She’s the lovely, classic and underused feminine form of an enduring appellation – and a super-trendy choice heard everywhere.

Thanks to Helke for suggesting Micaela as Name of the Day.

I can almost guarantee you know someone named Michael. Probably lots of someones named Michael. Nearly 2.4 million Michaels were born between 1950 and 1979. (Compare that to around 750,000 Daniels in the same era.) From Michael Jordan to Michael J. Fox, there are famous Michaels galore.

Just Michael, Micaela comes from the Hebrew Mikha’el and means “who is like God?” (The answer is, of course, no one is like God. Though basketball fans might argue that Jordan came close.) Michaela is more common in English; Micaela in Italian and Spanish.

But neither spelling tops the popularity charts in the US today. Instead, Micaela is likely to be spelled:

  • Makayla (#47 in 2007)
  • Mikayla (#182 in 2007)
  • Mckayla (#620 in 2007)
  • Mikaela (#662 in 2007)
  • Makaila (#909 in 2007)

Michaela charted at a respectable #343, but Micaela failed to chart at all.

So which is she – trendy and fleeting or underused classic? Micaela and company sit at the convergence of a few trends:

  • The craze for Italian-inspired appellations for girls, including Olivia, Adriana and Francesca;
  • The adoption of gender-neutral surname picks for girls, like Madison, Mackenzie and Mackenna;
  • American parents’ affection for the “ay” sound, heard from Jayden to Cadence to Hailey to Caleb.

Factor in the number of men named Michael, and it is little wonder plenty of parents went searching for a related name for their daughters. Lots landed on Michelle, and a few on other variants, like Meeka. But starting in the 1960s, some parents opted for Micaela.

The name got a boost from television’s Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman. Set in the 1860s, Dr. Quinn was a well-heeled lady physician from the big city who went West to establish a practice in Colorado. Against the odds, Michaela Quinn becomes part of her new community – and earns the nickname Dr. Mike in the process.

When the show debuted, Michaela stood at #288. A year later, Michaela shot up to #169 and reached #109 by 1994. She’s lost ground as the variant spellings have gained, but remains reasonably common.

Micaela is also the sweet young girl in the opera Carmen – she loses her beloved to the temptress.

Bearers of the name in real life make for a relatively short list. There’s Michaela May, the German actress and wildlife documentary filmmaker Michaela Denis. But a girl named Micaela or Michaela might argue that she’s wearing a nicely underused name.


Despite Micaela’s classic, even operatic roots, it is impossible to imagine choosing this name and not facing a lifetime of correcting the spelling. She’s a valid choice, but perhaps one best avoided if you’re not willing to introduce your child as, “Micaela, M-I-C …” during her formative years.

Too bad, because Micaela is undeniably lovely.

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. My 22 year old daughter’s name is Micaela. I first heard the name in the movie “Lorenzo’s Oil”. Susan Sarandon played the character “Michaela”. I had never heard the name before so I waited until the end to see how it was spelled. I thought it looked to masculine with the “h” so i just decided to spell it without the “h” and i loved it!! Had never heard it before and thought it was the most beautiful, original name. AND THEN, Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman came out and the whole world became exposed to the name. LOL! It’s OK. I am annoyed by all of the crazy spellings, but I think the name is classy and elegant.

  2. My name is Michaela, which is the most traditional spelling as it is the feminine of Michael. Spelling has never been a problem if you just say “Michael with an a”. But when I was younger, pronunciation was my worst enemy. You wouldn’t believe how many silly people pronounce it “Michelle-ah” or worse, Michael with an -ah tacked to the end. But as I’ve gotten older, people seem to be more intelligent and I haven’t had a mispronunciation in quite some time.
    I’ve never had anyone bring up Dr. Quinn, but she did apparently help inspire my name (I was born in 1994). I’m officially named after my father, Michael.
    The best part about my name, though, is that my husband’s name is Michael! So we get lots of cute comments about Michael & Michaela. It is pretty adorable, and occasionally comes in handy. My dad goes by Mike, so that helps, but we certainly are not naming any of our kids Michael or anything close!

  3. This is my name. I was born in 1984, and I never met another Micaela (with any spelling) until I was about thirteen. I have still only met one or two with my spelling

  4. I have a cousin named Michaela who’s 19, with brothers Ethan and Alex, in their early 20s – Apparently Aunt Ines was slightly ahead of her generation?!

    Michaela’s one I’ve never liked, and just like Eliza, Mia or Sarah, I don’t have any particular reson. I just find that she falls flat and is slightly lacklustre.

  5. It’s nice enough, but not so much with a gazillion girls name Makayla running about. There are a lot of them that go to school with my kids. I think I’d go with something like Meeka or even Michael on a girl if I were desperate for a Michael* related name. But my littlest one’s middle name is Michelle, so I’m not likely to tread that ground again.

    *Son #2, a Geoffrey, would have been Michael Christiana if he’d been a girl. I guess he got lucky. LOL

  6. Another Opera name on my long list. I too fear the Mc- craze ruined Micaela for me. If I ran into one (and belive it or not, I never have, with any spelling), I don’t think I’d be bowled over but I don’t think I’d groan in horror either. Especially if I found out it was this spelling. I might assume an Opera buff like myself. So while I’d never, in a zillion years use Micaela myself, I wouldn’t mind finding one, with this spelling. And then I’d feel a slight bit of pity for the girl with the dramatic, pretty name, forced to correct one & all spelling-wise. Maybe in the middle, for us Opera fans?

  7. Yes, Micaela is lovely. But I would never use it because of the “how do you spell it?” and “oh, from Dr. Quinn” comments I’m sure it would bring. Too bad though.

  8. I remember being extremely fond of Michaela and Caitlin back in the late eighties, but hey – things change. The popularity of Makayla has totally killed this name for me. I would never consider it; I can’t stand how it’s been destroyed by the Wal-Mart set! And forget about Kaytlinne, too.

  9. Undeniably lovely, to be sure, but too much of a spelling challenge, now that it has been corrupted by countless tryndi variations. All the Mak/Mc/Mik versions have ruined Micaela for me.