The name for this songbird is from the Old English nehtægale, which appears in the Corpus Glossary manuscript from c.725. A modern spelling of the Old English would be nightgale. It’s a compound of night + galan (to sing). So a nightingale is a bird that sings at night.
The modern form nightingale appears c. 1275 in The Owl and the Nightingale:
An hule and one nigtingale. [One manuscript has it as nyhtegale]
(Source: Oxford English Dictionary, 3rd Edition)
Copyright 1997-2014, by David Wilton