- Recorded as O'Neill, MacNeill, Neil, Neeld, Neild, Nield, Niel, Neal, Nihell, and Nigel, this is a surname of ancient Gaelic and Norse origins. It derives from the pre 6th century baptismal name Niall, itself from the word "niadh", meaning "The champion". This name was in turn "borrowed" by the 9th century Norse Invaders of Britain as Njall and brought back by them to Scandinavia. Fron therein time it went to France with another group of Norsemen who became known to history as "The Normans", and in due course it completed the circle by entering England with the Norman Invasion of 1066. Here it developed other forms including Nigel, frequently Latinized as Nigellus. It was also introduced directly into north-west England and Yorkshire by the Norwegian conquerors of Ireland, who also took the Isle of Man. In Ireland the name was borne by "Niall of the Nine Hostages", a legendary High King of Ireland, and by Niall Glunduby, a 10th century king of Ireland, from whom the present day families in their different spellings claim descent. Early examples of recordings include Willelmus Nigelli in the English Domesday Book of 1086 for the county of Buckinghamshire, Robert Neel of Berkshire, in 1208, whilst later in Stuart times Daniel Nield, was christened at St. Martin-in-the-Fields, Westminster, on May 22nd 1682. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Donell O' Neill, grandson of Niall Glundubh. This was dated in the year 990 a.d. in the historic Annals of Ireland, during the reign of King Malachy II, High King of Ireland, 977 - 1002.
Surnames reference. 2013.