Family Name For Sale: Mal

Malcolm 'Mal' Reynolds from Firefly, from

It’s been awhile since we’ve done one of these posts, and now seems a good time to revive the series, since my Grandad is celebrating yet another birthday today. It’s quite an exciting time for me, since his birthday is the last before a certain someone’s right at the end of the year. We’ve already covered my Grandmother’s name, Carole, and indeed her mother’s name, Edna, so Grandad must’ve been feeling rather overlooked. Fear not, your time has come. As an aside, I spelt my name wrong my grandfather’s birthday card on Monday. For some reason, my mind was telling my hand that my name was Lolly, not either Lou or Lucy.

My Father and Auntie both call my Grandad by his name, Mal, rather than by Dad. Over the past few years I’ve moved into a habit of calling my Father simply Father, rather than Dad. No idea why, it’s just been a gradual change – and then there’s the 8 year old who still calls him Daddy. Opposite ends of the spectrum are we. When it comes the Grandad, I refuse to double up the d, and always have done. Just as I refuse to double up the middle n in Nana, even if my Nana always spells it as Nanna.

I find the name Mal to be one of those slightly understated choices, for the fuss-free, minimalists of the general population. That said, my Grandad isn’t actually called Mal –  he’s a Malcolm but hates to be called as such. Just like his eldest Granddaughter, Lou 😉 I definitely see a Mal/Lou sibset as unfussy as you can get with names – and indeed as gender-ambiguous, since Mal can easily be short for Mallory, or even Mathilde thinking about it, whilst Lou can just as come from the popular male name Louis.

Of course, I walked into the living room sometime earlier on this year whilst my Father was watching the film Inception. At that point I’d never seen it myself, but was drawn in with wonder because the name Mal kept popping up. This Mal, as I’m sure most of you will know, was the wife of the main character, Dominic ‘Dom’ Cobb. For her, Mal was short for Mallorie.

Staying in the SciFi genre, the main character in TV series Firefly and its subsequent film Serenity was also called Mal, this time being short for Malcolm. But the name has been used as it stand: there was an Irish King called Mal during the 2nd Century. Mal is also the name of an ethnic group in Laos and Thailand, and their language is also called Mal.

Malcolm is from the Scottish highlands, coming from Mael Colium which means follwer of St.Columba. It’s from Columba that we also get the hugely more popular name Callum. It may surprise you, therefore, to know that only 8 lads born in Scotland last year were given the name Malcolm, compared to the 489 named Callum.

Going back to Mal, there are many other names, some popular some not, from which one could derive him (and this isn’t even a comprehensive list, please don’t take it as such):

  • Marcel
  • Anselm
  • Bartholomew
  • Malik
  • Malo/Marlow(e)
  • Campbell
  • William/Liam
  • Malachi
  • Michael (Father’s name, go figure)
  • Samuel

I had planned to saw this nugget of a Sibset for one of the weekly posts, but now seems a good time to mention former weathergirl Ulrika Jonsson’s ‘4×4’ family, i.e. she has four kids by four different men named: Cameron, Bo, Martha and youngest son Malcolm Charles Tripp, who was born as recently as 2008. I remember being rather surprised by her choice of Malcolm, mostly because it seemed quite similar to Martha and Cameron in terms of similar letters, and that someone would consider a name my Grandfather despised so much. I guess family really does alter your perspective of a name.

No one yet appears to be embracing the name Mal as he stands, since the name does not rank in the 2010 data for England&Wales, but there is a noticeable amount of variations of Malachi floating around, could he be the next big thing?

  • Malachi, #237
  • Malakai, #386
  • Malachy, #477
  • Malaki, #1109
  • Malachai, #2199
  • Malakhi, #2941
  • Malakie, #3332
  • Malakye, #3332
  • Malikai, #3865
  • Maliki, #4678

The name Malcolm ranks at #1483 with 16 of ’em born in 2010, there were also 4 Malcoms born and 3 Colms. Malcolm hasn’t always been this sparsely used, in 1934 the name ranked at #46 and peaked at #24 in 1944. Callum currently sits in the same area at #40, whilst hugely popular Archie currently claims the #24 spot and Mason sits at #46. Infact, the name Mason does bear a remarkable resemblance to Malcolm when you sit them together on a page. Max and Matthew also start the same way as Malcolm, and sit at #23 and #41, respectively.

An issue the baby namers of the early 20th century didn’t have to deal with was the phenomenon of malware. The name is short for malicious software, whose sole aim in life is to upset the non computer-literate. Do you think malware when you hear Mal? I don’t initially, but I guess that’s more because I have a Grandfather with the name. Either way, would you use Mal, or a longer form?

Categories: Boy Names, Family names | Tags: | 5 Comments

Post navigation

5 thoughts on “Family Name For Sale: Mal

  1. Awkward Turtle

    It seems to short on it’s own, but I like the longer forms.


  2. I’ve always kind of liked Bartholomew, in a strange way. I like Bartholomew the same way I find a pug cute (this probably only makes sense to me, lol). Malakai is nice, though. I think it’s one of those names I hear a lot but that don’t really register with me. I think Mal would be a great nn for Malakai.


  3. I really like the name Malcolm, although it’s clearly sounding a bit dated now, while Callum seems fresher. “Malcolm in the Middle” probably didn’t help either.

    I think Malachi and its variant spellings are getting really popular, and I’ve also seen it on girls – the Mal as you see seems fairly unisex, while the I ending probably reminds people of perky girl’s names like Jenni and Candi. Meanwhile the KY sound possibly reminds people of Kylie just as much as Kai.


  4. Pingback: Famous Names: The Obama Family | Waltzing More Than Matilda

  5. namemuststay

    I like Mal. It does carry a sort of sci-fi vibe, but I don’t feel like it’s very modern. It’s casual, though, and nickname names are totally cool 🙂

    I also have no problems with Malcolm or Malachi, but I wouldn’t use them.


Join The Conversation

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at

%d bloggers like this: