Explore the Family Name William

The meaning of William

1. English (of Norman origin): from the Middle English personal name William, Willam, Willem, an Old Picard and Norman French form of ancient Germanic Willihelm, composed of the elements wil- ‘will, desire’ + helm- ‘helmet, protection’. This Norman personal name became widely used in England, Scotland and Wales after the Conquest, mainly no doubt in honor of the Conqueror himself. By the 13th century it had already become the most popular personal name in England. A Parisian form of the name Guillaume was also sometimes used (see Gillam), which in medieval Wales was adopted as Gwilym (see Gwilliam). 2. Americanized form (translation into English) of French Guillaume.

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

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

Based on the Decennial U.S. Census data, the popularity of the surname William has seen a decline in recent years. In 2000, it was ranked 1923 and by 2010, it fell to 2694, a decrease of 40.09%. The count of individuals with the surname William also dropped from 17,164 in 2000 to 13,373 in 2010, recording a decrease of 22.09%. The proportion per 100k people decreased by 28.77% from 6.36 in 2000 to 4.53 in 2010.

Proportion per 100k6.364.53-28.77%

Race and Ethnicity of people with the last name William

The ethnicity associated with the surname William has shown interesting shifts over the decade based on the Decennial U.S. Census. The percentage of individuals identifying as Asian/Pacific Islander increased substantially from 1.61% in 2000 to 4.20% in 2010, a growth of 160.87%. Those identifying with two or more races saw a slight increase of 2.15%. White individuals with the surname increased by 3.41%, while Hispanic representation grew significantly by 52.14%. However, the proportion of Black individuals with the surname William decreased by 9.13%. There was also an increase in American Indian and Alaskan Natives bearing the surname, up from 0.67% in 2000 to 1.05% in 2010.

Asian/Pacific Islander1.61%4.2%160.87%
Two or More Races2.33%2.38%2.15%
American Indian and Alaskan Native0.67%1.05%56.72%

William 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 William is British & Irish, which comprises 31.3% of all ancestry found in people with the surname. The next two most common ancestries are French & German (20.1%) and Coptic Egyptian (6.1%). Additional ancestries include Nigerian, Northern Indian & Pakistani, Chinese, Italian, and Eastern European.

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British & Irish31.3%
French & German20.1%
Coptic Egyptian6.1%

Possible origins of the surname William

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 William have recent ancestry locations in United Kingdom and Ireland.

RECENT ANCESTRY LocationPercentage
Glasgow City, United Kingdom53.00%
Greater London, United Kingdom53.00%
Greater Manchester, United Kingdom53.00%
Lancashire, United Kingdom53.00%
Tyne And Wear, United Kingdom53.00%

What William 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 William 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 J-L26 and E-CTS4231, which are predominantly found among people with European and European ancestry. Other surnames with similar common haplogroups are: Grey, Busch, Austin, Adam, Winters, Bowers, Schumacher, Free, Maier, Jacob.

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

williamPaternal 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 William 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.

"William" Surname 37.5%

23andMe Users 41.3%




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

"William" Surname 23.3%

23andMe Users 27.9%



Sugary Drink

Drinks one or more sugary drinks per day.

"William" Surname 23.7%

23andMe Users 21.1%



Cat Allergy

An allergic reaction to cats, characterized by symptoms such as sneezing, itching, and difficulty breathing.

"William" Surname 50.0%

23andMe Users 36.7%

Are health conditions linked to the last name William?

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 William 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%