While associated with the Barony of the same name in Moray, the origins of this surname are unclear. It may be derived from the Gaelic 'brothaig' meaning 'muddy', or from the Pictish royal family named 'Brude', or it could be of later Flemish origin, meaning 'brother'. The Thane of Brodie appears around c.1285 and may indeed have been a descendant of Pictish royalty. The family's early documents were all lost when Brodie Castle was burned by the Gordons in 1645.
Alexander Brodie was a Lord of Session (1657-61), and another Alexander was the Lord Lyon (1727-54), while other members of the family were also prominent in the legal profession in Edinburgh. Brodies remain a large corporate and commercial law practice in the city. Deacon Brodie (1741-88) was a noted Edinburgh rogue, while the brothers William Brodie (1815-81) and Alexander Brodie (1830-67) were sculptors.