Etymology & Historical Origin of the Baby Name Nelson

Nelson is the transferred use of an English surname meaning “son of Neil”. Neil, in turn, is the anglicized form of the Irish Gaelic masculine name Niall. Nelson developed as a patronymic surname (passed from the father) and is said to mean “champion” (see the name Neil for more information on the Irish-Gaelic origins). The names Niall and the Scandinavian form of Njall would have arrived to England directly from Ireland by way of Scandinavian settlers. The first recorded spelling of Nelson as a surname took place in the 14th century and was rendered Nelleson (modern variations include Nelson, Neilson and Nilson). Nelson actually has a long history in terms of being used as a given name (rather than a surname). It was originally bestowed in honor of British naval commander and hero Viscount Horatio Nelson (1758-1805) who died at the Battle of Trafalgar after defeating the Franco-Spanish fleet during the Napoleonic Wars (a decisive victory for Britain). In more modern times, the name has been given in honor of Nelson Mandela, an activist and hero who fought against the apartheid policies of South Africa (for which he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize). In fact, singing sensation Celine Dion named one of her twin sons Nelson after Mandela. It is also the name of Nelson Rockefeller (former Vice President under Gerald Ford and former Governor of New York). This Nelson hailed from the ϋber-rich Rockefeller family (his grandfather founded Standard Oil Company) adding a certain wealthy “jet-set” currency to the name Nelson.

All About the Baby Name – Nelson



The number Seven personality is deeply mystical and highly in tune with their spirituality. They operate on a different wavelength than the average joe. Spending time alone comes easily to Sevens, as it gives them time to contemplate philosophical, religious and spiritual ideas in an effort to find "real truth".  Sevens are wise, but often exude mystery as if they are tapped into something the rest of us don't understand. They love the outdoors and are fed by nature. Sevens are constantly seeking to understand human nature, our place in the universe, and the mystery of life in general. This makes them quite artistic and poetic, but they are also keen observers with high intellect - so they are equally scientific-minded. Sevens are charitable and care deeply about the human condition.



Nelson is one of the more successful of surnames turned forenames. It has a long history of usage in America, dating back to at least the late 19th century (when the U.S. government first began tracking naming trends). In fact, Nelson was most popular in the late 1800s and early 1900s during which time he almost (but not quite) landed a spot on the Top 100 list of most favorite boy names in the country. Despite the fact that surnames are all the rage in America right now, we were surprised to see Nelson declining in usage as the years persist. The surnames with the “-son” suffix most popular in America currently are Mason, Jackson, Carson, Grayson, Bryson, Hudson, and Harrison. Nelson does not appear to be on the radar; yet, like these others, Nelson is a very straightforward, snappy two-syllable name. For parents drawn to surnames, this one is currently neglected in our humble opinion. Mason, Jackson and Carson have become almost too popular, so Nelson is a great alternative for parents looking for one that’s not quite so overused. Obviously, a great name choice for any son of Neil/Neal or even Nigel.

Quick Facts













Son of Neil










Cultural References to the Baby Name – Nelson

Literary Characters


Nelson Angstrom is the little son of Harry “Rabbit” Angstrom in John Updike’s 1960 novel, “Rabbit, Run” and he grows up in the sequels, Rabbit Redux (1971), Rabbit is Rich (1981, Rabbit at Rest (1990), and the 2001 novella, Rabbit Remembered. Although Nelson, as he grows up and matures in the later novels, is a rather despicable character, it is in Run, Rabbit that we find the genesis of his later development. Here he is just an innocent toddler unlucky enough to have been born to two colossally selfish human beings, two people who only married because of Nelson’s having been conceived accidentally. Little Nelson is seen by his father to be a kind of ransom he’s had to pay to Mother Nature; even in his kindest moments, Nelson only serves as a reminder that his father’s life is over, not becoming. Add to this grim ambience the fact that his father leaves his mother and his mother accidentally (drunkenly) drowns his baby sister, and you have a sure-fire formula for more trouble ahead for poor Nelson. The sins of the fathers….

Childrens Books


We cannot find any childrens books with the first name Nelson

Popular Songs


Song for Nelson
a song by Self

Full Nelson
a song by Limp Bizkit

Famous People


Nelson Mandela (activist, former President of South Africa)
Nelson Rockefeller (former V.P. of the U.S.)
Nelson Stewart (hockey player)
Nelson Cruz (baseball player)
Nelson Ascencio (actor/comic)
Nelson Algren (author)
Nelson DeCastro (comic book artist)
Nelson DeMille (author)
Nelson Eddy (singer/actor)

Children of Famous People


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

Historic Figures


Willie Nelson is the mellow singing, you-know-what-kicking, Master of Country Music, in capitals! He writes prose and poetry as well as music, he has acted in dozens of films and he is a highly visible activist for various social causes. One of those causes is very dear to his own heart – that of the legalization of marijuana. Over the years, Willie evolved from a short-haired, suit wearing performer into the grey-bearded, long-haired, aging hippie who clearly doesn’t give a damn what you think of him. And we think the world of him – his voice is honey sifted through gravel, distinguishing such classics as “Honeysuckle Rose”, “Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain” and “On the Road Again”. Over the years, in addition to his illustrious solo career, Willie has paired or grouped with other notable bad boys, such as Waylon Jennings, Kris Kristofferson and Johnny Cash. It is our fond hope that this Outlaw will go on trucking forever!

Born in 1918 in a tiny village in South Africa, Nelson Mandela was actually given the birth name Rolihlahla Mandela. In the Xhosa language “Rolihlahla” literally translates to “pulling the branch of a tree” but figuratively means “troublemaker”. Indeed, Mandela did turn out to be a “troublemaker” but in the good sort of way. It was a primary school teacher who would later dub Mandela “Nelson” in keeping with the British bias so dominant in the education system of South Africa. Nelson would later study and become interested in South African history, learning how the tribal people lived in relative peace and harmony before the arrival of white man. By his early 20s, Mandela became active in the anti-apartheid movement. Apartheid was essentially the political system of South Africa which separated the native African Blacks from the European Whites while providing privileges to Whites which were denied the Blacks. Mandela led the movement against the status quo in a peaceful, non-violent way which would draw International sympathy and attention to his cause. He would also be sentenced to life in prison in 1962 on the trumped up charges of treason and sabotage where he would remain for 27 years. Following his release, Mandela led his political party in negotiations to establish a democracy. Not only did Nelson Mandela become South Africa’s first Black president, but he was also the first person elected in a fully democratic process. He served as President between 1994 and 1999. He was also co-awarded the Nobel Peace Prize with F. W. de Klerk, South Africa’s out-going President and the last of the apartheid-era country. Always believing in the inherent good of his fellow man, Nelson Mandela once said: "Man’s goodness is a flame that can be hidden but never extinguished."