Recorded in several forms including MacWhirter, McWhirter, MacChruiter, McChruiter, McQuarter, McQuirter, and even Mewhirter, this is a surname of medieval Gaelic origins. It is generally considered to be Scottish, but we have some reservations, as the earliest known recordings seem to be from Ireland. What is certain is that if the name is Scottish, Ayrshire on the west coast would seem to be the place of origin, but that in its different forms it is equally popular in the Irish counties of Armagh and Antrim. The derivation is clearly from the ancient Gaelic word "cruiteir" meaning a harper or harpist, a word which appeared equally in early records of both Ireland and Scotland. As such the surname is a metonymic or nickname for a musician. According to some authorities the nameholders belong to the Clan Buchanan, and were hereditary harpists to the chiefs of the clan. This is possible although the Buchanans originate from Stirling, quite some way in earlier times, from Ayr. It is also rather curious that whilst the name is recorded in Northern Ireland as early as 1684, the first recording that we have in Scotland is not until 1749, when Andrew M'Whiter of Kirkhobble, is so recorded. The name appears in the records of the state of New Jersey in 1734, when Alexander McWhorter was born at Newark. He was an active participant in the later War of Independance (1776 - 1781). The name is now much associated with the famous Guiness Book of Records edited by Norris McWhirter.

Surnames reference. 2013.

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