Nolan is an Irish Gaelic name meaning "champion," (not "champion of the people," not "famous noble champion") from the name Nuallan, and it can also be heard as a surname. There are at least two famous namesakes, baseball player Nolan Ryan, inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1999, and movie director Christopher Nolan.
The name Nolan has made regular appearances in the U.S. top 1000 since 1899 at varying spots, and has now jumped to #93 in 2011 and a total of 4,140 baby boys born with the name last year. It was the 5th name starting with the letter N for boys in the top 1000, with no stopping soon. It is popular in other countries as well, even ranking at #29 in France. Nolan comes with the compact and straight-to-the-point nickname Nol, one syllable.