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Meaning and Origin of: Nelson

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First name origins & meanings:

  • Old English : Son of a champion; son of Neil

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Last name origin & meaning:

  • English and Scottish : patronymic from the medieval personal name Nel or Neal, Anglo-Scandinavian forms of the Gaelic name Niall (see Neill). This was adopted by the Scandinavians in the form Njal and was introduced into northern England and East Anglia by them, rather than being taken directly from Gaelic.
  • Americanized spelling of the like-sounding Scandinavian names Nilsen, Nielsen, and Nilsson.
  • The Nelson name was an important one in 18th-century VA, starting with Thomas ‘Scotch Tom’ Nelson, who emigrated to VA at the close of the 17th century from Penrith, Cumbria, where the Nelsons were numerous. Scotch Tom settled about 1700 at Yorktown, VA, where he became a successful merchant and landholder. His son was sheriff and a member of the VA Council, and his grandson, Thomas Nelson (1738–89), a signer of the Declaration of Independence, was governor of VA.

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