Coat of arms of Hogwarts, the fictional school...
Coat of arms of Hogwarts; Image via Wikipedia

Harry Potter’s classmate Neville Longbottom starts out a bumbler, becomes an object of pity, and eventually grows up to be a hero in his own right.

It’s enough to  make parents consider the underused Neville, and thanks to Liz, he’s our Baby Name of the Day.

Neville sounds quintessentially English, but his roots are French.  His ville is the equivalent of so many names’ ton – city, village, town.  And the nev comes from neu – new.  At least two places in Normandy were called new city, or Néville.  The Normans brought the name to England.

The family that made the name famous weren’t French.  Instead, they were one of the few families of native English origin to hold power after the conquest.  Uhtred and his son Dolfin surface in the early 1100s in North East England in a place called Staindrop.  (Really – but doesn’t it sound like a place name invented for a child’s story?)

The family prospered, and Dolfin’s grandson married the wealthy Anglo-Norman heiress Isabel de Néville.  Within a generation, they’d adopted Neville as their surname. As the fifteenth century began, Ralph Neville had just been created Earl of Westmoreland and married the king’s sister.  They had a good run, amassing titles and property through a series of political intrigues over the next two centuries.

I couldn’t confirm if Arthur Neville Chamberlain was descended from the famous family.  The former British Prime Minister remains controversial – he’s best known for appeasing Nazi Germany, agreeing to let them take a chunk of Czechoslovakia for their very own.  Chamberlain did eventually declare war on Germany following their attack on Poland, but he remains best known for his damaging – if popular and widely supported – delay.  He was succeeded by Winston Churchill, and the rest is history.

Neville has never entered the US Top 1000, but there were other twentieth-century Nevilles, like World War II flying ace Neville Duke.  The best known Nevilles in recent years, however, are probably the Grammy-winning Neville BrothersAaron Neville has also had a successful solo career.

But if Neville catches a parent’s ear, it is probably thanks to the fictional wizard.  Just as the unlikely Luna got a boost from her time at Hogwarts, the series might change the next generation’s perception of Neville.  When he’s first introduced, Neville can do nothing right, despite his pure-blood wizarding parenthood.  Over the course of the seven novels, Neville goes from zero to hero, eventually leading the resistance at Hogwarts and playing a pivotal role in the final battle.

Despite the character’s redeeming qualities, Neville’s sound is not terribly current for boys at the moment.  Still, enduring boys’ names like Daniel and Samuel do end in -l, and the -ev sound is found in 20th century favorites like Evan and Kevin.  Maybe the generation who came of age watching Harry Potter fight the good fight will embrace Neville, but for now, he remains a rarity.

About Abby Sandel

Whether you're naming a baby, or just all about names, you've come to the right place! Appellation Mountain is a haven for lovers of obscure gems and enduring classics alike.

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What do you think?


  1. Speaking as a Neville, I was very happy with how things turned out in Harry Potter! And to Heather, who thinks it’s a geeky name… well, I’m a full on geek and proud of it. 🙂 BTW I live in Sydney, Australia. it’s probably more common over here than the US but still fairly rare. I’ve only met about 2 other Neville’s in my life. Tell you what though, it’s handy to have a unique name for people to find you with a google search.

  2. I want to like Neville, too. I’m looking for boys’ names with a v in the middle, as a subtle connection to my husband, Trevor, (which I’m sure makes me biased but I don’t find fusty or overly British, and we’re in Texas) and his dad, Ivan.

    1. Oh, that’s a tough one! Trevor, Ivan and … Devon? Maybe a little trendy. Calvin, Cavan, David, Davis, Evan, Gavin, Oliver, Pavel, River … then there are longer ones, like Salvatore and Sylvester. Davis is my favorite of the moment, but it depends on your other criteria – and Trevor’s opinion, too, of course!

      1. Thanks so much for the suggestions! It’s more of an theoretical exercise at present (still ttc), but I got the idea in my head and can’t stop looking 🙂 I hadn’t thought of Davis and Pavel! Those are going on the list. I’ve also got Levi, Bevan, Sullivan (thanks to another notd), Reeve, Harvey, Sven…

  3. I really want to like Neville – I love a lot of names with an English feel to them and a few lovely French names – but something just feels too… geeky about it. That’s really weird, since I adore Dexter and Simon, and I think both of those have a moderate about of geek built in. Maybe Neville just doesn’t feel strong enough. It’s definitely masculine, but perhaps it’s a little too light for me.

