Nigel /ˈnaɪdʒəl/ is an English masculine given name. The name is derived from the Latin Nigellus. This Latin word would seem to derive from the Latin niger, meaning "black"; however this is thought to be 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. Indeed, the Latin word nigellus gave birth to Old French neel (modern nielle), meaning “black enamel” (same word as niello) and it explains the confusion, because the clerics believed it was the same etymology as the first name Neel, spelled the same way.

In fact, the Old Norman first name Neel (modern surname Néel) derives itself from the Norse Njáll. The Norse Njáll, in turn, is derived from the Gaelic Niall. 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, such as Sir Walter Scott who published The Fortunes of Nigel in 1822. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle published Sir Nigel in 1905/06. Nigel was a common name for boys born in England and Wales during the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s (see below).

Nigel has never been as common in other countries, but has been among the thousand most common names for boys born in the United States since 1971 when 94 births were recorded with the name. Numbers peaked in 1994 when 447 were recorded (it being the 478th most common boys name that year). There were 214 in 2010. 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 person without friends, originating from the name being unusual in the 1980s and alliterating with 'no-friends'.

Read more about Nigel:  England and Wales, Notable Men Named Nigel, Fictional Characters

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