Explore the Family Name Watson

The meaning of Watson

Scottish, English, and Irish: patronymic meaning ‘son of Wat’, a pet form of Walter that was particularly common in Scotland and northern England. See Watt.

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

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

Based on data from the Decennial U.S. Census, the surname Watson experienced a slight decrease in popularity from 2000 to 2010. In 2000, Watson ranked as the 76th most popular surname, but fell to the 81st position by 2010, marking a decline of 6.58 percent. While the rank dropped, the actual count of individuals with this surname increased by 4.19 percent during this same period, growing from 242,432 people in 2000 to 252,579 people in 2010. This led to a minor decrease in its proportion per 100k people from 89.87 to 85.63.

Proportion per 100k89.8785.63-4.72%

Race and Ethnicity of people with the last name Watson

Turning our attention to ethnicity, the U.S. Census data from 2000 to 2010 shows several shifts for the Watson surname. The percentage of Watsons identifying as Asian/Pacific Islander, Two or more races, Hispanic, Black, and American Indian and Alaskan Native increased. The highest growth was seen among those identifying as Hispanic, which rose from 1.58 percent to 2.41 percent, reflecting an impressive increase of 52.53 percent. Those identifying as part of two or more races also saw a significant increase at 33.72 percent. The count of Watsons identifying as white decreased from 68.58 percent to 66.03 percent. However, it's important to note that the white ethnic identity still represents the majority for the Watson surname.

Two or More Races1.72%2.3%33.72%
American Indian and Alaskan Native0.8%0.82%2.5%
Asian/Pacific Islander0.47%0.53%12.77%

Watson 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 Watson is British & Irish, which comprises 55.6% of all ancestry found in people with the surname. The next two most common ancestries are French & German (20.2%) and Nigerian (3.6%). Additional ancestries include Eastern European, Scandinavian, Italian, Ghanaian, Liberian & Sierra Leonean, and Spanish & Portuguese.

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British & Irish55.6%
French & German20.2%

Possible origins of the surname Watson

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 Watson have recent ancestry locations all within United Kingdom.

RECENT ANCESTRY LocationPercentage
Greater London, United Kingdom82.40%
Greater Manchester, United Kingdom82.30%
West Midlands, United Kingdom81.90%
Merseyside, United Kingdom81.90%
West Yorkshire, United Kingdom81.80%

What Watson 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 Watson is R-CTS241, which is predominantly found among people with European ancestry. Haplogroup R-CTS241 is descended from haplogroup R-M343. Other common haplogroups include R-P311 and R-Z18065, which are predominantly found among people with European and European ancestry. Other surnames with similar common haplogroups are: Taylor, Smith, Brown, Wilson, White, Thompson, Clark, Walker, Green, Cooper.

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

watsonPaternal Haplogroup Origins R-M343

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 Watson 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.

"Watson" Surname 41.9%

23andMe Users 41.3%




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

"Watson" Surname 28.7%

23andMe Users 27.9%



Sugary Drink

Drinks one or more sugary drinks per day.

"Watson" Surname 22.4%

23andMe Users 21.1%




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

"Watson" Surname 17.8%

23andMe Users 16.4%

Are health conditions linked to the last name Watson?

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 Watson 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%