slopes or braes'. In his History of Brechin to 1864, acknowledging opposition of Gaelic scholars to this theory, David D. Black nevertheless mentions it and draws another comparison with Brecon. Both towns are built on the sloping bank of a river and he refers to the Gaelic bruach abhainne meaning 'bank or brink of a river'.

It is quite easy to infer from suggestion 2 and, to some extent, from suggestions 1 and 3 that Brechin in ancient times was a place of considerable importance. Indeed, it is argued by some that Brechin, if not the capital of the whole of Pictavia, was certainly that of a sub-kingdom.

select a section below >
The Battle of Mons Graupius.
Centre of Religion
Hugh de Brechin: The Amorous Priest
Royal Connection: Henry de Brechin
Battle of Stracathro
Brechin and the Scottish Wars of Independence
Sir Thomas Maule: Hero of the Castle
Treason at Brechin
Walter Stewart, Lord of Brechin