The origin and history of the name
The origin and history of the name
Fenty The name and its origins
Fenty       The name and its origins

The small clan of Fenty's, Whynty's et al. arose in Scotland where


the fertile lands of Moray meet the productive waters of the North




It is noticeable that the spelling of the name FENTY appears prevalent in the Aberdeen area from 1700 onwards whereas the older spellings such as FINTY or WHYNTIE seem to have been retained in the Banff area, presumably, because the local “men o’ letters” were more aware of the geographical derivation of the name so were more likely to spell it ‘correctly’ when annotating the parish records, accounts of Kirk Sessions or estate papers


The name is derived from a stretch of coastline and adjacent land between Portsoy and Banff in Banffshire, Scotland.   There is a Whyntie Head, a Whyntie Wood and two farms, Easter and Wester Whyntie.  On old maps, Fynty or Whynty is shown as a definite settlement or village.

  In the north east Scottish dialect, the ‘wh’ sound is expressed as ‘f’ as in ‘Fit’s ‘at’ for ‘What’s that’.

It may be that the current place names represent an Anglicisation of a pre-existing place name when standard O.S. maps were first introduced.   Certainly, when asked, the local people still pronounce the name of the farms etc as ‘Fin - tay’.  


As to the origin of the place name, it seemed, initially, unlikely to be Gaelic as this area was previously Pictish, a race whose language is lost but was probably related to other Celtic languages such as Welsh. Gaelic is similar and there may have been a intermingling of languages in the past..  

It might be old Scots, referring to the type of stone available at that site. ‘Fin’ is the old Scots for whin-stone or basalt.   A geographical map shows Whyntie Head to be mostly flags and schists thus it is unlikely that this is the derivation of the name (vide infra).


Research done by Commander Adrian Whyntie indicates a more likely and much older derivation.   I quote from his research work:


   “In 1484 the Abbot and Convent of Arbroath leased to Sir James Ogilvy of Deskford, knight, the greater tithes of the churches of Banff and Inverboyndie; the tithes of the lands of INVERQUHENTYNE, Ardbangane and Dullochie only excepted."

The Inver prefix had disappeared by the 17th century. The charter version of the name provides plenty of clues for speculation about its origin. The prefix INVER meaning "at the mouth of (a river)" demonstrates an origin of at least the Gaelic age. At the same time it suggests QUHENTYNE was the old name of the nearest river or stream – the Burn of Boyne. Since Boyne and Boyndie probably come from a common origin it is highly likely that the Burn of Boyne did have another name otherwise it would be confused with the Burn of Boyndie.

Breaking QUHENTYNE into its two elements we get QUHEN and TYNE of which QUHEN must have been the stressed one. QUHEN is therefore the specific and could have been used to distinguish the stream from another in the district with the second element TYNE

Going back to the 1st element QUHEN, the QUH may represent a corrected back formation from F. This suggests Gaelic for fair, beneficial or white. Alternatively QUHEN may represent Pictish, Welsh, Pre-Celtic or Brythonic GWEN with exactly the same meaning. With the 2nd element TYNE we are on surer ground. It is the name of two British rivers and has been identified as coming from the Indo – European root to flow, to melt or to dissolve. It is either Celtic or pre-Celtic. It is related to Thames, Tamar and Teign.”

 Thus,  Inver-quhen-tyne  would have meant "at the mouth of the  pretty stream".


The detail of the land lease is quoted from “Topography and Antiquities of the Shires of Aberdeen and Banff.”

From the above detail it can be seen that the beginning of the name originated with the letters QUH. The early Scottish alphabet did not include the letter F.

QUH was pronounced as ‘F’.

Extracts from documents relating to the land of Whyntie occasionally spelt the place FENTIE.

The earliest recorded name is of an Andrew QUHENTY and he was living on the land of QUHENTY in 1542.

The record of this also mentions the land of Ardbrangand, Threpland and Duloquhy, all farms names still in use today. This also ties in with the earlier record dated 1484. There is a record of this held in the history centre in Elgin.

What is significant is that this would have been a very early use of a surname in Scotland, and that it places the name of the family with the name of the place.


A later charter given in 1625 by Charles I to William Ogilvie of Boyne mentions


"the lands of Cowhyth and Scotismylne, Ardbrangan, Cairntoun, Fentie and Greinfauld, Thripland and Greincoitt,

the lands of Dolloquhyis (Over and Nether) with the new lands thereof,"


There is a family story common to the Whyntie family and to the Fenty family as to their origins from a survivor or survivors of a shipwreck.

Adrian Whyntie, in researching his own ancestors, was told by the Banff fishermen, who had known of John Whyntey as a lay preacher, of local lore connecting the name of WHYNTEY to a shipwreck. The same family legend exists in the FENTY family.

The fact that this lore is common to both families when the name spelling has diverged so much suggests it is of some antiquity.

This would be in keeping with the origin of the name from a stretch of coastline with some fairly treacherous rocks that might well have resulted in the wreck of one of the coastal trading vessels, a common enough event in earlier times.

The appearance of the surname Quhenty before 1588, would seem to rule out the Spanish Armada, wrecked all around the coast of Britain, as a source of sailors but it is just possible that such survivors or those from other wrecked vesels married into or augmented, an existing group of families.

Just along the coast lies Rosehearty said to be founded by shipwrecked Danes.

Certainly, the bay below Whyntey Head has long arms of outlying rocks on both sides.

No easy place to sail into in stormy weather.                                                                            



N.B. Scottish records were looted and destroyed twice in Scottish history. First by Edward I and Edward II of England in the Wars of Independence in the thirteenth/fourteenth centuries and again by Cromwell in the seventeenth century.   Thus, earlier records are difficult to piece together.

Between 1645 and 1715, climatic change produced the “Little Ice Age” with cold summers and long harsh winters. Harvests failed leading to famine, deaths and migration with the resultant sudden disappearance of many people from the records.

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© Michael Fenty