Recorded as MacFarlane, McFarlane, MacFarlan, McFarlan, MacFarland, MacFarlin, McParland, McParlin, and others, this is an ancient Scottish surname, and one that is also recorded in Ireland. It probably originates from the Gaelic MacPharlain, meaning "The son of Parlan", a form which apparently derives from "Bartholmew", a name introduced into Europe by the returning crusaders from the Holy land in the 12th century. However others claim that it may have a pre 7th century Viking origin and to translate as the "Sea-Wave", which is also possible. The name is first recorded in Scotland in the 14th Century, and an early example is that of Andrew McFarlane, who in 1577 was elected a Burgess of Glasgow. The development of the name has included Makfarlande in 1546, M'Farlen in 1603, and MacPharline in 1610. Examples taken from surviving church registers include Dugall McFarlane who married Helena Wallace at Cannongate, Edinburgh, on June 15th 1653, and Alexander McFarlan who was born on September 3rd 1730, also at Edinburgh. The first recorded spelling of the family name may be that of Malcolm McPharlane. This was dated 1385, when he was a charter witness to Duncan, earl of Leuenax in 1385. This was during the reign of King Robert 11 of Scotland, 1371 - 1390. Throughout the centuries surnames in every country have continued to "develop," often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.
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