Mainly North American: transferred use of the surname, in origin a local name from any of various places in England named with the Middle English phrase atten whiten ey ‘by the white island’. In the 1980s its popularity as a girl's name was enhanced by the fame of the American singer Whitney Houston (b. 1963).
English: either an occupational name for a cowherd, from Middle English kineman ‘cattle man’ (not recorded except as a surname), or more probably from a Middle English survival of the Old English personal name Cynemann ‘royal man’, i.e. the king's man.