About Names: Dr. Evans on “Miles”

Miles Davis at the North Sea Jazz Festival in The Hague (Photo: Public Domain)

Miles Davis at the North Sea Jazz Festival in The Hague (Photo: Public Domain)

Dr. Cleveland Evans writes about names for the Omaha World-Herald. In his June 4th column, he discusses the name “Miles”.

Miles is saving “Spider-People” across the multiverse.

“Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse,” the sequel to 2018’s Oscar-winning animated “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse,” premiered June 2. Shameik Moore voices Miles Morales, the teenager who replaced Peter Parker as Spider-Man in Marvel Comics’ alternate “Ultimate Marvel” universe in 2011.

The origin of the name Miles is obscure. When the Normans conquered England in 1066, they brought along a name written “Milo” in Latin and “Mile” in English. Unlike most Norman names, it’s not Germanic, but possibly related to “milu” (“gracious”), a word found in Slavic names like Milan and Bogumil.

How did the “s” get added? Most likely, it’s from confusion with Latin “miles,” meaning “soldier.” Another possible influence is Mylas, a bishop of Susa in Persia martyred in 341. His Persian name meant “brave,” but Orthodox Christians call him St. Miles, also influenced by Latin.

Miles stayed rare until English cleric Myles Coverdale (1488-1569) published the first complete printed English Bible translation in 1535. Coverdale’s Psalms are still recited in Anglican churches. Puritans admired his stance against fancy clerical vestments. His fame helped Miles reach the top 50 in England between 1580 and 1660.