Parents love the letter M. It’s one of the most popular letters for boy names, not far behind favorite first initials J, A, and L. As of 2021, it comes in fourth. (It’s even more popular for our daughters; it comes in third for baby girl names.)
Michael dominated the top spot on US popularity charts from the 1950s into the 1990s. Everybody likes Mike, and we grew up with him, too. From television dad Mike Brady to sports hero Michael Jordan, it’s a rock solid choice for a son, a Biblical classic that stands the test of time. But it’s not the only traditional M option, and it’s not even the most popular M name for boys at the moment.
There’s a choice that represents every style, from buttoned-down Matthew to modern Mason. The religious and culturally significant Muhammad – choose your spelling – shares the same chart as celebrity-fueled surname Maddox.
Read on for more boy names starting with M, from the most popular of the moment, to the rarities you might consider for a son.
MOST POPULAR BOY NAMES STARTING WITH M
These are the most popular boy names starting with M, based on births in calendar year 2021. Check the full list for yourself here, at the Social Security Administration’s name site.
Matthew might be the classic, but romance language Mateo is the white hot favorite.
Despite falling from a long-time perch at the very top of the charts, Michael remains used in big numbers. It feels every bit as classic as William or James. And despite Hebrew, Biblical roots, it doesn’t feel especially Christian compared to new Old Testament favorites like Elijah and Isaac.
A surname name that rocketed up the US popularity charts beginning in the 1990s, Mason feels like a modern staple.
Like Michael, Matthew is a New Testament name with broad appeal. The ill-fated Downton Abbey hero – gone, but not forgotten – lends this name a little bit of dash, as does leading man Matthew McConaughey. Both are always Matthew, as are many boys given the name today. Though nickname Matt fits in with brisk go-tos like Jack and Cole.
Top Gun put Maverick – the call sign of Tom Cruise’s character – on our radar. With a long-awaited sequel out in 2022, the name could fly higher still. Somehow, Maverick manages to strike an original, independent note even as it grows so very popular.
It’s a little bit Plymouth Rock (think Myles Standish) and a whole lot jazzy (think Miles Davis). Chrissy Teigen and John Legend named their son Miles Theodore with the legendary musician in mind.
You could view Micah as an update to Michael, but it’s a separate Biblical name. The Old Testament appellation does split the difference between more conventional picks and rising favorites like Isaiah and Ezra nicely.
An alternate spelling of Miles every bit as valid.
Take Miles, add a dash of Leo-Hugo-Arlo, and Milo is the appealing result. One possible bonus: Milo Auckerman is the long-time frontman of legendary punk rock band the Descendants. (He also has a PhD in molecular biology.) A caricature of Auckerman is the band’s mascot, gracing most of their album covers. It lends this brief name a smart and edgy vibe.
It’s a mini name that feels brainy and brawny. For every Max Planck or Weber, there’s a Mad Max.
A surname name, Maxwell came from Mack’s stream. The Beatles recorded “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer” in 1969. Murderous Maxwell seems like odd inspiration for a child’s name, but it rose steadily after the song’s release, picking up steam with all of the Max names in the 1990s.
Another Matthew name, this time by way of Italian – and it’s not the last Matt on this list.
A minor Old Testament prophet name, Malachi offers a cool, modern sound and a great meaning, too: messenger.
A name that made headlines when a judge ruled it was unacceptable, Messiah succeeds on its spiritual meaning and stylish sound. Think Isaiah and Elijah. (The ruling was later overturned. Any observer of names will tell you that there are many, many Messiahs.)
Angelina Jolie brought Maddox to our attention when she adopted her son way back in 2002. It comes from a Welsh name meaning fortunate. It immediately caught on, and parents have continued to choose it ever since.
Every bit as classic in Spanish, Miguel is simply the translation of Michael.
Another popular Mat- name, this one with the stylish -s ending, too.
An ancient spin on Mark that manages to feel a little more current.
A former Top Ten pick from the 1950s and 60s, this New Testament name remains a traditional pick for a son.
