Saint Michael by PalliaoloHe’s an archangel and a reliable boys’ name, the number one choice from the 1950s through the 1990s.

Our Baby Name of the Day is Michael.

You’d have to call Michael a classic, and yet he’s not quite in the same class as James or William, at least not in English.  He’s ranked in the US Top 100 every year since the rankings started in 1880.  Boys and men called Mike and Mikey and Michael, too, are incredibly common – from Mike Brady to Michael Jordan to the guys called Mike that I know you must know.

Despite his frequency of use, he’s never been much of a royal name in English.  Russian rulers have answered to Mikhail.  Byzantine emperors and kings of Bulgaria and Portugal have worn forms of Michael, too.

He’s a major figure in the Old and New Testaments.  The name comes from the Hebrew Mikha’el – who is like God?  That’s more than a meaning, though.  In Latin, it translates to Quis ut Deus? St. Michael the Archangel is often depicted in soldier’s garb, armed, defeating Satan.  Quis es Deus? often appears in associated artwork, a reminder that no one is equal to the Almighty.

It’s easy to see how Michael became a go-to name for families of faith:

  • Michael features in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.  He’s also significant in Christian religions that don’t venerate saints – like Seventh-day Adventists and Latter Day Saints.
  • He’s the patron saint of soldiers, the leader of the good guys in the Book of Revelation.
  • Early days, he was associated with healing, and he remain a patron saint of the ill.
  • Stories about the angel sometimes have him saving souls in their final moments, and even conducting the dead to heaven.

The nineteenth century was kind to Michael:

  • William Wordsworth penned a poem about an aging shepherd by the name, and his son, Luke, in 1800.  It’s been one of Wordsworth’s most popular.
  • “Michael, Row the Boat Ashore” was first written down in the 1800s, a spiritual sung by slaves.  Later became associated with Civil Rights movement.
  • Pope Leo XIII added a prayer to Saint Michael the Archangel to the mass in 1886.  Some parishes still say it.

In the early days of silent film, when Germany was a powerhouse, a 1924 movie based on a 1902 novel told the story of a romance between the model Michael and the artist who paints him, Claude.  It’s a heart-breaking story, and an influential work, too.

He has a reputation as an Irish favorite, but his use isn’t exclusive to any single group.

Famous men named Michael are too many to count:

  • Actors, like Landon , Douglas, J. Fox, and C. Hall
  • Athletes, like Jordan, Tyson, Phelps, and Vick
  • Musicians, from Jackson, the late King of Pop, to Green Day’s bassist Mike Dirnt – oh, and Mick Jagger was also born Michael
  • Fictional characters range from youngest of the Darling children in Peter Pan to The Brady Bunch’s patriarch, to everyone’s favorite boss in The Office
  • Designer Michael Kors
  • Political figures, including New York’s Mayor Bloomberg
  • PC magnate Michael Dell

We all wanted to be like Mike.  Before that, Life used the tagline “Mikey likes it!” to sell cereal.

Today Michael stands at #8.  He’s fallen a ways, but remains very common.

If you’re after a reliable, conservative name for a child, Michael makes for a solid choice.

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About Abby Sandel

Whether you're naming a baby, or just all about names, you've come to the right place! Appellation Mountain is a haven for lovers of obscure gems and enduring classics alike.

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What do you think?


  1. For me Michael is a royal name. I know it used a lot, but it is so beautiful and powerful in the same time. Thank you for the content, it made me read it from the beginning to the end.
    I have a few friends with a name Michael and even had a newborn baby I photographed. I will leave the link here on related content. May be some moms looking for the name would want to see