Neil is a masculine given name of Gaelic origin. The name is an Anglicisation of the Irish Niall which is of disputed derivation. The Irish name may be derived from words meaning "cloud", "passionate", or "champion". As a surname, Neil is traced back to Niall of the Nine Hostages who was an Irish king and eponymous ancestor of the Uí Néill and MacNeil kindred. Most authorities cite the meaning of Neil in the context of a surname as meaning champion.


The Gaelic name was adopted by the Vikings and taken to Iceland as Njáll. From Iceland it went via Norway, Denmark, and Normandy to England. The name also entered Northern England and Yorkshire directly from Ireland, and from Norwegian settlers. Neal or Neall is the Middle English form of Nigel.
As a first name, during the Middle Ages, the Gaelic name was popular in Ireland and Scotland. During the 20th century Neil began to be used in England and North America, and grew in popularity throughout the English-speaking world; however, in England, it has recently been eclipsed by the Gaelic form.
The surname Neil is a reduced form of the surname McNeil, or variant form the surname of Neill, Kneale, or Kneel. It evolved from McNelle and MacNeyll becoming Kneal by 1598.


Variants of the given name include: Neale and Neal.
The table below sets out the various surnames derived from Niall
NameYearCountry of originMentioned
Neel1170–1182EnglandYork Charters
Neil1260EnglandAssize Rolls, Yorks
Nele1304EnglandSubsidy Rolls, Yorks
Nigelli1195EnglandFeet of Fines, Warwicks
Niel1841ScotlandA frequent spelling variant of Neil in the 1841 Census of Aberdeenshire.
Nel, Neel1208–1210EnglandCuria Regis Rolls, Berkshire

Notable men named Neil