Explore the Family Name Cotter

The meaning of Cotter

1. Irish (Cork): from a shortened form of Mac Coitir, earlier Mac Oitir ‘son of Oitir’, a Gaelicized form of the Old Norse personal name Óttarr (from ótti ‘fear, dread’). Old Norse Óttarr appears to have had two renderings in Gaelic, Ottar and Oitir. The former appears in Cotter, the latter in Cottier, but the record, especially of Cottier, suggests that the two names have sometimes been confused. 2. English: status name from Middle English coter, a technical term in the feudal system for a serf or bond tenant who held a cottage by service rather than rent, from Old English cot ‘cottage, hut’ (see Coates) + -er agent suffix. However, in England the name is usually that of Irish immigrant families. 3. Possibly an Americanized form of German Kotter.

Dictionary of American Family Names, 2nd edition, © Oxford University Press, 2022.

How common is the last name Cotter in the United States?

Based on the Decennial U.S. Census data, the popularity of the surname Cotter has seen a slight decrease in the years from 2000 to 2010. In terms of ranking, it dropped from 2764 in 2000 to 3010 in 2010, marking a decline of 8.9%. The overall count of individuals with the Cotter surname also decreased marginally by 0.61% from 11,977 in 2000 to 11,904 in 2010. The proportion per 100k people likewise fell by 9.01% over this ten-year span.

Proportion per 100k4.444.04-9.01%

Race and Ethnicity of people with the last name Cotter

In terms of ethnicity, the Decennial U.S. Census data reveals some shifts in the distribution of the Cotter surname among different ethnic identities between 2000 and 2010. While the majority of bearers of the Cotter surname are of White ethnicity (94.52% in 2010), other ethnicities have seen increases or decreases. Notably, the Hispanic representation rose significantly by 71.77%, and the Asian/Pacific Islander group also increased by 56.25%. On the other hand, the Black population saw a drop of 32.38%, and the American Indian and Alaskan Native group decreased slightly by 6.90%. Those identifying as two or more races saw a modest increase of 25.00%.

Two or More Races1.08%1.35%25%
Asian/Pacific Islander0.48%0.75%56.25%
American Indian and Alaskan Native0.58%0.54%-6.9%

Cotter ancestry composition

23andMe computes an ancestry breakdown for each customer. People may have ancestry from just one population or they may have ancestry from several populations. The most commonly-observed ancestry found in people with the surname Cotter is British & Irish, which comprises 61.3% of all ancestry found in people with the surname. The next two most common ancestries are French & German (17.0%) and Eastern European (5.4%). Additional ancestries include Italian, Scandinavian, Spanish & Portuguese, Ashkenazi Jewish, and Indigenous American.

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British & Irish61.3%
French & German17.0%
Eastern European5.4%

Possible origins of the surname Cotter

Your DNA provides clues about where your recent ancestors may have lived. Having many distant relatives in the same location suggests that you may all share common ancestry there. Locations with many distant relatives can also be places where people have migrated recently, such as large cities. If a large number of individuals who share your surname have distant relatives in a specific area, it could indicate a connection between your surname and that location, stemming from either recent ancestral ties or migration.

Based on 23andMe data, people with last name Cotter have recent ancestry locations in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and Ireland.

RECENT ANCESTRY LocationPercentage
Glasgow City, United Kingdom89.60%
Greater London, United Kingdom89.60%
Merseyside, United Kingdom89.30%
Greater Manchester, United Kingdom89.30%
West Midlands, United Kingdom88.70%

What Cotter haplogroups can tell you

Haplogroups are genetic population groups that share a common ancestor on either your paternal or maternal line. These paternal and maternal haplogroups shed light on your genetic ancestry and help tell the story of your family.

The top paternal haplogroup of people with the surname Cotter is R-Z159, which is predominantly found among people with European ancestry. Haplogroup R-Z159 is descended from haplogroup R-M343. Other common haplogroups include R-L48 and R-S568, which are predominantly found among people with European and European ancestry. Other surnames with similar common haplogroups are: Wilber, Cloud, Havens, Newcomb, Ashmore, Morehouse, Liston, Veal, Westfall, Hobson.

The most common maternal haplogroups of people with Cotter surname are: H1, T2b, H. These most commonly trace back to individuals of European ancestry.

cotterPaternal Haplogroup Origins R-M343
Paternal Haplo Image

Your paternal lineage may be linked to King Louis XVI

The rule of France by men of the House of Bourbon began with King Henri IV in 1589 C.E. and continued until the beheading of his direct paternal descendant King Louis XVI in 1793. Several years ago, researchers analyzed a mummified head and a blood-soaked cloth that they believed might belong to the two kings, and concluded that the royal paternal line belonged to haplogroup G. In a more recent study, however, a different set of researchers tested three living men who are direct descendants of the Bourbon kings. Their efforts revealed that the male lineage of the House of Bourbon is actually a branch of haplogroup R-M405.

Your maternal lineage may be linked to Marie Antoinette

Because it is so dominant in the general European population, haplogroup H also appears quite frequently in the continent's royal houses. Marie Antoinette, an Austrian Hapsburg who married into the French royal family, inherited the haplogroup from her maternal ancestors. So did Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, whose recorded genealogy traces his female line to Bavaria. Scientists also discovered that famed 16th century astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus traced his maternal lineages to haplogroup H.

Maternal Haplo Image

What do people with the surname Cotter have in common?

Spoiler alert: it's complicated. People with the same last name are usually no more genetically similar than a randomly sampled group of people from the same population. That said, people with the same surname are more likely to have similar ancestries than randomly sampled individuals. The reason is the tendency of people with similar cultural or geographical backgrounds to preferentially mate with one another. That's why people who share a surname may be more likely to share traits and tendencies in common than people within the general population. Check out the percentages below to see the prevalences of tastes, habits, and traits of people with your surname compared with prevalences among 23andMe users.



Chocolate Ice Cream

Prefers chocolate flavored ice cream over other flavors.

"Cotter" Surname 44.1%

23andMe Users 41.3%




When sounds made by others, like the sound of chewing or yawning, provoke strong emotional reactions in an individual.

"Cotter" Surname 17.4%

23andMe Users 27.9%



Sugary Drink

Drinks one or more sugary drinks per day.

"Cotter" Surname 21.8%

23andMe Users 21.1%




A severe headache characterized by intense pain, sensitivity to light and sound, and often accompanied by nausea and vomiting.

"Cotter" Surname 21.0%

23andMe Users 16.4%

Are health conditions linked to the last name Cotter?

The short answer is that, if there is an association between surname and health, it's usually more about your ancestry than your name. Individuals with a given surname are no more genetically similar than the general population but often have similar ancestries. The populations of people associated with those shared ancestries often have sets of genetic variations, also known as alleles, in common. Some of those alleles are associated with a greater likelihood of developing certain diseases.

Disease variant frequency by ancestry

Disease allele frequencies in populations associated with the surname Cotter are shown below. Important Note: not everyone with a disease allele will develop these health condition

Age-Related Macular Degeneration

Y402H variant

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the most common cause of irreversible vision loss among older adults. The disease results in damage to the central part of the retina (the macula), impairing vision needed for reading, driving, or even recognizing faces. The 23andMe Health + Ancestry DNA test includes the two most common variants associated with an increased risk of developing the condition: the Y402H variant in the CFH gene and the A69S variant in the ARMS2 gene. Learn more about Age-Related Macular Degeneration

British & Irish 62.1%

23andMe Users 57.2%