Explore the Family Name White

The meaning of White

1. English: from Middle English white, wit (Old English hwīt ‘white’), hence a nickname for someone with white hair or a pale complexion. In some cases it is perhaps from a Middle English survival of the Old English personal name Hwīta, a short form of names in Hwīt- (from hwīt ‘white’). The name may also be topographic, referring to someone who lived by a bend or curve in a river or road (from Old English wiht ‘bend’), the source of the placename of Great Whyte in Ramsey, Huntingdonshire (compare Wight). This name is also a variant of Wight. The surname White is also very common among African Americans. 2. Irish and Scottish: adopted for any of several Irish and Scottish Gaelic names based on bán ‘white, fair’ (see Bain 1, McElwain) or fionn ‘fair’ (see Finn 1). The English surname has been Gaelicized in Ireland as de Faoite. 3. Americanized form (translation into English) of various European surnames meaning ‘white’, for example German Weiss, French Blanc, Polish Białas (see Bialas), Slovenian Belec, or any other synonymous Slavic surname beginning with Bel-, Bev-, Biel- or Bil-. 4. Native American: translation into English and shortening of a personal name composed of a word meaning ‘white’, such as Lakota Sioux Waŋbli Ska ‘White Eagle’ (see Whiteeagle) or Tataŋka Ska ‘White Bull’ (see Whitebull). In many cases, however, this surname was probably chosen because it is a very common English surname in North America. History: Peregrine White (1620–1704) was born in Cape Cod harbor on board the Mayflower, thus becoming the first child of English descent to be born in New England. His father, William White, was the son of the rector of Barham, near Ipswich, Suffolk, England; he died in 1621 during the first winter at Plymouth Colony. John White, who came to Cambridge, MA, in 1632 and who was later one of the founders of Hartford, CT, is the ancestor of a noted American family, which included the architect Stanford White (1853–1906). The name was brought to North America from the British Isles independently by many other bearers from the 17th century onward.

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

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

Based on the Decennial U.S. Census, the surname "White" has seen a slight decrease in popularity over the years, moving from the 20th rank in 2000 to the 24th in 2010, representing a 20% change. However, the total count of individuals with this surname increased by 3.28%, reaching 660,491 in 2010 up from 639,515 in 2000. The proportion per 100,000 people decreased by 5.55% over the same period, indicating a relative decline in its popularity.

Proportion per 100k237.07223.91-5.55%

Race and Ethnicity of people with the last name White

The ethnic identity associated with the surname "White", as indicated by the Decennial U.S. Census data, reveals a diverse range of ethnicities. In 2000, 67.91% of those with the surname identified as White, although this figure slightly dropped by 3.53% to 65.51% by 2010. Meanwhile, there was a significant increase in the Hispanic population with this surname, growing by 53.55%. The percentage of Black individuals with this surname also saw a modest rise, increasing by 2.89% to reach 28.17% in 2010. Additionally, there were increases among Asian/Pacific Islander and American Indian and Alaskan Native populations, but these groups still represent a smaller fraction of the overall distribution. Individuals identifying with two or more races also increased, reflecting the growing diversity within this surname's demographic.

Two or More Races1.76%2.38%35.23%
American Indian and Alaskan Native1.01%1.07%5.94%
Asian/Pacific Islander0.39%0.49%25.64%

White 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 White is British & Irish, which comprises 52.6% of all ancestry found in people with the surname. The next two most common ancestries are French & German (21.3%) and Nigerian (3.8%). Additional ancestries include Eastern European, Scandinavian, Italian, Ghanaian, Liberian & Sierra Leonean, and Spanish & Portuguese.

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British & Irish52.6%
French & German21.3%

Possible origins of the surname White

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 White have recent ancestry locations all within the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

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

What White 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 White 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 I-Z58 and R-L21, which are predominantly found among people with European and European ancestry. Other surnames with similar common haplogroups are: Smith, Taylor, Brown, Green, Thompson, Wilson, Hill, Clark, Walker, Johnson.

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

whitePaternal 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 White 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.

"White" Surname 42.3%

23andMe Users 41.3%




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

"White" Surname 27.5%

23andMe Users 27.9%



Sugary Drink

Drinks one or more sugary drinks per day.

"White" Surname 22.3%

23andMe Users 21.1%




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

"White" Surname 18.5%

23andMe Users 16.4%

Are health conditions linked to the last name White?

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 White 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%