Nolan's history as a name can be traced back to 12th-century Ireland. It's believed that Nolan is the anglicized spelling of the surname O'Nullian. This was a common last name with the meaning "noble" or "famous." The O'Nullian family was in good standing with the kings of the Irish province Leinster, and had a lot of influence in southern Ireland.
When Britain colonized Ireland in the 17th century, the spelling of O'Nullian shifted to the more traditional English spelling of O'Nolan. Since then, Nolan has continued to be used as a surname and has also gained popularity as a first name for boys.
The surname O'Nolan arrived in North American in the 17th century. And when Ireland was ravaged by famine and poverty in the 19th century, more families bearing this name made the journey to America.
Nolan is pronounced "NO-len." There are no common variations of the name's spelling or pronunciation.
As well as "noble" or "famous," Nolan means "descendant of a chariot fighter or champions." This meaning gives us a glimpse into how the O'Nullian family rose to power in Ireland. We can only imagine the stories of courage in battle that exist in this family line.
More recent history also gives us a champion named Nolan: baseball pitcher Nolan Ryan is among the most famous Americans with the name. In 1983, he broke the existing world record for strikeouts in Major League Baseball. Ryan continued his record-breaking career and retired in 1993 with 5,714 strikeouts.
Nolan Ryan's long career may be at least partially responsible for Nolan's increasing popularity as a baby name. It's also likely that some parents are inspired by Christopher Nolan, an award-winning director whose career took off in the early 2000s. He's well known for the films Memento, The Dark Knight trilogy, Inception, and The Prestige.
Nolan has climbed the Social Security Administration's list of top baby names in the United States every year since the late 1980s. It was number 465 on the list in 1980. By 1990, it climbed to spot 302. And by the year 2000, Nolan was ranked 181. In 2011, Nolan broke into the top 100. And in 2020, parents made this name the 61st most popular name for baby boys in the U.S.
Nolan is typically used as a boy's name and only a few parents choose this name for their baby girls each year. Feminine variations of the name include Nola, Nolynn, and Nolene.
With centuries of history as a noble name, we won't be surprised if Nolan continues to gain in popularity.
Christopher Nolan : Award-winning filmmaker known for The Dark Knight, Inception, and Tenet
Nolan Ryan : Major League Baseball pitcher who broke the standing world record for strikeouts in 1983
Nolan Gould : American actor known for his role as Luke Dunphy on the sitcom Modern Family
Nolan North : voice actor known for Ricky & Morty, TMNT, and Blaze and the Monster Machines
Nolan Bushnell : Founder of Atari, Inc and children's arcade Chuck E Cheese
Nolan Ryan : baseball player
Nolan Cromwell : football player
Nolan North : actor