Meaning simply 'son of Thomas', the name Thomson appeared in Britain after the Norman Conquest. Only the Thomson is native to lowland Scotland, unlike Thompson which is English, and Thomas which is Welsh. It does have a Highland equivalent, MacThomas, although sometimes the name Thomson appears as an anglicisation of MacTavish.

The well-known Scots saying "We're all Jock Tamson's bairns", meaning everyone is essentially the same, refers to the Rev. John Thomson of Duddingston (1778 - 1840). Other notables with this name were architect Alexander 'Greek' Thomson (1817-75), physicist William Thomson, Lord Kelvin (1824 - 1907), oceanographer Sir Charles Wyville Thomson (1830-82), publisher D.C. Thomson (1861 - 1954) and baseball player Bobby Thomson (b.1924).

Today, Thomson is one of the most common surnames in Scotland.

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