In some ways, the list is still dominated by Mary and Margaret. Multiple popular M names for girls connect to those classic, enduring names.
But other sounds dominate in recent generations. There are so many Maddies – along with some girls who spell it Maddy or Madi – with multiple formal name options.
And Mia/Mila/Maya sound quite close, too.
They’ve taken the place formerly held by so many Mc and Mack names, those darlings of the 1990s.
Vintage favorites offer plenty of up-and-coming options, too. And while some remain in style limbo, plenty of these antique gems seem fresh and new today.
Intriguing girl names starting with M can be found in any category. Surnames range from Mackenzie to Miniver; noun names like Meridian and Minuet share the same list with old school choices like Mamie and Marguerite.
After all, it’s the third most popular first initial for girls’ given names as of 2020, and the most popular consonant, behind only the letters A and E.
GIRL NAMES STARTING WITH M IN THE US TOP 500
At just three letters, Mia has ranked in the US Top Ten since 2009. Not bad for a name that didn’t even appear in the Top 1000 until 1964. Actor Mia Farrow, a newcomer on television smash hit Peyton Place, put her nickname on parents’ radar. She was born Maria de Lourdes. While some Marias – and Marianas – answer to Mia still, this name stands on its own.
A new favorite, Mila adds just a little more sound to mini Mia. Originally short for Slavic names starting with Mil, it comes from a word meaning gracious or dear. Credit for the name’s rise likely goes to actor Mila Kunis. Kunis was born Milena, in the Ukraine. She got her first big break playing Jackie on That 70s Show in 1998. By 2006, Mila was rocketing up the charts.
A surname name sometimes heard for boys, Daryl Hannah’s mermaid character adopted it in Splash. Parents took note, embracing it as an Allison-Madeline mash-up. The name debuted in the Top 1000 in 1985, the year after the movie hit theaters. By 1997, it reached the Top Ten, peaked at #2 in 2001, and remains steadily popular, years after we forgot it started out on the big screen.
The perfect name for a globetrotter, Maya means illusion in Sanskrit and water in Hebrew. In Roman mythology, she’s the goddess of spring, and in some cases, it’s a form of Mary. It works in nearly any language, anywhere on Earth. No surprise it’s a favorite in our extraordinarily connected world.
Madelyn looks modern, but it traces its roots to New Testament figure Mary Magdalene. Her name refers to place name Magdala, meaning tower. This spelling has charted in the Top 1000 from the 1890s through the 1960s, before returning in the 1980s.
The more traditional spelling of Madeline in English, it’s also the version Ludwig Bemelmans chose for the little girl at the center of the popular children’s books. While Madelyn feels breezy and modern, Madeline seems more like a classic, a sister for Eleanor and Katherine.
Melanie feels like a twentieth century innovation, but it traces its roots to the ancient world. It became a big favorite in the 1980s, but remains in steady use many years later.
A musical girl name, Melody has risen and fallen since the 1940s. But this marks the name’s highest chart position so far, a sister for Aria, Cadence, and Harmony.
The Latin form of Mary, Maria is preferred in nearly every romance language, as well as Slavic and Scandinavian ones. And there have been Marias in English over the ages, too. At the moment, it’s the most popular of the Maria/Mary/Marie trio. It fits with long, elaborate girl names, from Isabella to Olivia to Amelia.
Mackenzie followed other three-syllable surname names like Beverly and Kimberly. It was also part of a wave of Mc and Mac names, including Makayla and McKenna. And it paved the way for choices like Kennedy and Avery and Everly today. While multiple spellings muddy the total count, it appears that Mackenzie is the last name standing among all the similar 90s favorites.
Long the most popular given name for girls in the US, classic and venerable Mary has fallen quite a bit. Now it’s almost a surprise to meet a baby girl with this lovely, straightforward name.
