Neil is a masculine given name of Irish origin. The name is an Anglicisation of the Irish Niall which is of disputed derivation. The Irish name may be derived from words meaning "cloud", "passionate", or "champion". As a surname, Neil is traced back to Niall of the Nine Hostages who was an Irish king and eponymous ancestor of the Uí Néill and MacNeil kindred. Most authorities cite the meaning of Neil in the context of a surname as meaning champion.
The Gaelic name was adopted by the Vikings and taken to Iceland as Njáll (see Nigel). From Iceland it went via Norway, Denmark, and Normandy to England. The name also entered Northern England and Yorkshire directly from Ireland, and from Norwegian settlers. Neal or Neall is the Middle English form of Nigel.
As a first name, during the Middle Ages, the Gaelic name was popular in Ireland and Scotland. During the 20th century Neil began to be used in England and North America, and grew in popularity throughout the English-speaking world; however, in England, it has recently been eclipsed by the Gaelic form.
The surname Neil is a reduced form of the surname McNeil (from the Gaelic Mac Néill, "son of Niall"), or variant form the surname of Neill (from the Irish Ó Néill and Mac Néill or the Scottish Gaelic Mac Néill, meaning "descendant of Niall" and "son of Niall".
The name passed from Ireland to Scotland where it had the Mc/Mac prefix a prefix that already existed in the Irish surname such as Lóegaire mac Néill. Some Scottish McNeill's returned to Ireland in the 14th century and are associated with MacNeill, MacGreal, MacReill, and Mag Reil surnames.
The Manx version of the name is Kneal (1598), Kneale (1655), or Kneel (1636). It evolved from McNelle (1408) and MacNeyll (1430) becoming Kneal by 1598.
Variants of the given name include: Neale and Neal.
The table below sets out the various surnames derived from Niall and Nial
|Name||Year||Country of origin||Mentioned|
|Neil||1260||England||Assize Rolls, Yorks|
|Nele||1304||England||Subsidy Rolls, Yorks|
|Nigelli||1195||England||Feet of Fines, Warwicks|
|Niel||1841||Scotland||A frequent spelling variant of Neil in the 1841 Census of Aberdeenshire.|
|Nel, Neel||1208–1210||England||Curia Regis Rolls, Berkshire|
People with the name Neil
- Neil Abercrombie (born 1938), former Governor of Hawaii and U.S. Representative
- Neil Anderson (cricketer) (born 1979), Irish cricketer, right-handed batsman and a left-arm spin bowler
- Neil Armstrong (1930–2012), American astronaut, the first human being to set foot on the Moon
- Neil Bogart (1943–1982), American music executive
- Neil Breen American Independent Filmmaker
- Neil Buchanan (born 1961), English television presenter, artist and musician
- Neil Carmichael, Baron Carmichael of Kelvingrove (1921–2001), British Labour Party politician, Member of parliament (MP) in Glasgow 1962–1983
- Neil Carmichael (Conservative politician) (born 1961), English businessman, academic, and Member of parliament (MP) for Stroud from 2010
- Neil Cicierega (born 1986), American artist and Internet personality
- Neil Codling (born 1973), English musician, member of the band Suede
- Neil Diamond (born 1941), American singer-songwriter, musician, and actor
- Neil Gaiman (born 1960), English author
- Neil Gorsuch (born 1967), Associate justice of the Supreme Court of the United States
- Neil Hannon (born 1970), Northern Irish singer-songwriter and musician
- Neale Hanvey (born 1964), Scottish politician
- Neil Innes (1944–2019), English writer, comedian and musician, member of the Rutles, the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band
- Neil Jordan (born 1950), Irish film maker
- Neil Kenlock (born 1950), Jamaican-born photographer
- Neil Kinnock (born 1942), British politician, and former leader of the Labour Party (UK)
- Neil Lyndon (born 1946), British journalist and author
- Neil McVicar, Canadian politician
- Neil Patel (designer), Welsh-American production designer
- Neil Patel (political advisor), American publisher and co-founder of The Daily Caller
- Neil Patrick Harris (born 1973), American actor
- Neil Peart (1952–2020), American-Canadian drummer and lyricist of the rock band Rush
- Neil Prakash (born 1991), Australian terrorist
- Neil Sedaka (born 1939), American musician
- Neil Simon (1927–2018), American playwright
- Neil Tennant (born 1954), British singer-songwriter of Pet Shop Boys
- Neil deGrasse Tyson (born 1958), astrophysicist
- Neil Young (born 1945), Canadian singer-songwriter and musician
- Neil Turk (born 1987), Former English cricketer
- Niel Gow (1727-1807), Scottish Fiddler
- List of Irish-language given names
- List of Scottish Gaelic given names
- Niall, Gaelic form
- Nigel, given name
- Neal, Kneale, MacNeil, McNeil, Neale, Neill, Nelson, O'Neill
- Hanks, Patrick; Hardcastle, Kate; Hodges, Flavia (2006), A Dictionary of First Names, Oxford Paperback Reference (2nd ed.), Oxford University Press, pp. 203–204, ISBN 978-0-19-861060-1.
- P H Reaney, A Dictionary of British Surnames, Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1976, London.
- "Neil Name Meaning and History". Ancestry.com. Retrieved August 3, 2009. For the etymology of the surname Neil this web page cites: Dictionary of American Family Names, Oxford University Press, ISBN 0-19-508137-4.
- "Neill Name Meaning and History". Ancestry.com. Retrieved August 3, 2009. For the etymology of the surname Neill this web page cites: Dictionary of American Family Names, Oxford University Press, ISBN 0-19-508137-4.
- "McNeil Name Meaning and History". Ancestry.com. Retrieved August 3, 2009. For the etymology of the surname McNeil this web page cites: Dictionary of American Family Names, Oxford University Press, ISBN 0-19-508137-4.
- Edward MacLysaght, More Irish Family Names, Irish Academic Press, 1996, Dublin
- A W Moore, Manx Names, London 1903
- G F Black, Surnames of Scotland, New York, 1946