The baby name Miles feels like an old school revival, but it’s more popular today than ever before.

Thanks to Kelly for suggesting our Baby Name of the Day.


Debate surrounds this name’s meaning and origin. Most likely? It’s an all-of-the-above scenario, with more than one backstory behind the name.

The Germanic element mil means generous or good. It’s usually connected to the Old German name Milo, which is close but maybe not quite the same name.

Then there’s the Slavic milu – gracious. It’s the root of names like Milan – as in Czech-French author Milan Kundera – and Miloš, as in Czech-American director Miloš Forman.

In Latin, miles means soldier. Way back in the year 200 BC, the Roman writer Plautus authored Miles Gloriosus, a comedy about a swaggering soldier – who actually answers to Pyrgopolynices.

Some combination of the above surely explain the name, which the Normans imported to England. 

It’s also possible that it evolved from Mihel, sometimes listed as an old French form of Michael – but maybe not.

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To complicate things even further, Myles appears in Greek myth. He’s the son of King Lelex, from whom he inherits the kingdom of Laconia. The beautiful maiden Sparta was his granddaughter, and the ancient city named in her honor.

It appears this name was lost long before English speakers considered any similar choice for their sons.


While no one suggests that the name shares origins with the Old English mil – the source of our word mile – the shared sound lends Miles some of its adventurous spirit. At least one marathoner has chosen the name as a nod to running.


We know the name was used by the sixteenth century, thanks to two men.

Miles Coverdale translated the Bible to English in the 1530s, eventually becoming an early Puritan thought leader. Captain Myles Standish led the Pilgrims to settle at Plymouth and served as an influential leader of the colony, though he himself was not a believer.

What we know about Standish is obscured by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem The Courtship of Miles Standish. It transformed him into something of a folk hero, and romanticized the early Pilgrims in ways that still influence our thinking today.

The poem was written in 1858, and was quite popular. Since US name data begins in 1880, it’s difficult to gauge Longfellow’s impact.


The name appears in the US Top 1000 every year from 1880 onward. In fact, it ranks in the Top 500 nearly every year.

The baby name Miles has gained in ranking in the US every year since 1995. It entered the US Top 250 in 2001, the Top 100 in 2018, and now stands at #55 as of 2022 – an all-time high.

That translates to over 5,000 boys named Miles every year.


A collection of fictional characters answered to the name over the years:

  • Published in 1841, Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Blithedale Romance includes a character named Miles (Coverdale, though not the same person as the real life translator.)
  • Mark Twain’s The Prince and the Pauper gives us a soldier named Miles Hendon. The story was first published in 1881.
  • In 1898, Henry James’ spooky The Turn of the Screw gave us a ghost story with a young boy by the name.
  • Stephen Sondheim’s 1962 Broadway musical also used the name for a character, based on Plautus’ ancient play.
  • Natalie Babbitt’s 1975 children’s novel Tuck Everlasting includes immortal brothers named Jesse and Miles.
  • By the 1980s, Murphy Brown gives us television producer named Miles Silverberg, Macauley Culkin wore the name in 1989 comedy flick Uncle Buck, and Miles O’Brien hopped from Star Trek: The Next Generation to Deep Space Nine.

Real people to answer to the name are fewer, but include:

  • Actors Miles Teller and Miles Brown.
  • Athletes, including Miles Bridges and Miles Austin. 
  • Celebrities have embraced it for their children, including John Legend and Chrissy Teigen. Their family’s social media presence likely helped boost the name. But they weren’t the first high-profile parents. Actor Larenz Tate has a Miles; so do Joan Cusack, Elisabeth Shue, and Mayim Bialik. Singer Lionel Ritchie used it way back in 1994.


Maybe the biggest influence over how we hear the name: Miles Dewey Davis III, a jazz legend with a place in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

His career spanned five decades. Davis innovated and alienated; opened the art form to new listeners and changed the way we experience music. 1959’s Kind of Blue remains the top selling jazz album of all time.

His style and artistic prowess left the name forever changed. It reads cool, edgy, and part of American history in a very different way than Captain Standish.


vibrant classic

A name with multiple origins and meanings, Miles is shaped by daring musician Davis and modern hero Morales.


#55 as of 2022


Currently at an all-time high and still gaining in use


Germanic “good”; Slavic “gracious” and Latin “solider”


Many famous people have answered to the surname Miles – too many to list.

It’s also related to names like Milon, Millson, Melson, and Mills – at least some of the time.


The baby name Miles has surged in popularity in recent years.

Characters from 2004 movie Sideways and long-running television favorite Lost answer to the name. 

So does Miles Morales, the newest hero to wear the alias Spider-Man in the comic books, some television series, and, of course, 2018’s Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse and the 2023 sequel, Across the Spider-Verse. 

That tracks with the name’s rise in use. Between high-profile celebrities and fictional heroes, there’s shortage of places for parents to hear smart, stylish Miles.

It’s a name rooted in history but at home in the world today. No surprise that Miles is going places.

Would you consider the baby name Miles for a son?

Originally published on January 5, 2010, this post was revised substantially and re-posted on January 6, 2014, April 24, 2019, and April 19, 2024.

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. I love the name Miles (Milo for a nickname), but his middle name will be Rush (a family name). Is Miles Rush too, er, speedy? It’s asking for teasing trouble, right?

    1. So … a few thoughts. I think A LOT of people would hear Miles Rush and not make the connection. And a few would find it charming, and a few would find it bizarre.

      While I generally think we’re using middles names more often that previous generations, that’s a voluntary choice. Your son could happily go through life as Miles R. most of the time.

      All of that means that your take on Miles Rush is what matters. If you like the high-energy quality of the full name, then it’s a feature, not a bug. But if it bothers you? Then yes, I’d find another first name choice. (Ames? Brooks? Just Milo as his formal name?)