For those of us who call Illinois home, there’s nothing more permanent than naming a child a Land of Lincoln-inspired name
If you’re looking to make Illinois more than just the place you call home, you can embrace its heritage (imperfections and all) and pick one of these names for your next bundle of joy
To show our Illinois pride, we’ve come up with a list of some of our favorite Illinois-inspired baby names. Some of them are very specific to Champaign-Urbana; others have more of a historical flavor; some honor Illinois historical figures, including activists, politicians, artists and athletes.
Tatyana: Some of the world’s top athletes live and train in our backyard, thanks to the famed University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign wheelchair athletics program. Tatyana McFadden is one of its most heralded; in total, she holds 17 Paralympic medals and has won the grand slam of marathons — Boston, London, Chicago and New York City — four times. She’s also been described as a “relentless” advocate for people with disabilities.
Erika: Inspired by Erika Harold, Urbana native and Miss America 2003. Erika is one of five Miss Americas to hail from Illinois.
Kirby: This is about as Champaign as it gets. How often do we drive down this stretch of road? And well, this name wins over “Florida” (sorry Urbana).
Jordan: This should really be self-explanatory, but maybe it isn’t anymore. Jordan, as in the greatest basketball player who ever lived. One of the few unisex names that doesn’t seem to be co-opted by either gender. Conveys a confident swagger.
Morrow: As in, the Morrow Plots — perhaps the most historic place in Champaign-Urbana that many people don’t know about. Established in 1876, the Morrow Plots are the oldest experimental crop field in the Americas and the second oldest in the world. Named for the first dean of the College of Agriculture, what could be more Illinois than a famous corn field?
Lincoln: This is the Land of Lincoln after all. We’re certainly proud of the 16th president and his roots in our fine state. His name is a legend among legends.
Reagan and Grant: We enjoy presidential names. President Ronald Reagan was born and raised in Eureka; although many people forget he was from Illinois because he rose to political prominence in California. President Ulysses S. Grant wasn’t born in Illinois and didn’t die here either, but lived for a short time in Galena. You can still visit his home there.
Ngozi: In honor of the genius of Dr. Ngozi Ezike, the top doctor at the Illinois Department of Health. She has become nationally renowned for her compassionate leadership through the pandemic.
Payton: This Payton is all about Sweetness, aka Walter. Bear down, Chicago Bears. The version with an e is not the same, but we will accept.
Bonnie: Don’t see very many Bonnies these days, but if you want to bestow upon your daughter an Olympic-sized name in Champaign-Urbana, this is it. Champaign native Bonnie Blair is one of the most decorated Olympic athletes of all time.
Jane: Social worker, author, peace activist, and leader in the women’s suffrage movement, Jane Addams (1860-1935) is best known as the founder of Hull House in Chicago. Addams was the first American woman to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize and is recognized as the founder of the social work profession in the United States. A true hero.
Ida: While Jane Addams certainly grabs the headlines from that era, Ida B. Wells-Barnett (1862-1931) was one of the most important women in Illinois history. Wells juggled journalism, activism and civil rights – and motherhood. In 1909, she was one of the founders of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), although she was later “ousted.” She was also a key member of the women’s suffrage movement and one of the first Black women to run for public office in the country. More HERE.
Adler and Sullivan: Two of the most important American architects of all time impacted the skyline immeasurably in post-Great-Fire Chicago. Extra points for these two.
Marshall (as in Field’s): Now we’re really dating ourselves, but we would love to see more kids named Marshall, if only to honor the world’s best department store (back in the day).
Daley: The Daley family dominated Chicago politics for decades and shaped the city’s past — and future. While that era may be over, the name is certainly a staple in Chicago. Makes for a fairly unisex option. (And kids think Maggie Daley Park in Chicago is pretty darn rad!)
Wrigley: We haven’t seen many kids named Wrigley, but there have to be some out there. The Wrigley family was best known for manufacturing gum, but it’s their name on the iconic home of the Cubs that has vaulted the name onto this list. (In 2007 an Indiana couple — last name Fields — named their son Wrigley. I kid you not.) Of course, a very popular dog name.
Hillary: There’s no question that Hillary Clinton is one of the most influential American women ever to come from Illinois. Born and raised in Park Ridge, a northwest Chicago suburb, Clinton’s connection to the Chicago area has been limited since her teenage years.
Michelle: Otherwise known as the former First Lady of the United States. If you haven’t read Becoming, it’s a must; it also clearly tells her very Illinois story, growing up on the south side of Chicago. Her accomplishments on her own speak for themselves. (We just heard about her new cooking show for kids – coming spring 2021!) All of the Obamas have significant Illinois cred.
Top Baby Names in Illinois: A look behind the data
From the Social Security Administration, the top five baby names in the state of Illinois from 2019* were:
Top Five for Girls: Olivia, Emma, Sophia, Ava, Charlotte
Top Five for Boys: Noah, Liam, Benjamin, Oliver, Alexander
* The Social Security Administration has delayed releasing the 2020 baby name information due to the Covid-19 pandemic. More to come.