Explore the Family Name Whitney

The meaning of Whitney

English: habitational name from Whitney in Herefordshire, the etymology of which is uncertain. The second element is Old English ēg ‘island, piece of higher ground in a low-lying area’; the first appears to be hwītan, which is either the genitive singular of an Old English byname Hwīta (meaning ‘white’), or the weak dative case (originally used after a preposition and article) of the adjective hwīt ‘white’. The name may also derive from Whitney (now Whitney Wood) in Stevenage (Hertfordshire), probably named from Old English hwītan ‘white’ + (ge)hæge ‘enclosure’. History: John Whitney came from London, England, to Watertown, MA, in 1635, and had numerous prominent descendents.

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

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

The surname Whitney, based on the Decennial U.S. Census data, has seen a slight decrease in popularity from 2000 to 2010. In 2000, Whitney was ranked 934 in popularity and it fell to 994 by 2010, marking a 6.42% drop. Despite this fall in rank, the count of people with the Whitney surname saw a small increase of 2.53%, rising from 34,251 in 2000 to 35,118 in 2010. The proportion of individuals bearing the Whitney surname per 100k also fell from 12.7 in 2000 to 11.91 in 2010, showing a decrease of 6.22%.

Proportion per 100k12.711.91-6.22%

Race and Ethnicity of people with the last name Whitney

As for ethnic identity, the Decennial U.S. Census data reveals some shifts within the Whitney surname bearers between 2000 and 2010. The largest ethnic group remained those identifying as White, although their proportion decreased slightly from 87.11% to 85.44%. Those identifying as Black saw a minor increase from 8.41% to 8.45%. An upward trend in diversity is observed with increases in all other groups: Asian/Pacific Islander (0.72% to 0.83%), Two or more races (1.46% to 1.99%) and American Indian and Alaskan Native (0.66% to 0.82%). The most significant change was among those identifying as Hispanic, which saw an increase from 1.64% to 2.48%, marking a 51.22% growth.

Two or More Races1.46%1.99%36.3%
Asian/Pacific Islander0.72%0.83%15.28%
American Indian and Alaskan Native0.66%0.82%24.24%

Whitney 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 Whitney is British & Irish, which comprises 50.6% of all ancestry found in people with the surname. The next two most common ancestries are French & German (24.3%) and Scandinavian (4.6%). Additional ancestries include Eastern European, Italian, Spanish & Portuguese, Ashkenazi Jewish, and Nigerian.

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British & Irish50.6%
French & German24.3%

Possible origins of the surname Whitney

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 Whitney have recent ancestry locations in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and Ireland.

RECENT ANCESTRY LocationPercentage
Greater London, United Kingdom86.80%
Merseyside, United Kingdom86.70%
Greater Manchester, United Kingdom86.60%
Glasgow City, United Kingdom86.40%
West Midlands, United Kingdom86.00%

What Whitney 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 Whitney 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-L21 and R-Z209, which are predominantly found among people with European and European ancestry. Other surnames with similar common haplogroups are: Maxwell, Trimble, Barlow, Mccabe, Mckenna, Justice, Phelan, Mcnulty, Shipley, Fitzpatrick.

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

whitneyPaternal 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 Whitney 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.

"Whitney" Surname 41.5%

23andMe Users 41.3%




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

"Whitney" Surname 25.0%

23andMe Users 27.9%



Sugary Drink

Drinks one or more sugary drinks per day.

"Whitney" Surname 18.6%

23andMe Users 21.1%




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

"Whitney" Surname 19.5%

23andMe Users 16.4%

Are health conditions linked to the last name Whitney?

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 Whitney 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%