I am sure I am just one of many people writing about the name Nigel and it’s dramatic decline in popularity. I was at school with Nigels, I worked with Nigels, I taught Nigels, I had best friends who were Nigels, I had friends with children called Nigel… I don’t think I have any relatives called Nigel, and I never had a boyfriend called Nigel, but there have been Nigels a-plenty in my life.  Nigels abound in public life… I looked up a list of them and there were so many! I picked out twenty who I actually knew (not personally of course except for one who I was at school with for a couple of years!) Nigels well-known as sportsmen, politicians, musicians, writers, actors – lots of actors:

  • Nigel Benn
  • Nigel Bruce
  • Nigel Clough
  • Nigel Davenport
  • Nigel Farage
  • Nigel Havers
  • Nigel Hawthorne
  • Nigel Hess
  • Nigel Kennedy
  • Nigel Lawson
  • Nigel Mansell
  • Nigel Nicolson
  • Nigel Owens
  • Nigel Patrick
  • Nigel Pivaro
  • Nigel Planer
  • Nigel Stock
  • Nigel Terry
  • Nigel Williams
  • Nigel Wrench

… and of course there is the famous steam locomotive, Nigel Gresley, and two novels, Sir Walter Scott’s The Fortunes of Nigel published in 1822, and Conan Doyle’s Sir Nigel , 1905. Looking at birth records since 1840, there is a definite Nigel popularity bulge:

  • 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

So what is the origin of the name? I probably derived from the old French Neel, and possibly because of a mistake in transcription became Nigel during the Middle Ages. It was a known name throughout that period, but it only became widely popular as the data above shows, in the 1950’s-1970’s.

In case you are wondering, my featured image is of our friend Nigel!

Here’s a Nigel…

2 thoughts on “Nigels

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