This unusual name is of Anglo-Saxon origin, and is a nickname surname for someone with a good, sweet singing voice, from the bird, the nightingale. The derivation is from the Olde English pre 7th Century word "nihtegal", itself from "niht", night, with "galan", to sing, in Middle English "nichti(n)gale". The names of birds were often popular nicknames in medieval England, from some real or supposed resemblance to a bird; other examples are Finch, Hawk, Jay and Lark. The surname development since 1176 (see below) has included: Richard Nihtingale (1227, Bedfordshire); Alan Nightegale (1260, Cambridgeshire); and Henry Nitingale (1287, London). In the modern idiom the surname can be found recorded as Nightingale, Nightingall and Nightingirl. Probably the most famous bearer of the name was Florence Nightingale (1820 - 1910), an English nurse, known as the Lady of the Lamp, renowned for her work during the Crimean War. She helped to raise the status of the nursing profession and in 1860 founded a training school for nurses in London. A Coat of Arms granted to a family of the name from Cambridge is a shield divided per pale ermine and red with a rose counterchanged, the Crest being a silver ibex sejant tufted, armed, and maned gold. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Walter Nichtegale, which was dated 1176, in the "Pipe Rolls of Gloucestershire", during the reign of King Henry 11, known as "The Builder of Churches", 1154 - 1189. Surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation. In England this was known as Poll Tax. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to "develop" often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.
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