Etymology & Historical Origin of the Baby Name Neil

Neil is an anglicized form of a long-enduring Gaelic name Niall (pronounced “neel”) used frequently since the Middle Ages in Ireland and the Scottish Highlands. Its root meaning is up for debate, but most etymologists believe it comes from Gaelic words meaning one of three things: “champion”, “cloud” or “passionate, vehement”. All agree, however, that the usage of Niall/Neil started with a legendary late-4th/early-5th century High King of Ireland known as Níall Noígíallach (or Neil of the Nine Hostages) whose descendents from his Uí Néill dynasty would go onto rule Ireland for another 600 years (O'Neils/O'Neals). In Niall’s time, there were four kingdoms in Ireland - Ulster, Munster, Leinster & Connacht – and the most powerful king of the four enjoyed more central authority over the others (known as the High King of Tara). Níall was born one of five princely sons of Eochaid Mugmedón who held the distinction of being the High King of Tara. According to legend, the five sons were given a test to find water in order to determine which would inherit the throne. One by one, each brother came to a well of water guarded by a hideous old hag. They could only drink from the well if they agreed to kiss the repugnant woman (all refused). Only Níall passed the test when he agreed to her request for a kiss. Not only was Níall rcognized as the rightful heir, but the ugly hag transformed into the most beautiful woman in all of Ireland. After inheriting his father’s kingdom, Niall went about consolidating his power throughout the northern region of Ireland and dominating his enemies. He assisted the Scots and Picts in the Gaelic Dál Riata settlement (western coast of Scotland) against the pestering Romans, subduing the opposition by taking royal hostages (hence the Nine Hostages). The most famous hostage taken by Níall during one of his raids was a young Roman citizen who would later be called St. Patrick. Níall of the Nine Hostages was indeed a legendary “champion” and clearly a “passionate, vehement” Irish warrior of his day. The name Níall eventually morphed into Neil and Neal in English. It is also the root origin for the names Nigel and Nelson.

All About the Baby Name – Neil

Personality

OF THE BOY NAME NEIL

The Master Number Twenty-Two combines the traits of Twos and Fours into a powerful force. The references to The Master Builder and "large undertakings" serve to underscore the massive potential of this personality. They are extremely capable and therefore almost always successful. Twenty-Twos are courageous leaders, innovative thinkers, extremely wise and highly organized. As such, they are able to manifest something of major importance that will have a lasting impact on this world. Master Numbers carry with them a great sense of responsibility, so it can be a burden. However, Twenty-Twos are executors and action-takers. Further, this personality exhibits traits of the Twos, which brings sensitivity, spirituality and harmony, so their endeavors are likely to benefit mankind in some capacity.

Popularity

OF THE BOY NAME NEIL

Although Neil has never once hit the Top 100 list of most popular boy names in America, he has nonetheless been around and familiar for well over 130 years. The name dates back to the late 19th century (at least) and entered the 20th century with moderate success. The height of Neil’s popularity was during the 1950s when he hovered around position #150 on the charts. The name also saw a 54 position jump on the charts in one year alone (1969) which was the year Neil Armstrong became the first man to walk on the Moon. One small step for man, one giant step for the name Neil. By the 1990s, it became clear that Neil was going out of style as his drops on the charts became more substantial. The name continues its decline, but may be leveling out at low moderation today. The name is a simple, one-syllable choice; an understated “champion”. Most American parents are probably unaware of Neil’s Irish/Gaelic background or the legendary exploits of his namesake. Even with all the glory associated with Níall Noígíallach, Neil still feels unpretentious and elegant.

Quick Facts

ON NEIL

GENDER:

Boy

ORIGIN:

Celtic

NUMBER OF SYLLABLES:

1

RANKING POPULARITY:

623

PRONUNCIATION:

NEEL

SIMPLE MEANING:

Champion

Characteristics

OF NEIL

The Master Builder

Leader

Large Undertakings

Confidence

Discipline

Organization

Cultural References to the Baby Name – Neil

Literary Characters

OF THE BABY NAME NEIL

We cannot find any significant literary characters by the name of Neil

Popular Songs

ON NEIL

Ronnie and Neil
a song by Drive-By Truckers

Young Neil
a song by Blonde Redhead

Oh Neil
a song by Carole King

Neil Jung
a song by Teenage Fanclub

Neil Gow's Apprentice
a song by Fairport Convention

Fred Neil Medley
a song by Jerry Jeff Walker

Famous People

NAMED NEIL

Neil Armstrong (first person on the Moon)
Neil Armstrong (hockey player)
Neil Coles (golfer)
Neil Colville (hockey player)
Neil Diamond (musician)
Neil Johnston (basketball player)
Neil Patrick Harris (actor)
Neil Sedaka (musician)
Neil Young (musician)

Children of Famous People

NAMED NEIL

We cannot find any children of famous people with the first name Neil

Historic Figures

WITH THE NAME NEIL

Neil Armstrong is best known as the astronaut who became the first man to step foot on the Moon on July 21, 1969. More information to follow soon.