Old Testament Malachi meets Hawaiian Kai.
The swaggering name of Russell Crowe’s courageous character in 2000’s Gladiator, and a Max name that turns it up to eleven.
A sweet spot name for a son, the kind of favorite that everyone recognizes – but relatively few families are choosing.
A Jack-inspired take on nickname name Mac.
One of many Max names on this list, and the one with the most syllables!
A traditional name, made famous by noteworthy bearers like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Probably among the most common names for men in the world, Muhammad is given in honor of the prophet who established Islam.
The Spanish form of Emmanuel.
From hockey legend Mario Lemieux to video game mainstay Super Mario, it’s a traditional name with plenty of bravado.
A surname and title with a long history of use as a first, Marshall is also the given name of rapper Eminem.
It might be a Slavic name meaning gracious, or it could be borrowed from the stylish Italian city.
An Arabic name with a regal meaning: king.
The romance language version of Mark.
A place name borrowed from Ancient Egypt, or, more likely, the storied Tennessee city.
A bold title name, more obvious than Earl, but maybe less grand than King.
One more Mat- name, and not the last on this list.
See what I mean? The Mat- names are many.
A Jack-inspired take on nickname name Mac.
The Hebrew form of Moses.
As Marco is to Mark, Marcos is to Marcus.
An Old Testament name that everyone recognizes, Moses has never been especially popular among baby boy names in the US. Even as Miles and Elijah rise, Moses remains relatively rare.
This is the third form of Moses on this list, the Spanish and Portuguese spelling.
Another spelling for Muhammad.
It might be Hawaiian, a cousin to Kai. It could be invented, a twist on so many names like Malakai and Zakai. But it’s very much a name that fits current trends in boy names.
One of multiple Max names on this list, Maximilian is regal, saintly, and quite grand.
A Spanish form of ancient name Marcellus, Marcelo shares the same roots with Mark, Marc, and Marcus, making this another cousin.
Hunter, Carter, why not Miller?
While Morgan remains more popular for our daughters, figures like leading man Morgan Freeman remind us that this unisex name can be quite handsome for a son.
A 1930s favorite, traditional Marvin has faded in use, but that middle V makes it a possible comeback name – eventually.
Popular the world over, in multiple spellings.
An even briefer spelling for Mack, possibly influenced by the late rapper and producer Mac Miller – born Malcolm.
A slightly French take on an ancient name.
Another spelling of this storied name.
Yet another case where the romance language form of a traditional name outpaces the English one; in this case, Mauricio ranks well ahead of Maurice.
This late Latin name means great.
The ancient name that preceded Marcel, as well as Marcello. It’s a name far less expected than Marcus or Mark, an alternative to Atticus.
One more Max.
The Arabic form of Moses, Musa has been rising in use along with lots of similar names. It’s catching on quickly for two reasons: first, we’ve warmed to boy names ending in a. If Noah and Joshua can hold the top spot in the US, why can’t we call our sons Musa? But more critically, this is part of the rise of Arabic language names throughout the English-speaking world. Muhammad grabs headlines, but it’s not the only name gaining.
Milo meets Kylo Ren.
The double-T Matthew has always been more popular, but Mathew is seen, too.
Like Marvin, a traditional choice long neglected.
A surname most likely related to Michael, Mitchell peaked in the 1990s. Recent animated hit The Mitchells vs. the Machines might introduce the name to a new generation.
The Spanish and French form of Mishael, a name of Hebrew origin from the Bible. It means “who is like God.”
Speaking of surnames, McCoy is one of those Mc/Macs that works well for boys. If something is “the real McCoy,” it’s the real deal. The feuding Hatfield and McCoy families put the name in the history books. And the original Star Trek crew included Dr. McCoy. It’s a quirky collection of ties, but it works.
As in the late, legendary football coach John Madden, a long-time sports commentator famed for lending his name to video games.
