In its more usual form of Brown, this is an extremely common name and in most cases is simply a reference to colouring. Black, however, asserts that those of a Celtic origin may be named after their descent from the native judges, known as ‘brehons’. The Lowland name achieved prominence in East Lothian in the early twelfth century, when Sir David Le Brun witnessed the laying of the foundation of the Abbey of Holyrood House in 1128. He gave lands to the new abbey in return for prayers for the health of his son. The Brouns of Colstoun enjoyed considerable royal favour which may have been assisted by their claim to descent from the royal house of France. The arms which they bear contain the three gold lilies of France. The family prospered and married into other noble families around Haddington, including the powerful Hays, who owned the lands of Yester and were ancestors of the marquesses of Tweeddale. Sir Patrick Broun of Colstoun was created a Baronet of Nova Scotia in 1686.
In April 2000, his direct descendant Sir William Broun of Colstoun and Thorniedykes was granted supporters by the Lord Lyon King of Arms and recognised as Chief of the Name and Arms of Broun of Colstoun. Robert Brown, born at Montrose in 1773, was a distinguished botanist who was to contribute important original work on the plant life of Australia. In 1828 he published his work on experiments on fine powder suspended in water which revealed the phenomenon to be named ‘Brownian motion’. George Brown of Edinburgh moved to Toronto in Ontario, in 1843. He became a newspaper proprietor and founder of the Toronto Globe. He was influential in the acquisition by Canada of the Northwest Territories. He served in Parliament and entered the Senate in 1873. He was fatally shot by a disgruntled former employee in 1880.