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?