Most Common First Names in the American Midwest

First names come and go in popularity, and it is always interesting to see how trends change with time. Names that were common ten years ago are often nowhere to be seen today. Go back 50 years, and some may be making a comeback. It can be equally interesting to compare national trends against regional trends. What is popular nationally may not always be reflected regionally—eyes towards the American Midwest.

Since the Social Security Administration is holding back the announcement of the most popular names for 2019, we went a year back and checked out 2018 instead. How does the American Midwest’s list compare? Pretty closely.

The Top Names for Girls in the Midwest 

For the entire United States, the top five most popular names for girls in 2018 were: Emma, Olivia, Ava, Isabella, and Sophia. With the exception of Isabella and Sophia, the top five most common names for girls in the midwest are the same.


Germanic for “whole” or “universal.” It was initially popular in the 1880s but then fell out of favor. A century later, it steadily started to climb the ranks again. 


How cute! This name, which only found true popularity in the second half of the 20th century, means “olive.”


The feminine form of Charles, the French name means “petite” or “free-man.” It also refers to a delicious French dessert!


In Old English fashion, this name describes what the person would have done. It refers to someone who plays the harp or makes harps.


Depending on which meaning you’d like to choose, Ava in Persian means “voice” or “sound.” In English, it is a version of Eve. In Germanic, the meaning is a bit unknown, but is most likely “desired.”

Honorable mentions: Amelia, Sophia, Evelyn.

The Top Names for Boys in the Midwest

In the United States, the top five most popular names for boys in 2018 were: Liam, Noah, William, James, and Oliver. The Midwest hits every name on this list, just not in the same order.


Like Olivia, Oliver refers to an “olive tree.” However, Oliver was consistently much more popular throughout history and culture. Iterations of the name are found in Norman French, Old Norse, Germanic, and English.


An Irish name short for William, it first started gaining popularity in the 1980s.


This Germanic name literally translates to “will helmet.” It has been one of the most common names in the United States for over a century.


Another strong German name meaning “home ruler.”


The Hebrew name means “rest” and “repose.” The story of Noah and the Ark is one of the most well-known stories of the Old Testament.

Honorable mentions: Logan, Benjamin, Mason.

How Do These Names Rank at the State Level?

If we dive even further into these names, you’ll see that not every state in the midwest would agree with the overall regional ranking.

Girl Names by State

At a state level, Emma was number one in Indiana but finished second in Illinois, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, and Wisconsin.

Olivia was first in Illinois, Kansas, Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska, and North Dakota. The name came in second in Indiana and Minnesota. 

Emma and Olivia did not win the “race” ultimately, however. The number one name in Iowa and South Dakota was Harper, with Evelyn being the most popular in Minnesota and Wisconsin. Ohio completely bucked the trend by choosing Ava as the most popular girl’s name.

Coming in at number three is Charlotte, followed by Harper and Ava.

Boy Names by State

Oliver was first in Indiana, Iowa, North Dakota, and Wisconsin, and came in second in Kansas, Michigan. Minnesota, and Missouri.

Hard on Oliver’s heels and coming in at number two is Liam. Liam came in first in Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, and Ohio, and second in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, and Wisconsin.

Third place went to William, with Henry and Noah coming in at numbers four and five, respectively.

At a state level, Illinois chose Noah as number one, Minnesota chose Henry, and South Dakota chose Grayson. Sorry, Grayson, you weren’t picked enough to make it on the top five list.

Wrapping Up

Don’t let a common name stop you from naming your child! If you love a name, use it. It’s popular for a reason. The Midwest is pretty big, and yes, you will run into other Olivias or Liams, but at least you’ll know that they have a great name, too. 

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