The Picts inhabited Caledonia (Scotland), north of the River Forth. We owe their name to the Romans: in Latin the word Picti means painted folk or possibly tattooed ones. The Picts spoke a language, Pictish, of which little is known.

Modern scholars believe that seven ancient Pictish Kingdoms existed:

  1. Cait -- situated in modern Caithness and Sutherland
  2. Ce -- situated in modern Mar and Buchan
  3. Circinn -- situated in modern Angus and the Mearns
  4. Fib -- situated in the modern Fife and Kinross (Fife is still known as the Kingdom of Fife)
  5. Fidach -- situated in modern Moray and Ross
  6. Fotla -- situated in modern Atholl and Gowrie
  7. Fortriu -- situated in modern Strathearn and Menteith

However, good archaeological evidence and some written evidence suggests that a Pictish kingdom also existed in Orkney.

From the 6th century AD onwards the Picts came under increasing pressure from the invasions of the Dalriadan Scots in the west and of the Vikings in the east. They defeated Dalriada militarily but intermarried repeatedly with the royal house of Dalriada until in 843 AD Kenneth Mac Alpin took the throne of a united kingdom of Scotland. Gaelic culture and Scots Gaelic gradually supplanted Pictish culture and the Pictish language.

It remains uncertain whether or not we should classify the Picts as Celts although most available placename evidence tends to support the theory that they were Brythonic Celts.

You can often tell where Pictish settlement has taken place in the past (in Scotland) from place names. Those prefixed with "Aber-", "Lhan-", "Pit-" or "Fin-" indicate the region was inhabited by Picts in the past (eg: Aberdeen, Lhanbryde, Pitmedden, Pittodrie, Findochty, etc).

See also: Kings of the Picts, mormaor.

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