  4. Ok, I had to chime in on this one. I am a HUGE Harry Potter fan…. and yes, that is what is most appealing about this name, its associations with a hero coming into his own. I have a love for brit sounding names and love the uniqueness (not chart topper) yet familiarness of the name. I also think it could be used to honor family in my case… Neva is my grandmother’s name and one of my middle names.. so I think a boy named Neville could be a family link.. so it has a little bit more meaning than just a fantasy book. … I love Neville.. one of the only multiple syllable boy names I do like.. I also think it could be fairly nn proof… which I also like… Overall.. Neville is on the list!

  5. I don’t mind Neville – I think of the singers and then Potter. It’s not all that Englishy to me.

    Funny about Trevor and Nigel – I don’t really connect them with Neville – and I never think of them in the same “zone” as each other – Trevor has a soap opera feel to it for me. I’m biased on Nigel, but I know several and all are in their 30s/40s (and English), which makes the fuddy duddy, ugly, old man connotation feel foreign to me… that and the F1 driver, Nigel Mansell… it’s not a name that rings negative for me. (I was going to mention busty Nigella Lawson, but then I thought of her father and the “unattractive old man” thing came to light! It just is not my first thought – friends, celeb chef, and even F1 are more in the forefront of my mind than British politics.)

    As for Basil, done English-style (BAHzill) it’s all Fawlty for me… done American style (BAYzul), it’s all tasty herb (and it would be erb, not hhherb in that case!). But I do respect it as a name and it is *very* British for me (like Nigel)… Trevor and Neville do not make me think of England. Interesting…

  6. What British American said x 100.

    And here in NZ it would probably get stifled giggles, an extraordinarily raised eyebrow or a “Why the hell did you do that your poor child?”. Perhaps a combination of all three. Nigel and Trevor would get similar treatment.

    And while the saying is “Nigel, no mates” here, I’ve also heard “Neville, no mates'” also.

  7. Wow, Liz- Great choice! Neville’s always intrigued me. I don’t like it enough to use it, but it’s definitely interesting, familiar, and uncommon.

  8. I’d put Neville in the same category as Basil and Rupert, names that are familiar but that Americans would expect the bearer to be British. Perhaps Mr. Longbottom will make the name feel more accessible, but right now it seems more fitting as a Wodehousian character than a little boy.

    However, If an acquaintance wanted to name their son Neville, I’d be delighted.

    1. I find it interesting that you classify Basil as British. I have some [Canadian friends — not of British origin to my knowledge] who are Eastern Orthodox and named their son Basil accordingly. It seems to me a remarkably fitting name given their faith, although admittedly unusual on this continent.

      1. You’re right, Charlotte. I think the British connection comes from Basil Rathbone, the actor who played Sherlock Holmes. (And doubtless other roles, but that’s the one that sticks.) But he’s obviously not top of mind anymore, which changes things.

      2. Basil would make a great Name of the Day! I might have to officially suggest it sometime in the New Year :o)

    2. I agree. Similar to Trevor & Nigel too. Along with Neville, they have a ‘unattractive old man’ vibe for me personally. Like they’d be the name of a British comedy sketch character.

      I’m not familiar with the Harry Potter character at all, so the name doesn’t have a young-hero vibe to it. Would be nice to see it go that way though.

      Basil makes me think of Basil Brush and Basil Fawlty, both of whom are British – so that gives it a British vibe to me too. Plus the British pronunciation of the herb (Bazz-ill) rather than the American (Bay-zill), makes the name sound more British to me also.

      The Nev- sound makes me think of the baby girls I’ve heard of called Neve or Nieve.

  9. I feel certain that I’ve met a Neville before, but I can’t for the life of me remember where or when. (I did once know someone whose parents had named him the rhyming Revel.) I don’t tend to be a fan of most names that begin with N, and I’m afraid this one’s no different, as endearing as Neville Longbottom may be.