Explore the Family Name Witherspoon

The meaning of Witherspoon

Scottish: of uncertain origin. Black tentatively mentions the possibility of a habitational name derived from Middle English and Older Scots wether ‘ram’ + Middle English spang, spong ‘long narrow strip of ground’. The compound makes an intelligible (but unrecorded) minor placename, but this form is unrecorded in Scots. Nor is there any evidence for wither as a variant of wether ‘ram’. If, in spite of these difficulties, the explanation is right, the form of the name must have been altered by folk etymology, influenced perhaps by Middle English and Older Scots wither (as a verb ‘to dry up’, as an adjective ‘hostile, opposite’) and spon ‘spoon’ or ‘roofing shingle’. History: John Witherspoon (1723–94), Presbyterian minister and teacher, was a signer of the Declaration of Independence. He was born at Gifford, near Edinburgh, Scotland, and came to North America in 1768 after being recruited as president of the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University).

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

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

Based on the data from the Decennial U.S. Census, the popularity of the surname Witherspoon has slightly decreased between 2000 and 2010. In 2000, it was ranked 2696th and slipped to 2736th by 2010, showing a decline of 1.48%. However, the actual count of people bearing the surname increased from 12,283 to 13,171 in the same period, which is a growth of 7.23%. The proportion per 100,000 people also saw a slight decrease of 1.76%, moving from 4.55 to 4.47.

Proportion per 100k4.554.47-1.76%

Race and Ethnicity of people with the last name Witherspoon

When examining the ethnic identity associated with the surname Witherspoon, the Decennial U.S. Census data reveals interesting shifts between 2000 and 2010. There was an increase in those identifying as Asian/Pacific Islander (31.82% increase), Two or more races (58.79% increase), Hispanic (42.96% increase), and Black (1.27% increase). The largest percentage of individuals with the surname identified as Black, increasing slightly from 61.30% to 62.08%. Meanwhile, there was a decrease in those identifying as White and American Indian and Alaskan Native, dropping by 7.41% and 13.51% respectively. This indicates a diversification in the ethnic identities associated with the surname over the decade.

Two or More Races1.99%3.16%58.79%
American Indian and Alaskan Native0.37%0.32%-13.51%
Asian/Pacific Islander0.22%0.29%31.82%

Witherspoon 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 Witherspoon is British & Irish, which comprises 44.1% of all ancestry found in people with the surname. The next two most common ancestries are French & German (14.7%) and Nigerian (11.2%). Additional ancestries include Ghanaian, Liberian & Sierra Leonean, Angolan & Congolese, Spanish & Portuguese, Eastern European, and Scandinavian.

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British & Irish44.1%
French & German14.7%

Possible origins of the surname Witherspoon

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 Witherspoon have recent ancestry locations all within United Kingdom.

RECENT ANCESTRY LocationPercentage
Merseyside, United Kingdom61.50%
Greater London, United Kingdom61.50%
West Midlands, United Kingdom61.00%
Greater Manchester, United Kingdom61.00%
Glasgow City, United Kingdom60.40%

What Witherspoon 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 Witherspoon 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-CTS241, which are predominantly found among people with European and European ancestry. Other surnames with similar common haplogroups are: Hobson, Musgrove, Newcomb, Wilber, Cotter, Veal, Creel, Havens, Totten, Calloway.

The most common maternal haplogroups of people with Witherspoon surname are: H1, H, L2a1. These most commonly trace back to individuals of European and Sub-Saharan African ancestry.

witherspoonPaternal 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 Witherspoon 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.

"Witherspoon" 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.

"Witherspoon" Surname 25.6%

23andMe Users 27.9%



Sugary Drink

Drinks one or more sugary drinks per day.

"Witherspoon" Surname 32.4%

23andMe Users 21.1%




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

"Witherspoon" Surname 21.1%

23andMe Users 16.4%

Are health conditions linked to the last name Witherspoon?

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 Witherspoon 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%