A French name with Latin origins, Maurice arrived in England with the Normans. But they tended to pronounce it Morris – and eventually spell it that way, too. That leaves the rare and gentlemanly Maurice waiting for a revival in the US.
Actor Mekhi Phifer put his unique given name on parents’ radar in the 1990s.
A grand and regal name, Mustafa means “the chosen one” in Arabic. Four Ottoman rulers answered to Mustafa, along with other notables.
A mostly invented surname-style choice, marrying Max and-ton.
Also spelled Mordecai, it’s an Old Testament name fresh with potential today.
RARE M NAMES FOR BOYS
One of many Mac names that wears well for a son.
Samuel L. Jackson as Jedi knight Mace Windu puts this name on the list.
A place name, every bit as wearable as Mason.
From the name of the month, as well as the action verb.
A few years ago, Marley might’ve said “I named my baby for a dog.” A loving, unforgettable dog from a bestseller, but still. As the memoir fades from our pop culture memory, Marley reverts to its previous image: the surname of a music legend. That makes Marley masculine and oh so very cool.
As in Brando.
One of several rare boy name possibilities inspired by the Latin mar – sea.
Long tied to the Roman god of war, Mars might’ve felt too bellicose. But now Mars feels as smooth as chart-topping, Grammy-winning singer Bruno Mars. It helps that parents have embraced celestial names, choices borrowed from mythology, and, of course, -s enders like Miles.
Popular name suffix Mar- meets Sean. Retired NFL running back Marshawn Lynch is one notable bearer.
Artist Maxfield Parrish makes this slightly more familiar. It’s a sophisticated spin on so many Max names, one that feels distinctive, even in a crowd.
Back in the nineteenth century, Maceo Grajales led the fight for Cuban independence. It seems likely his name inspired the parents of Maceo Pinkard, who became a key figure in the Harlem Renaissance. Haven’t heard of him? You’ve heard his most famous composition: “Sweet Georgia Brown.” And then there’s current musician and saxophonist Maceo Parker. It’s an undiscovered gem.
An Irish surname name, nothing else sounds quite like Maguire. Alternate spellings abound, but this seems like the most common.
Some surname names feel rough and tumble – think Hunter and Ryder. Others are smooth, like Spenser, Foster, and yes, Mercer.
Borrowed from the legendary wizard of Arthurian legend.
A Welsh surname name, similar to former favorite Derek.
Merit means worthiness; we earn merit awards. You can “merit” consideration or a promotion. Merritt, however, is an English surname, probably referring to a boundary gate. Despite the unrelated origins, the surname picks up a virtue name sheen thanks to the vocabulary word. And that makes Merritt a very modern possibility.
This is the Biblical long form of Micah; it’s unisex in the Old Testament. That potentially puts it in the company of Isaiah and Elijah and so many similar Biblical boy names parents have embraced in recent years.
A double name that nods to the artist – and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle.
Miro comes from the Latin mirus – wonderful. Sculptor Joan Miro makes it artistic. With so many o-ending boy names finding favor, Miro isn’t such a leap from Milo.
A presidential surname name possibility.
A courtly surname name with a polished style, and built-in nickname Monty.
A place name, Montana feels rugged and strong. An earlier generation might have heard this and automatically thought Hannah. Their parents probably heard it and thought Joe. But with the Nickelodeon series and the football hero receding, Montana might make a great place name possibility.
Polished and sophisticated, Montgomery sounds like a little gentleman. Or a grown-up one; after all, Montgomery Clift had a successful Hollywood career, earning four Oscar nominations. Monty makes the name friendly and approachable. With long boy names like Sebastian and Everett in the Top 100, Montgomery could fit right in.
A gentle nature name option.
A Scottish curiosity, familiar in the UK and rare in the US. One theory is that it comes from a phrase meaning “my dear.”
An upbeat Irish surname name meaning sea battle, Muprhy has become a unisex possibility.
What are your favorite boy names starting with M?
First published on May 11, 2020, this post was revised and re-published on May 24, 2021 and again on June 20, 2022.