Name Help: Should they use an M name?Name Help is a series at Appellation Mountain. Most Saturdays one reader’s name questions will be discussed.

Melanie writes:

My husband is the youngest of five kids, all with M names. My in-laws are Mary and Mitch, and they thought it would be fun (!) if they started a family tradition.

And, oh what a tradition it has become!

All four of my husband’s siblings have kids, each and every one with an M name. And I have an M name, too. Seriously! I didn’t think anything of our shared initial, until I met his family. And then it was too late!

Now we’re expecting our first, due on Thanksgiving, a delivery surprise. This will probably be our only child. I don’t hate the idea of another M name. I don’t love the idea, either.

There aren’t THAT many M names! We have nine nieces and nephews on my husband’s side, and we see each other pretty often, so repeating a name isn’t an option. The names that are taken are: Mason, Maya, Maggie, Madelyn, Maddox, Miles, Micah, Mia, and Maxwell. Plus, my sister-in-law is also expecting, due after me, and has announced that they’ll use Marley for a girl and Marcus for a boy.

So. Are we the ones to choose a random name from one of the other 25 letters of the alphabet? My husband would rather we stick with the M names, but doesn’t have any ideas. His only suggestion so far is Matthew Junior – but I’m not on board, and I don’t think he really means it, either.

Are there some great M names that we’ve overlooked? If we could find the perfect M name, I think that would be the end of the discussion. There aren’t any names I especially want to use, M or otherwise. Maybe I’m just stuck on the whole question of M names in the first place.

Our last name is two-syllables, sounds like Freeman, but with a B instead. Middle name will probably be my last name, Hunt.

Read on for my reply, and please leave your thoughtful suggestions in the comments.

Hi Melanie –

First, congratulations!

Second, wow! I’ve heard about families with shared initials. But yours is the first example I’ve found where the pattern actually continued into the next generation without exception.

I do think there are still plenty of great M names to consider. But before we get into the names, let’s talk about family traditions in general, and how to decide if you should continue an existing pattern, or go your own way.

I’m a believer in using family names if they feel right. And only if they feel right. Because there are just as many reasons to start fresh.

In this case, I think an M name might work nicely, and here’s why:

  • It sounds like you don’t object to the tradition in any way. Maybe you wouldn’t have started it. But some families are all about oyster stuffing at the holidays. Some vacation at the same lake together every summer. And others? They give their kids M names. You shouldn’t be forced to savor the stuffing, or, you know, jet ski on the lake. But if it works for you, there’s no reason not to embrace the tradition.
  • It also seems that you’re not sacrificing anything to choose the M name. If you’d always imagined naming your daughter Juliet and your son Andrew, then the M name tradition would be a monkey wrench. And it might be worth starting fresh, regardless of the consequences. But in the absence of a competing desire, maybe an M name makes sense.

That said, I don’t think you should feel like you must use an M name. But it feels like you’re stuck on should-you-or-shouldn’t-you? Beginning your search with M names at least gets you to a shortlist. The caveat: if you discover a name you love along the way, you’re completely free to use it instead.

M Names for Boys

Malcolm – Malcolm is one of those under-the-radar names. It’s familiar but regal. Literary and accessible. Tied to history and pop culture, too.

Macon – Mason is a chart-topper, and we’re all about place names. But somehow Macon is seldom heard.

Macallister/Mcallister – Yahoo!’s Marissa Mayer stuck with M names for her firstborn, son Macallister. It’s a long name, but it’s very friendly and upbeat. With babies named Sullivan and Elliot, why not Macallister?

Mathis/Matheson – Your husband’s name is Matthew, and you’re not keen on juniors – but maybe a name inspired by Matthew? Mathis and Matheson are surname options that might appeal.

Mateo/Matteo – Along the same lines, Mateo and Matteo are possibilities that put a romance language spin on the traditional name.

Miller – Yes, there’s the beer. But in an age of boys named Hunter and Carter and Parker, Miller fits right in.

M Names for Girls

Maisie – Maisie is a short, retro name in the key of Sadie.

Mae/May – Mae is, by far, the more popular spelling, but both are valid options. It’s a mini-name, short on sound, but without sacrificing style.

Magnolia – The opposite of Mae is the flowery Magnolia.