A classic among classics, Margaret ranks with the most traditional choices, like Katherine and Elizabeth. But Margaret has sat outside of the US Top 100 since the 1990s. Many of the Margaret names – think Margot and Maisie – rise and fall independently of the name. But choose full, formal Margaret, and they’re all options for your daughter.
An Irish import with a beguiling meaning – intoxicating – and ties to a legendary warrior queen, this name is on the rise. Credit goes to the stylish sound and HBO’s Westworld character, played by Thandie Newton. For now, it’s familiar, but not overwhelmingly popular.
A sweet, casual nickname name, Molly started out as a form of Mary. It’s long since stood on its own, and there’s something feisty about famous Mollys. There’s Revolutionary War hero Molly Pitcher, musical-turned-movie The Unsinkable Molly Brown about a Titanic survivor, and 1980s big screen celeb Molly Ringwald, to name just a handful.
A flower named for French botanist Pierre Magnol, Magnolia sounds specifically Southern – it’s the state flower of Louisiana and Mississippi. The name saw steady use in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, but had faded to near-obscurity. But recently, a fresh wave of flower names has returned this vintage charmer to the popularity charts.
1967 box office hit Thoroughly Modern Millie was all about a flapper – the legendary Julie Andrews played the role. And that’s Millie exactly – vintage, but high-energy, an upbeat name that sounds at home with Sadie and Ruby, but clearly tied to the past. Formal names like Millicent and Mildred abound, but Millie is more popular than many.
A unisex name with Arthurian roots.
A little bit reggae, thanks to Bob, and nicely unisex, courtesy of Ashley.
We all recognize Margot, and that ‘o’ ending makes it seem quite stylish. But it’s still just on the right side of uncommon, a rising name nearly everyone appreciates, but still far less popular than Charlotte or Eleanor.
Another take on popular mini name Mia … or is it an alternative to Maya?
Former First Daughter Malia Obama made this name famous. It’s the Hawaiian version of Maria. It also surfaces as a place name on more than one continent, and a bird native to Indonesia. As a given name, it’s use spiked after her dad won his historic first term in the White House in November 2007.
A surname name with Gaelic roots. McKenna – along with Makenna and so many Mac and Mc names – surged into popularity in the 1990s.
If Mary Anne is the girl next door, Mariana feels far more dramatic. Maybe it’s because Tennyson used the name for a mournful 1830 poem. Or perhaps its because the Mariana Trench is the deepest oceanic trench on earth, deep enough to swallow Mount Everest with room to spare. It’s traditional, but flowing and lovely, a name that fits with Sophia and Isabella while still standing out.
A twist on Mila, in the key of Lyla, Kyla, and company.
Another possible spelling of Mackenzie, with emphasis on the Mc.
Classic Miriam is the Hebrew form of Mary, found in the Old Testament. It’s the logical pick for an affluent Jewish housewife-turned-standup comedian in The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, the Amazon hit series that’s encouraging parents to take a fresh look at this storied name.
A modern take on Melanie, with nods to trending Hawaiian favorites like Leilani.
Short for classic Margaret, Maggie is heard independently, too. After all, Maggie Smith makes the name steely. And Maggie fits right in with Millie and Sadie.
An older version of Maria, with a slightly different emphasis, everyone knows Mariah because of music. There’s Broadway musical Paint Your Wagon and the enduring “They Call the Wind Maria.” And, of course, pop legend Mariah Carey really makes this pronunciation and spelling famous.
One of many Madeline spellings in the current Top 1000.
McKenna meets Michaela.
A long-time favorite name from the 1960s, complete with a Beatles song.
Mackenzie, hold the c.
A late twentieth century favorite, almost certain to be revived in a few more generations.
A word name rich with gratitude.
The most French of the possible spelling choices.
Another take on McKenna.
Maisie started out as a Scottish short form of Margaret. It’s a bouncy sound that fits in with favorites like Sadie. It might still be used as a Margaret nickname, but today, it’s mostly used as a stand-alone. A cartoon mouse spells it Maisy, and Dr. Seuss gave us Daisy-Head Mayzie.
