Malcolm: Baby Name of the Day

Malcolm Reynolds

This post was originally published on September 19, 2008.  It was substantially revised and re-posted on September 8, 2014.

Looking for a quiet classic for a son?  This might be the name for you.

Thanks to Lola for suggesting our Baby Name of the Day: Malcolm.

Malcolm is as Scottish as tartan. It comes from Mael Colium, follower of St. Columba. Columba is credited with converting Scotland to Christianity.  It’s also the source of Colm and the big-in-Britain Callum.

As if that’s not enough, four kings of Scotland wore the name between 943 and 1165.

The real life Malcolm III inspired events in Shakespeare’s Macbeth, lending the name some literary style.

Plenty of names drip history and high arts, but what happens next to Malcolm is downright extraordinary.  Without ever becoming as popular as William or James, Malcolm is worn by a truly eclectic group of world-changers.

  • Civil rights leader Malcolm X
  • The manager – and mastermind – of punk legends The Sex Pistols, Malcolm McLaren
  • AC/DC co-founder Malcolm Young
  • The late Forbes magazine powerhouse, Malcolm Forbes
  • New York Times bestselling author, Malcolm Gladwell
  • Actor Malcolm McDowell, known for roles from Stanely Kubrick’s 1971 A Clockwork Orange to 1994’s Star Trek Generations, where he kills Captain Kirk

From heavy metal to social change to sci fi, Malcolm’s connections are many.

But is it all too heavy for a child?

Not at all.  The current generation of parents might think of Gladwell – an interesting thinker who, by all accounts, likes his name quite a bit.  But there are plenty of other reasons that this name reads as wearable for a child.

First, we grew up with Malcolm Jamal-Warner, the only brother in The Cosby Show.  His character’s name, Theo, is quite stylish right now – why not Jamal-Warner’s given name?

Then there’s Malcolm in the Middle, the popular Fox comedy from the early 2000s.  The super-smart title character, played by Frankie Muniz, makes the name almost cuddly.

It’s a go-to name in the Harry Potter series, worn by six separate characters, ranging from a Hufflepuff Quidditch player to a friend of Dudley’s in the non-magical world.

While we’re visiting alternate universes, how about Firefly and Serenity?  The Joss Whedon space Western includes Captain Malcolm Reynolds, played by the oh so dashing Nathan Fillion.  (That’s Fillion as Mal in the photo above.)

All together, it makes for a powerfully versatile name.  And while Malcolm is instantly familiar, this one isn’t common.  The name has never cracked the US Top 200, but it has always ranked in the Top 600.  As of 2013, Malcolm charted at #444, up in recent years – but only slightly.

So if you’re focused on finding a classic that still feels unexpected and interesting, Malcolm might be for you.  Less popular than Henry, more stylish than Terrence, with easy nicknames Mal, Cole, and Colm – what’s not to love?

Do you think Malcolm qualifies as a classic? Would you ever consider Malcolm for a son?

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21 Comments

My 2 year old is Malcolm. 🙂 Named after Malcolm Reynolds in Firefly. He proudly wears his name. And his Jayne hat! 😉

My little one is named Malcolm! We call him Mal, Malley, or Malkie (I don’t like that one as much but it just stuck) and his aunt calls him Malcs. I love his name.

It’s a glitch in a behind-the-scenes upgrade I recently installed … still not sure exactly *which* upgrade though, so please bear with me as I try to unravel it!

I love the name Malcolm, and the character Malcolm in Macbeth.

The one thing that makes me nervous about it is actually mentioned by River Tam on the tv show Firefly:

“Mal… Bad… In the Latin.”

I love Malcolm! If I were to have another child, which I’m certainly not, this would be top-of-the-list for a boy (not sure my husband would agree, but since it’s all hypothetical, no matter!).

I had this one under heavy consideration if we’d had a boy. Grandpa was Melvin, a name I don’t like, but my grandma called him “Mal” instead of “Mel”, leading me to Malcolm.

I just saw this via one of the Sunday Summaries…

I LOVE Malcolm. He’s at the TOP of my list if I ever have a boy. I love the Scottish feel and having a strong history and at least a slightly positive meaning. I hope if future-DC#2 is a boy DH will agree to this one. Love it and the nn Mac or Max.

Malcolm is a top contender for my future son’s name, and I just adore the nickname Mal. It’s a very refreshing name to hear in this age of Aidens.

I quite love Malcolm, but could never imagine using Mac, just for the whole “Big Mac” thing. (for those not in the states, that’s a McDonald’s thing).

I think I once knew a Malcolm nicknamed Colm, but I’m not 100% sure…
I’d definitely use it, and shall now consider it greatly! 😉

You’re welcome! I love the nickname Mac, and I’ve known a fabulous Malcolm, too. It’s almost as if there never was a bearer of the name who wasn’t just a great guy.

My one-year-old is named Malcolm and we call him “Mac”, which is a nod to his great grandpa McNamara who was commonly referred to as “Mac”. We never hear “Big Mac” or any association with McDonald’s so that’s completely a non-issue for us. We love the name, obviously.

Kendra, thanks for sharing! I do think Malcolm called Mac is all kinds of fabulous. And I love that it’s a nod to his great grandpa, too.

Oh Thank you for Malcolm! He’s absolutely ACES for me. Despite feeling a bit “too” Scottish with my surname, I am thoroughly charmed by him and continue to consider using him for a boy. I find Malcolm strong, handsome, charming and wonderful. He could be “Mac” (With this name or my last name!), Mick or Colm, easily. Shakespeare made me like him when I was a kid, Malcolm McDowell made me love him and I met Malcolm Forbes back in the early 80’s, what a fantastic guy he was (Funny, smart & a really sweet guy, honest!) Malcolm’s easy on the eyes and just as easy to wear, I think. Especially in a state where Connor, Ryan & Duncan rign supreme!

I adore Malcolm (and thanks for saying he goes with Simon)!