Author Diana Gabaldon has become quite the expert on 18th century Scotland thanks to the research she’s done to write the “Outlander” novels on which the hit Starz series of the same name is based. Since the action takes place over decades, in many different lands, and during times of political unrest, her two main characters have had to take on a number of different names.
On Sunday’s episode, Claire (Caitriona Balfe) has finally returned back to Scotland after spending two decades in the 20th century. She had stayed parted from her husband Jamie (Sam Heughan) for so long because she had believed he had died at the Battle of Culloden, but when it’s revealed that he had survived and imprisoned, she begins to wonder if they can reunite. Finally, she finds evidence of a printer named Alexander Malcolm who had printed a phrase that only her Jamie could have known. It turns out to indeed be yet another one of Jamie’s many aliases, which brings us back to the beginning with how Claire didn’t even know his real name when they first met.
Here’s a look at all the names of Jamie Fraser:
Gabaldon had very deliberate reasons to give this name to her hero. In her research, she discovered that in real life, only one injured Jacobite hiding out in a farmhouse was spared from execution after Culloden (a scene that plays out in Episode 1 this season), and that person’s surname was Fraser. “I was thinking that if I expect Jamie to survive Culloden then his last name better be Fraser,” she told National Geographic. She then also chose his first name in recognition of the Scottish companion who was picked up from mid-18th Century Scotland during the Doctor’s travels.
When Claire first meets Jamie, he introduces himself as Jamie MacTavish because she’s a sassenach and therefore not to be trusted. He has a price on his head, after all. Fun fact: In the Season 1 episode titled “The Gathering,” Gabaldon herself appears in a cameo to play a character named Iona MacTavish.
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The explanation for this name is made pretty explicit in Season 3, Episode 2, “Surrender,” when the redcoats are looking for The Dunbonnet, a man who wears a dun (grayish brown) hat to cover his red hair. Jamie as a fugitive might not have even needed this cap since he the dirt and grime itself nearly covered the red in his hair. Which brings us to…
Red Jamie/Seumas Ruadh
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The notorious Highlander known as Red Jamie is very clearly Jamie’s nickname because of his red hair. Seumas Ruadh is the Gaelic translation of this name.
The show first introduces this name in Season 3, Episode 3, “All Debts Paid” when Jamie is in prison. It’s a name that reveals how well the other prisoners know him and mixes a nickname, lineage, and Gaelic all in one. Jamie’s father’s name was Brian (hence, why Claire names their daughter Brianna), and was known as Black Brian. Therefore, that makes Jamie the son of the Black One, or in Gaelic, Mac Dubh.
Alex MacKenzie and Alexander Malcolm
Instead of getting shipped to the Colonies when Arsmuir ceased to function as a prison, Jamie served his parole at Helwater and went by the name Alex MacKenzie to hide his notorious past. Once he is let go from that position, he goes into business as a printer named Alexander Malcolm. Both aliases come from Jamie’s full name: James Alexander Malcolm MacKenzie Fraser.
Check back for Jamie’s other aliases once they’re revealed in the show.
“Outlander” airs Sundays at 8 p.m. ET on Starz.