Mabel comes from Amabel, ultimately from a Latin name meaning lovable. After topping the charts around the turn of the twentieth century, Mabel fell out of fashion. Perhaps the earliest signal that it was ready for revival? 90s hit sitcom Mad About You gave the name to Paul and Jamie Buchman’s baby, as an anagram for Mothers Always Bring Extra Love.
Another take on Marley.
Maren might be a form of Marina, which comes from the Latin marinus – of the sea. Or possibly it’s yet another Mary name. Either way, this tailored choice has trended upward, helped by country-pop singer Maren Morris.
A surname name connected to a famous department store chain – and MTV’s Teen Mom series.
Aaliyah meets Malia.
A subtle twist on Madison.
We love nature names. Just ask the parents of Willow, Luna, Hazel, and Violet. Meadow manages to share the same sound and style, while still feeling a little less common. But you’ve almost certainly heard it before, if only because Tony’s daughter on long-running HBO series The Sopranos was Meadow.
There’s something quirky cool about Matilda. Maybe that’s down to the hero of the Roald Dahl children’s book. Or maybe it’s the curious Australian folk song “Waltzing Matilda.” Either way, this name sounds distinctive and different. As a bonus, the meaning is fierce: strength in battle.
One more Madeline!
It could be Slavic or Indian, and it might mean peace or ocean. Either way, it’s a brief name that feels universal and accessible – but still rare.
Likely a Hawaiian name in the key of Malia, Leilani and other rising favorites.
Another spelling of chart-topping Maya.
VINTAGE FAVORITES STARTING WITH M
Mini name Mae packs a lot of style into such a brief sound. Mae West makes it Hollywood; The Age of Innocence’s May Welland takes it in a literary direction. It’s traditionally short for names from Mary to Margaret, but Mae stands nicely on its own, too. After all, May is also a month name, in the same category as August and June.
A feminine form of ancient Roman name Marcellus, Marceline is also a name for diehard Disney fans. Walt Disney considered Marceline, Missouri his hometown and modeled his Main Street areas in his parks on the city.
An older form of Madeline, elaborate and pan-European.
French and gently old-fashioned name, Marie sounds like a sister for Josephine or Genevieve, an alternative to chart-topping Charlotte or the many-spellings of Madeline. It’s been worn by queens – think of the ill-fated Marie Antoinette – as well as world-changing women, like scientist Marie Curie. For many years, Marie served as a go-to middle. Like Mary, it’s surprising that this once wildly common name feels fresh today – at least as a given name.
A Mary-Lynn smoosh made immortal by screen legend Marilyn Monroe.
Common across continental Europe, but rare in English, Marina comes from the Latin word referring to the sea.
Traditional, Biblical, and no-nonsense, Martha is a vintage gem that’s surprisingly underused.
A bird name, Mavis was borrowed for girls in the late 1800s. That’s when bestselling author Marie Corelli chose it for a character in a novel. Many years later, the Hotel Transylvania series gave the name to a teenage vampire and it found a new generation of admirers.
A sparky vintage choice, Maxine has long been overlooked, even as we’ve embraced so many Max names for boys. But it’s finding favor with stylish parents lately. Max works as a nickname, just like Alex for Alexandra and Charlie for Charlotte.
A virtue name that feels right at home on Plymouth Rock. And yet, there’s nothing old-fashioned about the concept itself.
Meredith sounds substantial, a name with as much strength as classics like Katherine and Margaret, but a distinctive sound, too. Originally Welsh – and masculine – the first syllable hints at the name’s meaning – mer, from the sea.
Miranda peaked in the 1990s, right around the time the world met Sex and the City’s Miranda Hobbes. But it’s not quite in the Jessica-Ashley camp, and the meaning – admirable, from the Latin mirandus – makes it worth considering this name anew.
We tend to think of Monica as a 90s name, thanks to a sitcom and a scandal. But Monica is really a vintage gem, used since at least the fourth century, well known across Europe, and with a great meaning: advisor.
