What’s the Deal with Neils?

The name has never been particularly popular in the U.S. — unless, of course, you’re Indian American.

neil collage
Neils/Neals/Neels (Collage by Samyu Sridhar for The Juggernaut)

Ayesha Le Breton


December 5, 2023


7 min

“I went to a birthday party once where there were three Neils and I think they made us Neils dance off,” said Neil Garde, a San Francisco-based product manager at Google. But his encounters with Neils didn’t end there. During a college summer internship at Facebook, “somebody somehow organized an internal meetup of all the Neils. I joined this video meeting, and there were 30 or 35 Neils from across the company,” he shared. Garde’s best friend and co-worker is also Indian and — you guessed it — named Neil. The two once called themselves “naughty Neils” while working on a project. 

Like many immigrant parents, South Asian Americans contend with embracing their roots while assimilating. Part of that worry includes what to name their kids. The stakes feel high when names can influence everything from academic performance to landing a job. For a certain generation, however, they cannot avoid Neil, Neel, or Neal. So, how did the name become so popular for the Indian American diaspora — especially when it hasn’t been particularly in vogue in the U.S.?

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