The name 'Calder' is thought to come from the early Common Brittonic, meaning 'hard or violent water' (the modern Welsh word for hard is "caled"), or possibly 'stony river'. It is found as a place name throughout Scotland. For example, East Calder and West Calder that are both near Edinburgh, and also Calderwood near Glasgow.
Historian William Anderson asserted that the name came to prominence in Scotland through a French knight called Hugh de Cadella, who was created Thane of Calder, later known as Cawdor. The historian George Fraser Black lists Hugh de Kaledouer as a witness to a charter of land near Montrose in around 1178.
However, the name arose around Inverness where the Calders were great nobles with considerable lands from the fourteenth century onwards. The third Calder, Thane of Cawdor was however murdered by Sir Alexander Rait of nearby Rait Castle.
Hugh de Kaledouer witnessed a charter by William the Lion at Montrose between 1178 and 1198, and also the gift of a toft in Forfar to Willelmus de Haia by the same king.
In the same reign he granted forty acres in Buthyrgasc to the Abbey of Scone and witnessed a charter by Swan filius Thori.
In 1419 Donald of Calder, lord of that Ilk acquired half of Dunmaglas from William Meignes.
Farchardus de Caldor was prebendarius de Crechmont in 1461, and John Calder was Bute Persuivant in 1589.
In 1686 the Calders of Asswanly received a baronetcy of Nova Scotia.