Whatcom County was created out of Island County by the Washington Territorial Legislature on March 9, 1854, and originally included present day San Juan and Skagit Counties. Its name ultimately derives from the Lummi word Xwotʼqom, meaning "noisy water."
Whatcom County's northern border is the international boundary with the Canadian province of British Columbia; adjoining the county on the north are four of metropolitan Vancouver's suburbs, Delta, White Rock, Surrey, Langley, and, in the central Fraser Valley, Abbotsford, with several shopping malls and other services in Bellingham and elsewhere in the county geared to cross-border shopping and recreation. The five crossing points are two at Blaine (one at the Peace Arch, located on the Interstate 5 crossing, and the other a commercial and passenger crossing on the Pacific Highway at State Route 543, both to Surrey, British Columbia), as well as at Lynden (SR 539, to Aldergrove), Sumas (SR 9, to Abbotsford), and Point Roberts (Tyee Drive, to Tsawwassen).
Whatcom County comprises the Bellingham, WA Metropolitan Statistical Area.
Washington and Oregon have been subdivided into townships and sections in accordance with the 1785 Continental Congress Public Land Survey. Both Washington and Oregon use the Willamette Meridian and Base Line for determining baseline and range. The entirety of Whatcom County is divided into land survey townships. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth century a number of the populated townships were given names. Place pages have been specified for those townships. Unincorporated communities in these named townships are defined in terms of Whatcom County, but get "also located" listings in the township. Cemeteries located in these named townships and not in incorporated cities and towns will be defined in terms of these townships. Cemeteries in parts of the county not included in named townships will be defined in terms of the county.