Margot – Normally I might rule out Margot, since Maggie is also a form of Margaret, and you’re trying to avoid duplicates. But when you’re working with one letter, I think that rule has to go.

Molly – There’s no Molly in your family! There might be a Marley. But see my comment above – just as you have to overlook connections like the Maggie/Margot/Margaret link, you’ll have to accept some duplication in sound.

Millie – Miller made the boys’ list, and there are a bunch of Mil- names for girls: Mila, Milla, Millicent, Mileva … or maybe just Millie.

If none of these feel quite right, may I offer another suggestion? If forgetting M names entirely feels like too much of a break, you might choose an M name for the middle. In particular, Mary and Mitchell might make great middle names – either in lieu of your surname or in addition to it.

Readers, let’s start with a poll, and then I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

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. There are lots of great suggestions here already! Abby’s Mcallister reminded me there’s lots of “McNames.” Know a/Love McCall for a girl (could work for a boy too) and Know a/Love McKay for a boy (could work for a girl too) OR what about Mack for a boy? I love Abby’s Magnolia suggestion… Magnolia Freeman with a B sounds like a southern belle in the best way! And I haven’t read all the comments but Maisie reminded me of Macy/Macie/Macey 🙂

  2. I read a memoir recently called “The Tender Bar.” Its author grew up with a cousin named McGraw (who’s now a sports broadcaster in St. Louis – his last name is Milhaven). The name struck me as fresh and underused. In the book, McGraw’s mom explained her son’s unusual (for the 70s) name by saying that she was going for the most masculine name she could find, since McGraw had a bunch of older sisters!

  3. Has Minna been suggested for a girl? I love it so. I also like Margaret and calling her by a nickname…so many to choose from. Mara, Milly, Marigold…lots of fun options for a boy.

    I like Matthew a lot, especially with Hunter as a middle name. Merritt is nice for a boy. Milo is close to Miles, but I still like it. Morgan would work for a boy or girl.

    1. I really, really like Minna, too – Jamie. Possibly more than Mina … though they’re both great names!

  4. Milica could be an option it’s a slavic name meaning gracious and could be used as a long form for Mila/Milla (it’s the full name of Milla Jovovich) or Millie. The pronunciation could be an issue since its mill-eet-sah and could be a bit strange on a non-slavic child

    1. Ooh, LOVE Milica! There was a professor named Milica in the history department when I was an undergrad, but she definitely pronounced her name mil-eet-sah … which I cannot imagine pulling off in the US, unless you were really, really, really determined!

  5. There are a lot of Muh and My sounds (Matthew, Maya), so you may just be looking for a different vowel combo to break you out of the family tradition while still honoring it. M_r names like Marisol, Mark, Miranda, Morris, Muriel, Morena or long vowel sounds May, Mabel, Monique, Monet, Mimi, etc.How about Minuet?

      1. YES! Both are great – I think Meridian is many just barely wearable, but Magellan seems a little farther out-there. No pun intended …

    1. Good observation about Muh/My … a slightly different vowel sound could make a big difference.

  6. I couldn’t think of any boys names that aren’t already suggested in other comments, but here are some thoughts on girls which hopefully haven’t been suggested…


    Or you could go with a non-M name and call her by an M nn.

    Carmela nn Meli (though this is close to Melanie).

    Another option would be to do the opposite. Name her an M name and give her a non-M nickname, such as all the Mc names.

    McKenzie (Kenzie)
    McKenna (Kenna)
    McKinley (Kinley)
    Michaela (Ally, Kayla)
    Mallory (Ally, Lory)

  7. Milagros – traditional in Mexico
    Maelys – popular in France
    Mariela – a Spanish smoosh (Maria + Elena)
    Mariana – a timeless smoosh
    Maria – a classic
    Mariah – is this dated? I still love it.
    Michonne – from the Walking Dead!
    Melissa – the name of all my dolls when I was a kid.

    All I can think of for a boy is Merritt or Michael.

    My daughter is Margaret nn Maisy. You can get a lot of nickname mileage from Margaret.

  8. Just seconding some of the suggestions.

    I love Meredith, Meryl, and Miranda.

    I love Merrick and Martin.

    I really like nature names, so I thought of things like Misty and Meadow.