Elaboration of Mary, with the addition of the productive suffix -lyn (see Lynn). It is recorded in the 18th century, possibly as a blend of Mary and Ellen, but first came into regular use in the 20th century, peaking in the 1940s and 50s. Since then its use has been surprisingly moderate, considering the enduring popularity of the film star Marilyn Monroe (1926–62), baptized Norma Jeane Baker.
English, Scottish, and Irish: from Middle English whit ‘white’, hence a nickname for someone with white hair or an unnaturally pale complexion. In some cases it represents a Middle English personal name, from an Old English byname, Hwīt(a), of this origin. As a Scottish and Irish surname it has been widely used as a translation of the many Gaelic names based on bán ‘white’ (see Bain 1) or fionn ‘fair’ (see Finn 1). There has also been some confusion with Wight.