MODERN M NAMES FOR GIRLS
A logical successor to Kimberly, Mallory was the big sister on 1980s sitcom hit Family Ties.
A sleek surname name set to succeed Harlow.
A name invented for Lucifer – a comic turned television series about demons living it up in Los Angeles.
A presidential surname name, McKinley follows both Kennedy and Mackenzie.
A place name every bit as appealing as London or Brooklyn.
Actor-singer Miley Cyrus made her childhood nickname a mainstream choice for our daughters.
Like mini names Maya and Nora and so many more, Mina offers origins and meanings drawn from across the world.
An o-ending surname name made glam – and feminine – by the iconic Marilyn Monroe.
A unisex Irish surname with an upbeat, high-energy vibe.
RARE GIRL NAMES STARTING WITH M
A Dutch name meaning daisy, Madelief feels unusual, maybe even challenging, in English. And yet, the pronunciation is straightforward: mad uh leef, and close enough to favorites like Madeline to seem accessible.
An all-but-forgotten nickname for Mary and Margaret, actor Mamie Gummer – daughter of Meryl Streep – helps make this one slightly more familiar.
Another name related to daisies, Marguerite is the French form of Margaret – and the name of the flower, too. While classic Margaret is never out of style, the equally storied Marguerite last appeared in the US Top 1000 back in 1972.
Along with Mirabel and Mariel, it’s stunning that Maribel fails to crack the US Top 1000. A Maria-Isabel smoosh, Maribel combines so many sounds that parents love.
Marta is simply a form of Martha used in many European languages. But while Martha feels gently antique, Marta sounds like a little globe-trotter, a name at home on nearly any continent, easily moving between languages and cultures.
Once a medieval staple, Maude is Matilda’s antique cousin. And while it’s been ages since the name – with or without the final ‘e’ – has been at the top of the popularity charts, it feels like Maude is ripe for revival.
Mazarine is a novelty in its native France. It’s borrowed from an Italian family name of debated origin. Mazzarino came to France with seventeenth century cardinal Giulio Mazzarino, who became Jules Mazarin in his new home. The oldest public library, Bibliothèque Mazarine, is named in his honor. And, in turn, girls have been name for the library since the 1990s.
Alice Walker gave this name to a character in one of her stories, but Meridian isn’t a given name originally. Instead, it’s a term borrowed from cartographers. It can refer to longitude. It can also mean a high point, which makes Meridian a subtle virtue name.
Gentle, antique Millicent comes with a fierce meaning. It’s derived from elements meaning “work” and “strength.” It could be the perfect alternative to favorites like Evelyn and Abigail, plus it offers built-in nickname Millie.
A Marie-Louise combination, Milou feels breezy and French, a name forever pedaling a classic bicycle past the Eiffel Tower with a baguette in her bag. In Dutch, it’s Malou. Both work in English, especially with so many Lou names feeling very stylish right now.
A surname name, Miniver might ring a bell thanks to classic 1942 film Mrs. Miniver, starring Greer Garson as a steadfast British housewife during World War II. It scooped up a handful of Oscars, including Best Picture. Today, though, Miniver blends our love of that middle ‘v’ sound, a stylish ‘r’ ending, and just enough resemblance to given names to succeed in the same way that Madison and Harper do.
Another musical name, Minuet picks up on the same trends as Melody and company.
A Japanese name meaning “beautiful,” Mirei feels like a natural choice for parents seeking a cross-cultural name.
Surnames borrowed from artists have potential, particularly Monet. It rhymes with Renee and Janelle Monáe.
Straight out of Irish legend, Morrigan is former favorite Morgan with an extra syllable added. It means “great queen,” but Morrigan is a goddess of war, sometimes associated with loss, but also with victory.
What are your favorite girl names starting with M?
First published on September 15, 2020, this post was revised and updated on November 22, 2021.