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Word/nameNiall -> Njáll -> Neel, Niel, Nihel -> Nigellus -> Nigel
Meaningultimately from the Gaelic Niall
Region of originNormandy and England
Other names
Related namesNigella (female)

Nigel /ˈnəl/ is an English masculine given name.

The English Nigel is commonly found in records dating from the Middle Ages; however, it was not used much before being revived by 19th-century antiquarians. For instance, Sir Walter Scott published The Fortunes of Nigel in 1822,[1] and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle published Sir Nigel in 1905–06. Nigel was a common name for boys born in England and Wales from the 1950s to the 1970s (see below).

Nigel has never been as common in other countries, but was among the 1,000 most common names for boys born in the United States from 1971 to 2010. Numbers peaked in 1994 when 447 were recorded (it was the 478th most common boys' name that year).[2] The peak popularity at 0.02% of boys' names in 1994 compares to a peak popularity in England and Wales of about 1.2% in 1963, 60 times higher.

In Australian English, it is a colloquial term for a male social misfit or a friendless person, originating from the name being unusual in the 1970s and alliterating with "no-friends" (both start with n).[3]


The name is derived from the church Latin Nigellus. This Latin word would at first sight seems to derive from the Latin niger, meaning "black"; however, this is now considered an example of an incorrect etymology created by French-speaking clerics, who knew Latin as well, to translate the Norman first name Neel in the Latin written documents. The Latin word nigellus gave birth to Old French neel (modern nielle), meaning “niello, black enamel” and it explains the confusion, because the clerics believed it was the same etymology as the first name Neel, spelled the same way.[4]

The Old Norman first name Neel (modern surname Néel) derives from the Norse Njáll. The Norse Njáll, in turn, is derived from the Gaelic Niall.[5][6]

England and Wales[edit]

The following table shows the number of boys given the first name Nigel in specific years in England and Wales. Numbers peaked in about 1963.[7][8][9] In 1964 it was the 23rd most popular boys' name.[10] By 2016 the number of boys named Nigel had dropped below 3, the minimum number reported by the ONS.[11]

Year Number
1840 1
1850 2
1860 1
1870 7
1880 8
1890 10
1900 18
1910 24
1920 71
1930 164
1940 445
1950 1943
1960 4383
1963 5529
1970 2469
1980 413
1990 125
2000 25
2010 18
2015 9

Medieval figures[edit]

Notable men named Nigel[edit]

Fictional characters[edit]



  1. ^ Hanks, Patrick; Hodges, Flavia (2006). Hardcastle, Kate (ed.). Oxford Dictionary of Names (2nd ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 205. ISBN 978-0-19-861060-1.
  2. ^ SueKunkel. "Popular Baby Names". Retrieved 1 November 2016.
  3. ^ Macquarie Australian English Dictionary, Macmillan Publishers Australia 2010
  4. ^ Origine et histoire des noms de famille, Marianne Mulon, editions errance, 2002. p 119.
  5. ^ Nordic Names : origin and etymology of Niall [1]
  6. ^ "Neill Name Meaning and History". Retrieved 2 August 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.
  7. ^ Extracted from indexes of births registered in England and Wales in Numbers for some years may contain some duplication with boys appearing twice in the index.
  8. ^ Baby Names, England and Wales, 2010 (ONS Spreadsheet)
  9. ^ Baby Names, England and Wales, 2015 (ONS Spreadsheet)
  10. ^ Baby Names, England and Wales, 1904-1994 (ONS Spreadsheet)
  11. ^ "No Brexit bounce for the name Nigel". BBC. 20 September 2017. Retrieved 20 September 2017.