How did Flea get his name?

The iconic Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist was born Michael Peter Balzary. But he's been known professionally as Flea since the earliest days of the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

And further back, he was known as Flea (or Mike B. the Flea) before the band even officially formed.

So, really — why is he called Flea? Do you know how Flea got his now world-famous name?

As with any great rock 'n' roll story, a few varying (but often very similar) answers to this question have floated to the surface over the years. But let's start with the most likely. It's an explanation that Flea has also appeared to confirm himself.

The Origin of Flea's Name

As reported by The Guardian in 2019 — and going by Flea's autobiography from that same year, Acid for the Children — Flea had already acquired his nickname by his pre-teen years. As often is told, the name has its basis in Flea's fidgety nature and diminutive stature in his youth.

The Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist seemed in agreeance with this name explanation in a 2014 interview with Larry King. "I've always been kind of a spastic, jumping around, feral type of young man," he told King. "Yeah, that's how [the name] came."

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Indeed, this is one of the most commonly cited explanations for Flea's name. And it's no stretch to imagine that the musician's youthful high energy and erratic behavior reminded his early friends of a hyperactive flea, eventually earning him the nickname Mike B. the Flea (or Mikey B. the Flea) before being shortened to just Flea, the name then following the rocker into his professional career.

That could be all or part of the answer to why Flea is called Flea. Only the rocker himself knows for sure. But there are other theories, as well.

Other Reasons for Flea's Name

Other suggestions have also gotten traction as the meaning behind Flea's nickname-turned-stage name. One is that, when he was young, the Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist sold trinkets and jewelry at a flea market. However, that story could be apocryphal.

Another is that Flea was given his name by fellow Chili Pepper Anthony Kiedis on a ski trip, as reported by Radio X. But only the bandmates themselves know how much truth that holds.

READ MORE: Flea Shares What He Thinks Are Red Hot Chili Peppers' Best + Worst Albums

Some sources have even suggested quite the opposite of the most accepted story — that the nickname Flea was ironic for the musician's tall frame in adulthood, contrasting with the small size of a flea. Or that his free-flowing, expansive fretboard work on the bass guitar got him the Flea name. But these explanations usually fall by the wayside of the childhood nickname story.

A Flea Is Just a Flea, But More

Whichever way he got his name, Flea is undoubtedly one of the most recognizably funky and consistently solid musicians in all of rock music. If that alone isn't enough to earn him the name of Flea, the origins illustrated above should suffice.

Again, the first explanation referring to his youthfully energetic behavior is the most widely accepted and commonly associated with the Flea name.

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