White Last Name Popularity, Meaning and Origin

In this article we'll look at the origin and meaning of the surname White and how popular it is in the United States. We'll also look at the race and ethnic origin of people in the United States who are named White.

White, like all of the names we have data for, is identified by the U.S. Census Bureau as a surname which has more than 100 occurrences in the United States in the Decennial Census survey. The most recent statistics we have for the White surname is from the 2010 census data.

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What is the Origin and Meaning of the Last Name White?

The surname White has several roots of origin within the British Isles, the first of which is the Middle English (8th-15th centuries) word "whit," which means white. It is a nickname-based surname that comes from the person having very fair hair or a very light complexion. In Old English (pre-7th century) the byname Hwit was in use which also translates as white.

In the Irish and Scottish Gaelic languages the word for white was "ban" and this historically has been found in early surnames within those countries. Over the years they have been anglicized to white. Throughout the rest of Europe surnames that translate to white also exist but remain in their native languages such as Blanc (France), Weiss (Germany) and Bialas (Poland).

One of the earliest mentions of the White surname in a different spelling comes from the year 1070. A Ordgar se Wite of Somerset, England is listed in the charters and registrations for that region. In the centuries after the 11th several spellings of the name are found through the UK including Whytte, Wytt, and Whyght.

The name White is notable when it comes to American history as members of the White family travelled to the new world aboard the Mayflower. One very notable member of that family is Peregrine White (1620-1704) who holds the distinction of being the first pilgrim birth on the crossing of the Mayflower. Peregrine was to go on to father seven children in the new world and would have 29 grandchildren. Descendants of Peregrine live to this day in the United States.

Where Does White Rank in the Most Common U.S. Names?

According to the data, White is ranked #24 in terms of the most common surnames in America.

The White surname appeared 660,491 times in the 2010 census and if you were to sample 100,000 people in the United States, approximately 223.91 would have the surname White.

We can also compare 2010 data for White to data from the previous census in 2000. The table below contains all of the statistics for both years in a side-by-side comparison.

2010 2000 Change (%)
Rank 24 20 18.18%
Count 660,491 639,515 3.23%
Proportion per 100k 223.91 237.07 -5.71%

Race and Ethnic Origin of People with the Last Name White

We also have some data on the ancestry of people with the surname White.

The below race categories are the modified race categories used in the Census Bureau's population estimates program. All people were categorized into six mutually exclusive racial and Hispanic origin groups: "White only", "Black only", "American Indian and Alaskan Native only", "Asian and Pacific Islander only", "Two or More Races", and "Hispanic".

For the most recent 2010 census data, the race/ethnic origin breakdown for White was:

  • 65.51%, or 432,688 total occurrences, were "Non-Hispanic White Only".
  • 28.17%, or 186,060 total occurrences, were "Non-Hispanic Black Only".
  • 0.49%, or 3,236 total occurrences, were "Non-Hispanic Asian and Pacific Islander Only".
  • 1.07%, or 7,067 total occurrences, were "Non-Hispanic American Indian and Alaskan Native".
  • 2.38%, or 15,720 total occurrences, were "Non-Hispanic of Two or More Races".
  • 2.38%, or 15,720 total occurrences, were "Hispanic Origin".

Note: Any fields showing (S) means the data was suppressed for privacy so that the data does not in any way identify any specific individuals.

Since we have data from the previous census in 2000, we can also compare the values to see how the popularity of White has changed in the 10 years between the two census surveys.

2010 2000 Change (%)
White 65.51% 67.91% -3.60%
Black 28.17% 27.38% 2.84%
Asian and Pacific Islander 0.49% 0.39% 22.73%
American Indian and Alaskan Native 1.07% 1.01% 5.77%
Two or More Races 2.38% 1.76% 29.95%
Hispanic 2.38% 1.55% 42.24%

Data Source(s)

All of the data on this page is sourced from the Decennial Census survey, from the United States Census Bureau.

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  • "White Last Name Popularity, Meaning and Origin". NameCensus.com. Accessed on November 28, 2022. https://namecensus.com/last-names/white-surname-popularity/.

  • "White Last Name Popularity, Meaning and Origin". NameCensus.com, https://namecensus.com/last-names/white-surname-popularity/. Accessed 28 November, 2022

  • White Last Name Popularity, Meaning and Origin. NameCensus.com. Retrieved from https://namecensus.com/last-names/white-surname-popularity/.