Menzies is the Clan, Means is the Sept
Definitions and Heritage
The Means family history is forever tied to the Menzies Clan of Scotland, for the Means is a Sept of the Menzies clan.
Clan is the Gaelic word for children, but its usage in early Scotland is more properly that of family. In this sense, family is usually, but not necessarily, restricted to those who share a common ancestor or who have married into the family. At its core, a clan is composed of a family or number of families generally believed to be derived from a common ancestor. The clan has a chief, to whom all members owe allegiance, and yet tradition states that the clan is above the Chief. Thus, a clan is a tight circle in which the chief is expected/required to lead for the benefit of all.
Clan members are usually related to other clan members through birth or marriage, but this relationship is not required. In practice, any stranger who had the proper skill set, who swore an allegiance to the clan, and who (in some cases) adopted the name of the clan could be accepted into the clan if all agreed.
Septs associated with the clan are generally smaller families who have aligned themselves with larger families for protection (often becoming vassels of the chief) or they could be related to the clan through marriage.
Names originally recorded as sept have sometimes become clans in their own right and septs can be related to more than one clan. However, the Means are a sept only of the Menzies clan while the Menzies have other septs associated with them. These other septs include Dewar, MacMenzies, MacMonies, Mein, Meine, Minn, Monzie, MacMinn, Means, Mennie, Meyners and Minnus/Minnis.
Pronouncing the Clan Name
The correct pronunciation of the name Menzies was allegedly "mingis", but this pronunciation appears to be dying out. Other pronunciations found for the name include MING-iss, Minges, menz-ESS-ee-uh, Menghis, and Mingies.
Americans often give the tartan and kilts more attention than they deserve. The traditional, pre-1746 highlander was far more likely to wear a feileadh mor (Gaelic for a large piece of tartan material wrapped around the body, belted at the waist, and pinned over the shoulder. This article probably doubled as a blanket while traveling. The feileadh mor was a practical item of clothing that could keep a highlander warm and his sword arm free. What is often overlooked in America's fascination with kilts is that Highlanders and Celts also wore truis, which were the tight trousers often seen in other countries. They were especially likely to wear these if traveling by horseback.
The tartan was not originally identified by the weave, but by the number of colors in the weave. More, it was associated with one's position rather than one's family. If it had only one color, it was a servant's garb. If two, a farmer. Three indicated an officer rank and five was a chieftain. Six was a poet and seven was a chief. Over time, clans adopted their own tartans and used natural dyes that were available in their areas. The earth colors were sometimes a family secret known only to the weavers and included yellows, blues, whites, greens, browns, reds, black and purple.
After the battle of Culloden in 1746, the English banned Highland Dress and the tartans. Possibly in response to this and possibly in response to the efforts of Sir Walter Scott, the tartans today are distinctively the national dress of Scotland.
The most common tartan associated with the Menzie clan is the traditional red and white, which ties into their battle cry. [Up with the Red and White.]