“Michalis” or “Michail”?

In official documents, I’m Michail; for everything else, I’m Michalis. I don’t mind how you pronounce it.

Long version:
My legal name is Michail Famelis but everyone knows me as Michalis Famelis. To a Greek person, this is completely obvious but to everybody else, it is confusing. I get asked this question a lot, so I wrote this page to help clarify.

Michalis (Μιχάλης) is the modern Greek version of the ancient Greek name Michail (Μιχαήλ). Greeks tend to give their children the ancient Greek form of names (because for some reason it is supposed to be the “proper” version of the name). The same pattern holds for many male names such as Ioannis (modern: Giannis), Georgios (modern: Giorgos), Nikolaos (modern: Nikos), Athanasios (modern: Thanassis),  Anastasios (modern: Anastasis), Dimitrios (modern: Dimitris), Efstathios (modern: Stathis), and others.

Growing up in Greece, I’ve always been called Michalis. When I first moved to Canada I tried going as Michail but “Michael, spelled with an i” never really sat well with me. Encouraged by Canadian multiculturalism, I decided to make people call me by my real name.

I am still recorded as Michail in every official document (contracts, driver’s licences, bank accounts, leases, etc). My Greek passport establishes this as the canonical romanization of my name. So I use it in every document that might need to be cross-referenced with it to avoid ambiguity.

Otherwise, I always introduce myself as Michalis. It’s what people know me as and it is the name I use online, for my research publications, etc.

Finally, a note on speaking: I’m happy with “mikális” in English and “mikalís” in French, but -really- don’t fuss it. If you’re curious, in Greek my name sounds like this (I can’t believe someone made a video). Fair warning: when talking to me, a Greek speaker would also cut off the last “s”, calling me just Michali.